The 70273 Project

with a side of Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

Tag: family (page 1 of 6)

Endings

It’s Sunday, 05 November 2017.
Nobody applauds when the announcer declares the 2017 International Quilt Festival over.

Queen Becky gives us a lesson in how to fold the quilts,
how to roll and twist the tissue paper,
and where to place it to prevent creases when the quilts are folded.
She is an excellent teacher from whom I learn an awful lot.

The quilts and all who had a hand in creating them are treated with respect.
A clean sheet is placed between the quilts and the floor,

and everyone who touches the quilts wears clean, white gloves.

Sean and David Rusidill (Caroline’s amazingly polite and fun to be with sons), Judy Jochen,
and Shannon Timberlake join in the take down and store effort.

The Engineer (Andy) takes quilts off the walls, and
Linda Moore and Peggy Thomas (sisters) fold and box quilts as they come down.

Caroline Rudisill checks quilts off the inventory list

as they go into the boxes.

It would not have happened with out Peggy Thomas

and Tari Vickery,
both seen here in The 70273 Project Interactive Booth
where people took home 1000 block kits,
left financial donations, and made Friendship Blocks.

Peggy Thomas and Tari Vickery (The 70273 Project Ambassadors)
– what would I . . . what would The 70273 Project . . . do without them?

Mary Green, Ambassador for The 70273 Project
(seen here in front of her beautiful Middling made with beads)
worked in the Interactive Booth, as did . . .

Cindy Cavallo, Ambassador

Caroline Rudisill, Ambassador

Frances Alford, Ambassador
and folks whose photos must be on somebody else’s phone:
Elaine Smith, Ambassador
Linda Moore, Ambassador
Judy Jochen, Ambassador,
Shannon Timberlake.

Thank you all for making the effort not just to get to the Festival,
but to share your time with The 70273 Project. I am grateful beyond description.

Thank you to Queen Becky, who hung The 70273 Project quilts
in the Special Exhibit, making us look so good . . .

to Rose (she teaches special education) who helped hang quilts in the Interactive Booth . . .

to Becky who, because of health issues, wasn’t able to be at the Festival,
but for months and months before the Festival,  donned her best patience and wit
to guide me through the process,
even taking the time to call me on the phone
with the good news that The 70273 Project had been selected
as a Special Exhibit when she could’ve just sent an email.

to Deann who was on-site, always calm and patient and thorough in her answers and instructions,

to Terri, whose laugh never faded throughout the entire five days

to the people back home who assembled The Go Block Bags
(all 1000 bags were taken!) . . .

 to all y’all who weren’t there in person,
but were most definitely there in spirit – sharing posts,
telling others, sending encouraging, appreciative message, emails, and comments –

and to The Engineer . . .  Andy
the man who has unwaveringly honored
our vision and vow of togetherness
for 44 years now . . .

THANK YOU.

It definitely takes a village, and we have a village made of the  kindest,
most compassionate, smiling, big-hearted people I ever dreamed existed.


All good things must come to an end, and the International Quilt Festival is no exception.
Looking at the photos of empty walls now, I see visual foreshadowing . . .

We get home and take our elder Corgi Phoebe up the mountain on Wednesday,
cooking all her favorite foods and putting them in front of her,
sitting on the floor with her, petting her, talking to her, loving her.
She wants to go outside every 2 minutes or so as though she can’t make up her mind.
She stands over her water bowl as though it’s familiar,
but she’s forgotten what she’s supposed to do with it.

A business trip on Thursday, and on Friday, it’s time to make The Hard Decision.

As we wait on Jeff (our vet, friend, and well, extended family member),
a man comes in and walks right over to Phoebe who would ordinarily
be glad to see him because she has always known that everybody wants to pet her.
This man does want to pet her,
but today Phoebe doesn’t even raise her head
or look up at him.

We are ushered not into the usual exam room,
but into a more spacious room with colorful padded chairs.
There’s even a doggie bed . . . pink.
I know why we are here
– shoot, I’m the one who called Jeff and told him why we wanted to come –
and yet I am unable to let go of the hope,
that Jeff will enter to announce that an IV of fluids
and maybe 2 weeks of antibiotics and our Phoebe will be good as new.

That’s not what happens.

I sit on the floor with Phoebe.
She stands near the door,
and I ask her to move
for fear someone will smack her hard
when they don’t see her standing there.

She makes laps around the room,
walking in circles that take her
in front of the examining table,
in front of Andy,
in front of me,
then back by the examining table.
Around and around and around she goes.
Mindlessly.
Endlessly.

Jeff takes her out to put the catheter in,
and when he brings her back,
she’s content to lay on the bed she’s been avoiding.

We all sit on the floor now.
As Jeff administers the sedative/anti-anxiety drug,
I tell stories that start with “Remember when . . . “.

As Jeff administers the narcotic,
we each lay a hand on Phoebe
and send steady streams of love to her
through our touch.

The precious four-legged soul called Phoebe
who gifted us with her presence
breathes her last breath
to the sound of laughter and love.

From the high of the Special Exhibit at IQF
to the lows of witnessing the life of a member of our family come to a close,
life is a roller coaster, and we have been in the front seat.

May I Have The Envelope, Please

High School Sports Awards and  Letters: We’ll never know whether she would’ve lettered or not because her parents refused to let her play basketball because she would’ve had to wear shorts.

High School Clubs and After School Activities: “We didn’t have clubs back then,” she tells me when I asked what she did in high school, “but I was the first editor of The Hi Times, our high school newspaper, and the man who was Editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was my advertising manager.”

Post High School Education: She didn’t go to college ’cause having only enough money to send one child to college, it was my mother’s little brother who has the college degree.

Jobs: Though her best friend, Harriett Dean, tried and tried and tried, my mother steadfastly refused to take a higher paying job in Atlanta, choosing instead to spend her career in her hometown of Fayetteville, Georgia. As secretary for the Baptist Church, Mother held all the power as it was she who selected the hymns we sang every Sunday.

When the county got big enough to hire a second person, my mother left the employ of the Baptist Church to become Clerk of the County Commissioners. She cleared out a little space for herself in the courthouse, and using the file cabinet that somebody gave her and the desk she brought from home, she set about helping Mr. Jimmy White (the county Ordinary) separate the files, dividing them into 2 piles: County Ordinary and County Commissioners. “It was a nasty job,” Mother told me, “some of those files were covered in tobacco juice.” After a few years, Mama Opal Howell lured Mother to work beside her at the Fayette County Board of Education where, with the exception of the few years she took off to build the business infrastructure while Daddy build the golf course, she worked till her retirement.

Service to the Community: Trustees from the jail – prisoners who’d proven themselves trustworthy enough to go out into the town and empty trashcans at the Fayette County Board of Education – were regularly “adopted” by my mother and the other women who worked at the Fayette County Board of Education, Mama Helen Voyles and Mama Opal Howell. After counseling the men on how to stay out of trouble, the women sent the Trustees out into the world in a new suit, fearing that prison stripes would be detrimental to their success. And though they’d sometimes look out the office window to see a Trustee being returned to his jail cell, these women never gave up hope that the next Trustee they took under their wings would be rehabilitated for good.

These days, if you fall ill, my mother will see that your family is fed in your absence, and if you’re in the hospital, not only will she drive your spouse to be by your side and back home again every day, she’ll see that your family is well-fed until your release from the hospital or till you’re back on your feet in the kitchen, whichever comes first.

As an Ambassador for The 70273 Project, Mother works tirelessly making blocks and delivering materials to others so they can make blocks.

Every year for the past I don’t know how many decades, mother plans, organizes, and hosts the Class of 1945 high school class reunion. They come together for a luncheon at Mother’s house, and though attendance was down to 6 last year, Mother is already looking forward to this year’s reunion.

I am button-busting proud that my mother devoted much of her working life to making the school system she is proud to call her alma mater a better place for all of us to learn, and that she spent all of her adult life working to make Fayette County the best place on earth to call Home.

~~~

These are some of the things I told the Fayette County High School Distinguished Alumni tonight when I nominated my mother, and it is with great pleasure that I tell you that in October, mother will be inducted into the Fayette County High School Hall of Fame.

The Stanzas of Fatherhood

83OctTrainKippCarCar140 copy

From my daddy
(his granddaddy),
my son learned
that making space in his life to
pursue what captivates him
doesn’t make him selfish,
but instead makes him a better person
in every area of his life.
He learned resourcefulness, and
that it’s quite possible to make a good living
doing what you love.
He learned to honor the past.
contribute to your community,
the importance of family.
He learned roots.

AndyJimDec1998

From my father-in-law
(his paternal granddaddy)
my son learned perseverance, tenacity,
a can-do/will-do/just-you-watch-me attitude.
He learned that nothing – and I mean nothing –
can take you down unless you let it.

AJAK111978

From my husband
(his daddy),
my son learned loyalty,
fiscal responsibility,
logical thinking.
He learned to work hard enough
to have an impressive career,
but never so hard as to
miss out on family time and happenings.
He learned how to fix things,
how to plan for the future
how to treat women
– as well as other men – with respect.
He learned self-reliance and confidence.
He learned consideration for self and  others
and where to draw the line
to avoid abdication of self
which does nobody any good.
From his daddy,
my son learned humility, patience,
generosity and kindness.
He learned how to be a good husband
and a good dad.

KippCalderRay

My son, Kipp, is now a daddy himself,
and through him,
his son (my grandson),
will learn all the things
passed down through his
daddy’s male ancestors.
He will learn self reliance and kindness
confidence and loyalty
dependability and patience.
He will learn to tell the truth
even when it hurts,
(and, for purposes of entertaining,
how to lie convincingly).
(Wait – that might come from the maternal side of the table.)
He will learn love and curiosity
humor and responsibility
accountability and gratitude.
He will learn to
delight in the success of others
as much as he delights in his own.
He will learn how to make his family proud,
how to be a contributing member of society,
how to take good care of himself and others.
He will learn how to be A Good Man
and a Good Father.

AndyDCarCarKippThanksgiving1978 copy

This is what good fathers do, you know:
they take the best of their forefathers
and pass it on,
setting aside the inevitable not-so-good stuff
to leave it on the side of the road.
And in doing that, good fathers raise good men
who raise good men,
who raise good men,
making the world better
for men and women, boys and girls
for all of us.

ThreeGenerationsOfChambersGuys

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

Our Little Houdini

Nancy24Marh16c

Hospital Room 534
Orange City, FL
Wednesday
3/23/2016

Nancy is not as alert today as she was yesterday, though I think her tongue is receding in size. Tired of the catheter, she simply wiggles her way out of it, leaving it on the side of the bed. They decide to leave it out, and I am not sorry about that decision.

I  kick some serious ass today, and I feel really, really good about it. Boot one doctor, despite being told by many that it couldn’t be done. Put others on notice. Have an eyeball to eyeball with one particular nurse, and it goes so well that within 5 minutes of my little treatise about both of us being on Team Nancy, she was wheeling me in a reclining chair, pillow, and blanket. Without me asking.

Undoubtedly the best part (aside from booting the asshat doctor) . . .

mittens

Around 4 am I sit in my recliner, stitching. My feet are up and my chair is positioned about an arm’s length away, facing Nancy. In one sure and swift move that takes less than 90 seconds, our little Houdini wrestles her hands out of the protective mittens – without disturbing the velcro binding, mind you – and yanks that tube from her nose.

I fetch Nurse CeeCe who comes into the room and takes her position in one side of Nancy while I position myself on the other side.

“Did Jeanne do that?” CeeCe asks Nancy, giving a curt nod in my direction.

“Yes,” Nancy says, waiting a beat before busting out into a full body chortle. She laughs about once every 17 years, and let me tell you, the sound of her laugh spreads to those around her quicker than poison ivy on a hot day in a wrestling ring.

The three of us keep laughing, and every time we stop to catch our breath, I say “You pulled that tube out your own self, and you’re blaming it on me,” and the chortling starts all over again.

Three women, laughing their heads off at 4 o’clock in the morning. It is one of the sweetest moments of my life, one I will carry tucked into my heart forever. The sound of Nancy’s laughter is delightful in and of itself. And the cognitive connections she makes to enkindle that laughter – that astonishing element of surprise because sometimes I  don’t give her enough credit – well, wow.

A Grandmother by Any Other Name

LettersToMyGrandchildJournalBookOne

Today, in plain sight of the demanding to do list, I shove everything aside and sit writing letters to my unborn grandchild in a beautiful journal my friend Tari bought for me when I took it off the shelf and told her of my plan. I won’t know this grandchild like I wish I would, you see, and she or he won’t know me, either. Geographical distance separates us – undoubtedly not as much geography as lies between some of my friends and their grandchildren – but today I take no solace in comparisons, and the scolding voice that admonishes me I ought to be ashamed of myself for such frivolity in light of all that needs to be done and warns me with a wagging finger that such honesty could bring consequential riffs in an already extensive geographical divide, is asked in no uncertain terms to go hurl itself off the top of the waterfall.

Today my heart breaks into a thousand shards at the thought of it all, and that is just the way it is.

I pen these letters in what most surely will be Book One in hopes that One Day, when the child is old enough to think his own thoughts and wise enough to ask her own questions, she/he will take this book to a quiet spot – perhaps on a boulder in the middle of a particular waterfall – and get to know me more deeply and will feel my caring, love, and unwavering support, maybe even glean some wisdom, in my inked words.

The time draws near when I need to assume my grandmotherly moniker. Now “Grandmother” is a fine name – and I count myself lucky to have known some mighty fine women who went by that name. But me, I long for something different. Am I being difficult? Is it because my mother, who honored her promise to her mother-in-law to name her firstborn after the mother-in-law’s son who was killed as a teenager, chose to spell “Gene” (my uncle’s name), J-e-a-n-n-e? Is it because I’m a writer? Do I put too much stock into names? Maybe, and I don’t give a rat’s ass why, I only know that I want special names for us.

Kaitaiki

My friend Jane Cunningham, who hails from New Zealand, sent me the most beautiful scarf made of yak wool, and it came to me in a mailer bearing the word “Kaitiaki”, the Maori word for protector or guardian.  “Tiaki”, the mailer explains, means “care.” I’ve kept the envelope for I don’t know how many months because that word spoke to me, and though my Southern tongue will most definitely mangle the pronunciation, it’s a word that tapped its foot and cleared its throat by way of saying “Heed.”  Might this be The Name?

Maybe I spend time on this because it is the one thing I have some say over. A child’s personal history begins with the memories and stories of their grandparents. This child will not know independence and grow wings by walking to see me the way my young children walked to see their grandparents. And this child may not sit at the table with the roots of multi-generations telling stories and kidding each other,  or have a treasure trove of stories about great great aunts who hid cheeseballs in pecan trees, or great granddaddies who saw a teddybear advertised in the Western Auto weekly flyer and insisted on going right then to buy one with his great grandchild, or know what it’s like to ride on a tractor for hours on end with his granddaddy, or go see her grandmother after school and be paraded around the office as the obvious apple of her grandmother’s eye, or have any other number of opportunities to give him or her paternal roots that run so deep . . . but she or he will have a book of letters, and we will share special names.

40: When I Miss Him Most

JeanneAndDaddy001

I am scared of thunderstorms.
Not just scared
terrified.

And when I became a mother,
I took a lot of deep breaths
and used every ounce of
self control I could muster
discipline I didn’t know I had
love I knew was big but not that big
to not let my children see my fear
so they wouldn’t inherit it.

It’s when I miss him most,
you know.
My daddy.
When thunder shakes the house
and lightning leaves us in the dark
and rain comes in a deluge that finds Noah
backing his ark out of the garage.

If he was home when a storm came up,
Daddy would just appear at my door
without saying a word about the storm.
He was just in the neighborhood, you know.

If he was away,
he’d call.
Just to talk.
“You okay, hon?” he’d ask
then settle into a conversation
about this and that.
He just happened to be thinking about me,
you know.

I’m lying.

It’s not when I miss him most.
It’s one of the times I miss him most.

JeanneDaddy50thAnn

~~~~~~~

100 stories in 100 days.
Subscribe if you want
Share if you will.

29: Life in Room 741

Hospitalbed

THERE IS NO SENSE OF TIME

The Daughter: Why don’t y’all go get some supper?

The Mama: We will after while. I want to wait till shift change so I can meet your new nurse and see about your new pain medicine, plus Dad wants to see the end of this football game.

The Daughter: Oh. It’s only 7? I thought it was 7:15.

(15 minutes to the next pain medication is an eternity.)

THERE IS NO CHANGE

It’s cold, so we raise the thermostat.
It’s hot, so we lower the thermostat.
Nothing really changes. We remain cold or hot, depending.
We decide the thermostat is just for decoration, a concession to peace of mind, an attempt to make the patient feel in control of something. The Engineer (speaking from experience) assures me this is entirely possible.

THERE ARE MEMORIES

There is a window in the room so we at least know night from day . . . something that didn’t happen in the hospital room my daddy died in. For reasons I don’t even want to think about, that hospital architect decided to put the patient rooms in a spoke-and-hub formation, with the patient rooms arranged as spokes coming off the throbbing hub of care and information. The hallway – positioned as the outer ring, encasing the hub, the patient rooms, and the anterooms for visitors – got all the windows. It was a poor, uneducated, unenlightened, uninformed design that I, in my deeply focused caregiver mode, probably would never have noticed had my brother-in-law Donn not said how much he hated those windowless patient rooms. “Patients need windows,” he said in his definitive way. It was during that same week that Donn looked at Daddy then at me and said, “Don’t ever let them treat me this way. You make sure they always bathe me, shave me, and put me in clean gowns.” If I never do another thing for that man called Donn, he will not ever, ever, ever lay in a hospital unkempt.

AND MORE MEMORIES

While looking at Baby Alison in the tiny clear nursery box mere hours after she was born, a friend of his parents put an arm around The Engineer and said, “She’s less trouble now than she will ever be.”

THERE ARE CONSTANT NOISES AND INTERRUPTIONS

Alison’s blood pressure dips during the night, necessitating hourly visits to check her vitals. Nurse Nancy thinks it’s because of one of the drugs she’s being given, and I note that my mother’s family leans towards low blood pressure. (Something I also note when people get on their high horse with me about eating salt, one of the few things a girl can do to remedy low blood pressure.)

THERE IS COMMUNICATION

Questionnaire

We are handed a questionnaire and asked to complete and return it. It’s a little something they do – 3 quick questions every Tuesday and Saturday, an opportunity for you to tell the hospital what they are doing well and where they could make improvements today while you’re here, not after you get home. Alison gives me total authority to complete the form, so I write:

Q: Did we exceed your expectations today?
A: Yes
Q: What did we do today that exceeded your expectations?
A: Nurse Nancy arrived! She listens without rushing or interrupting. She takes charge without taking over. Her voice and words are reassuring – she inspires confidence by her attentiveness, her tone of voice, her willingness to listen, and by doing what she says she’s going to do.
Q: What could we have done today to improve the experience for you or your family?
A: Have a different flavor (something other than lime) Powerade on hand. [Should you think me nit-picky, I only put something on those blank lines to give contrast and credibility to my #2 answer.]

THERE IS JOB SECURITY

Since we arrived in room 741 around 11 p.m. on Friday, 8/28/15, the nurses arrive at the top of each shift to introduce themselves and put their name on the information board hanging on the wall at the foot of Alison’s bed. Their names change every 8 hours or so, but the patient’s name remains “Brett” and the date is stuck on “Thursday, August 6, 2015”. All we need is for the President to be listed as “John F. Kennedy”, and we’ll keep neurologists – the ones who ask those inane-and-desperately-in-need-of-change questions to assess cognitive function: What day is it? Where are you? When you visit a new neighborhood you’ve never been to before, do you have a tendency to get lost? Who is the President of the United States? – laughing all the way to the new car lot.

THERE IS TRADITION

Journal Entry: 11:30 p.m.

My grandmother declared that the second day after any trauma to the body is the worst, and now, as we enter the second day after, Grandmother’s Wisdom and Knowledge is once again confirmed. One step forward, three back will be how this day goes down in The History of Alison Chambers.

It’s been a day when she felt remarkably good; when she enjoyed visits from good friends; when once again I sit in awe of the resilience of the human body – especially hers.

But just now she hits the wall physically. Everything hurts. She can’t get comfortable. There’s itching and coughing. The drainage tube pulls. The IV tubes yank. She’s hot. She’s cold. More pain meds should arrive shortly, so it is with fingers crossed that I hope things will settle down enough for her to go to sleep. At least for a little while.

THERE IS EVIDENCE OF MAGICAL THINKING

We bring her new electric scent warmer and two – count them 2 – lavender (for relaxation and healing) melts. We also bring one healing and one calming mandala coloring book and a new box of pencils. We bring facial masks and wipes and moisturizers. She brings the changes of pajamas; I bring enough clean underwear and socks for three days. She brings her planner, thinking she’ll get some things done, and she looks forward to finally finishing that library book. Knowing Friday will be a very long day and figuring we’ll stay at least one day/night longer, I am quite sure I will finish stitching the background to this one piece I’m working on. With this many uninterrupted hours, how can I not?

Do you hear me laughing maniacally?

We know there will be pain and discomfort, and we know drugs will be used to alleviate it. We bring healing accoutrements, but there is no space, no time, no wherewithal for such things as reading and coloring, for skin care, for meditative stitching, for aromatherapy.

The hospital is no home away from home, no hotel, no girls-spend-the-night party.

THERE ARE STORIES COMING AND GOING

She put three boys through medical school by cleaning hospital rooms.

Her sons play in the high school band, and their game – the one she will not attend because she’s at work – is on ESPN tonight.

Her husband wanted to become a chaplain when he retired, and when he died unexpectedly some twenty years before getting the gold watch, she fulfilled his lifelong dream by becoming a chaplain.

THERE ARE ACCIDENTAL EXCLAMATION POINTS

ExclamationPoint

Hospital cafeteria pickins’ are slim on Saturday, so The Engineer and I make a food run while Alison sleeps. And what to my wandering eyes should appear as we cross the road in front of the hospital but an accidental exclamation point.

Or a face with a pimple. Take your pick.

12: First Day of First Grade: A Once In a Lifetime Happening

JHCFirstGrade

Jeanne, First Grade

We didn’t need have kindergarten or pre-k or pre-pre-k or pre-pre-pre-pre-pre k. We just started in first grade, and that was that. The ensemble of first grade teachers stood in front of the room (by “the room”, I mean the boiler room which was also the lunchroom which was also a storage room), dressed in their finest and smiling their biggest. The air was filled with Important Occasion vibes, for this was surely a turning point in our young lives and a new beginning for the teachers.

We sat on the lunchroom freshly-painted benches with our parents, nervously awaiting our name to be on the slip of paper pulled out of the soup pot. Though she never said anything, it was fairly obvious to me that my mother wanted Mrs. Peeples to draw my name. Oh Mrs. Peeples. I still kinda’ swoon at the memory of her always-smiling (but then I wasn’t in her room) (sorry for the spoiler) countenance. Those cat-eye glasses. That perfectly coiffed hair with the little spit curls on each side of her forehead. Lipstick to match the dominant color in the shirtwaist dress she was wearing on any given day, always with a petticoat. That thin white embroidered handkerchief that was always starched, ironed, and on the ready, tucked under her belt. She wore high heels, too, and stockings (well, everybody wore stockings back then, and I don’t mean pantyhose. I mean stockings.) every single day. Yes, my mother, who’s always had a keen sense of style herself when it comes to fashion, prayed that she would hear Mrs. Peeples pull out that slip of paper and read aloud the words “Jeanne Hewell” at which time I would leave my mother and go stand with My First Grade Teacher and Classmates, my new tribe.

But the woman who called out my name was Mrs. Mae Bess Price. I don’t know how long Mrs. Price had been teaching, but I’m pretty sure she invented it as a profession. That woman was o-l-d. Ancient. Beyond ancient. I never saw so many wrinkles, and she was the only woman I knew besides my grandmother who had gray hair. Old, I tell you.

There’s a chance I wouldn’t have behaved the way I did had I been standing with Mrs. Peeples. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The first thing we learned in first grade was How To Line Up Straight. Straight was Important. Each teacher would hold her right arm out for us to use as a guide, and we didn’t move one iota until there wasn’t a single shoulder or toe sticking out to one side or the other. Once we’d mastered that, we followed the teacher up the steps to the hall that ran down the center of the building, a space wide enough to parallel park a 1957 Buick. A hall with a floor so shiny, it could’ve been covered with glass. That hall floor was a piece of art created by The Janitor, to my first grade worldliness way of thinking, the janitor was The Strongest Man Alive. You should’ve seen him operating that floor machine – sometimes guiding it with a single finger, I’ll have you know. And when somebody threw up, who do you think the teacher called but The Janitor who would come scatter those red shavings over it, leave it a bit, then sweep it all up and dispose of it.

With every step up from the boiler room, my enthusiasm for this social experiment wavered. I couldn’t stay here all day, I thought nervously, I had things I needed to tend do. How would the pets survive a day without petting? What would my grandmother do without me readily-available to dote on? And perhaps most pressing of all, how would I ever know if Loretta Young was cured enough to get out of that iron lung if I wasn’t home to watch tv at 1:00 in the afternoon? By the time we reached that shiny, creaking hardwood floor, I thought it a good idea that Mother stay with me a while longer. And I was quite vocal about it, too, so Mrs. Price found an extra first-grade-sized chair for Mother and pulled it right up beside my first-grade-sized desk. And with that taken care of, I could breathe again.

Mrs. Price pointed each one of us to a particular desk, and I needed a step stool to get up into mine. The front of the room was covered with wall-to-wall blackboard with a wooden chalk tray holding an assortment of colorful chalks and erasers. Big cards with every letter of the alphabet – both upper case and lower case – decorated the top of the blackboard. Mrs. Price’s wooden desk and swivel chair with arms sat to the left side of the front of the room right under the window. Oh those windows. The left wall of the room was filled with windows lined up one right next to the other. Each window was the size of a football field, but only a little ole’ rectangle in the center of the bottom of the glass actually opened to let any air in.

The door was on the right wall, up near the front of the room. The silver wall-mounted pencil sharpener was mounted to the left of the door, and The Janitor kept it so clean and free of fingerprints, it shone like a mirror. Shoot, if she had an extra hand and were interested in such things, a girl could fix her hair, get the peanut butter out from between her teeth, and sharpen her pencil all at the same time.

We tended to the business side of being in first grade first. Mrs. Price pulled out her roll book, which once spread open had a wingspan of about 4 feet. Using her fountain pen, she wrote our names in alphabetical order, last name first, in the rectangular spaces to the far left, wrote the date in the appropriate space at the top of the page, then put the first of many check marks in the date box to indicate that we were present and accounted for. For the rest of the year, every day started out the same: we’d put our lunch boxes in the designated area in the back of the room and hang our coats, sweaters, or raincoats up on the pegs. Then we’d each go to our desk, pull out two yellow No. 2 pencils, go sharpen them if needed, then place them in the trough at the top of our desks. We’d yell out “here” when we heard our name during roll call, then we’d stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag in unison.

Mrs. Price handed out the spelling cards, square sheets of cream-colored card stock filled with seven columns of words – one column for each day of the week. We were to learn how to say each word, spell each word, and use each word in a sentence. I loved those spelling cards like you wouldn’t believe. What I wouldn’t give to hold one in my hands right this very.

Once we each had a spelling card, we were given our reading book. Reading about Dick and Jane and their mischievous little dog Spot quickly came to be my favorite time of the day (next to recess, lunch, and going home, of course). Soap operas for first grade, that’s what it was. I couldn’t wait to open that book every day and see what those two rascals had gotten themselves into or where they’d go next.

We were given a primary tablet for writing filled with sheets of thin gray newsprint covered with pink and blue lines, some solid, some dashed. It had a blue horse on the front, and I later learned you could save those blue horse pictures and redeem them for all sorts of fantastic prizes like more tablets, pencils that were red on one end and blue on the other, big chunky erasers or pointy pink erasers with a hole in the bottom that was just the right size for sliding over the eraser Certain People had already chewed off in their nervousness.

Mrs. Price then went over the Mae Bess Rules Of Order:
1. Thou shalt always make a straight line when coming in from recess or going to and from the lunchroom.
2. Thou shalt raise thy hand before talking.
3. Thou shalt keep thy pencils sharp.
4. Though shalt not talk to thy neighbor.
5. Thou shalt ask permission before going to the bathroom.

And before you knew it, all necessary business was tended to and it was time to learn our first foreign word: recess. We lined up at the door – in a straight line, of course – and marched out into the hall, and down the steps at the each end of the building. Without any further ado, Mrs. Price went over to the bench under the one tree on the vast expanse of the hard red clay playground to take her seat with the other first grade teachers. There were slides as high as the Empire State Building. There was this thing made of red and blue boards that you stood sat on to go around and around the central metal pole. Swings hung on chains from a metal A-frame. We stood there for a moment, our eyes getting used to the light, then we took off in all different directions. Actually, it’s They took off in all different directions. I was quite content to stand there and watch, noting things like who played with who, who went to which piece of playground equipment first, who let who break in line, what the different laughs sounded like – all those oft-overlooked things . . . but my mother (who we learned that day likes being in the thick of people a whole lot more than I do) was decidedly less content to observe.

“Why don’t you go slide?” she asked, giving me a firm push in the direction of that gleaming metal contraption.

I stumbled about two steps from the shove then stopped.

“Go on,” she said, giving me another hard shove. “You know you like people.”

In the spirit of compromise, I grabbed her hand and pulled her with me to the sliding board. There were about four people in line, so it took a little while to get to the top rung of the ladder, but I made it, checking with every inch of ascension to make sure that Mother was still standing at the base, waving to me. Finally my little white tennis shoe clad foot with the lacy fold-down white socks on it hit the top of the slide. I did like I’d seen the other kids do, placing each hand on one of the metal rails then hoisted myself up, swinging my legs out in front of me so that when I came down, I was seated on the top of the sliding board. With August being by far the hottest month of the year and school starting just after Labor Day, my new panties with the rows of ruffles across the back provided absolutely no insulation from the heat of that metal sliding board that had been baking in unfiltered sun for more than 31 days.

I looked down to make sure Mother was still watching, determined to make her proud. Her daughter would be The Best Sliding Board Slider Ever. I could just hear the supper table conversation. “Crawford, you should’ve seen her. She went down that slide faster than anybody else alive. She just zoomed, and nobody had run wax paper over it either. She’s got real potential. I’ve always said so.” My daddy would beam as he leaned over to give me a kiss on the top of my head. I hoped we were having cubed steak, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and corn on the cob for supper. This exchange just HAD to happen over cubed steak, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and corn on the cob.

Sure enough, Mother was still there, smiling and waving. I released my grip on the handlebars, giving myself a little shove to get me started. Just as I’d imagined I would, I broke the sound barrier with my rapid descent. When my feet touched the ground, I turned and started running back to get my congratulatory hug from Mother . . . but she was gone. I instinctively looked in the direction of the Oldsmobile she’d parked on the street at the beginning of This Most Auspicious Day, and there it was, pulling away, the hem of her dress sticking out where she’d closed the door on it. I tell you what: abandonment like that could’ve stunted the growth of lesser 6 year olds.

The bus bringing me home from a long day at school got to our house about the time that big ole’ Olds pulled into the driveway bringing Mother home from a long day afternoon at the office. I was so tired, I just walked directly over to the sofa and took myself a good, long nap. Mother woke me up with a call to supper, and I salivated in keen anticipation the whole way from the sofa to the kitchen table, but when I slid into my chair it was not a meal of cubed steak, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and corn on the cob I saw on the plate before me, but a plate full of weenies without buns cut into bite-size pieces.

I learned enough lessons to fill a book on that first day of first grade . . . and not all of them were lessons Mrs. Price was gonna’ grade me on.

~~~~~~~

The dress I’m wearing in my first grade picture? It was the most fetching shade of royal blue cotton fabric you’ve ever seen. The collar and cuffs were white trimmed with red rick rack. The embellishment around the waist had ever color in the rainbow with the possible exception of orange. I loved that dress, and I still love those two-tone-blue-and-white-cateye-with-silver-sparkles glasses. You know I do. Making my way through 100 days of stories, and you can tune in daily if you want by mashing the button in the orange box at the top of the screen and following the directions. I’ll see y’all tomorrow.

What Love Looks Like With 42 Years on the Odometer

ARCJHCLondon2014

Then
being heard meant being able to repeat back to me what I just said.
Now
being heard means that without prompting, you remember that I need to take photos of my Hymns of Cloth and you talk to the neighbor about using his barn, rig up a system, gather the tools, and make it happen.

Cruise2014a

Then
being seen meant you noticed the scar on my nose (a visible reminder of when I ran into the bridge) and thought it adorable.
Now
being seen means you secretly find the address for the fabric store in London and walk me there, bringing along a book so I can take all the time I like to delight in (and decide on) the gorgeous fabrics.

ARCJHCCruise2014b

Then
being held meant holding hands or resting your arm around the back of my chair or letting me snuggle up close when we watched scary or sad movies.
Now
being held means that when we get separated at parties, you keep an eye on me from afar, knowing how much this introvert you married longs to be in the corner watching the stories unfold.

ARCJHCCruise2014

Then
I felt butterflies when you walked into the room.
Now
I feel butterflies when we’re apart . . . when you’re working on the roof . . . when you don’t answer your phone.

LeavingIceland

Then
“till death do us part” meant nothing, not even a page on a calendar we would buy One Day.
Now
we know that “till death do us part” might mean tomorrow morning, this afternoon, or tonight
which
is precisely why we keep filling our togetherness with adventures, discoveries, and always, always, always . . . laughter.

Like Mama Helen said this past weekend: I sure knew which ones to kick to the curb and which one to keep. Forty-two years later, and you’re still The One, My Engineer. Oh my goodness gracious yes – you are most definitely still The One.

~~~~~~~

Starting tomorrow, I’m gonna’ pen 100 stories in 100 days (#100Days100Stories). Why? Because I’ve been longing for a challenge, that’s why. Join in or read along, I’ll be tickled to have your company either way.

The “Re” Nobody Tells You About

Out1

I married a man
who developed a strong, solid good
reputation in his career field
for being a man
of integrity,
a man who keeps his word,
a man who is patient
a man who understands that
everybody at the table needs to make money.

I married a man
who, despite building an impressive career,
never missed a soccer game
or a stage performance
or a parents’ night.

I married a man
who enjoys cooking
(and not just on the grill)
and grocery shopping
(except during The Season)
and tending a garden
(when the crows leave him enough to tend).

I married a man
who literally swept me into his arms
and carried me out of the church
because the car that hit me six weeks before
broke my knee.
A man continues to
sweep me off my feet
in ways large
and small.

In in the past 41 years,
I’ve married this man many times over,
only once
when we stood in front of a group of people,
repeating the words of a preacher I never particularly liked.
Every other time
the vows have been quiet, private vows
of laughter
of hand-holding
of listening
of sharing a look
of sharing the look
of being quiet
of staying.
Because in 41 years of togetherness,
you learn that
marriage is a series of re-marriages.

JeanneAndyPreWeddingResized

Older posts

© 2017 The 70273 Project

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑