I have just finished reading a most interesting book Jewels of the Delta by Alysia Steele. Her interviews with the Church Women of the Delta area of Mississippi is a fascinating look at the oral history of a time before, during, and directly after the Civil Rights Movement. She entwines these stories with stories of her grandmother.
Reading her prompted me to return to my blog and to post the following:
A Letter to Alysia Steele on Grandmothers.
I love your book. I can only imagine how proud your grandmother is as she smiles down on you from above. I find myself remembering the days of Civil Rights and my very small involvement at the time. I was studying at the University of Minnesota, attended rallies, picketed the local Woolworths’s and collected money to aid the Freedom Riders. It humbles me to think of how very minute my efforts were when compared to those women of courage and faith.
I taught school for 34 years and never knew that black teachers in Mississippi had to struggle to gain the right to put Mrs. in front of their name. Ironically, at about the same time, I was fighting for the right to drop the title and use my first name. I was teaching in Topanga Canyon in Southern California. Many of my students were from communes with flower children parents and I was swept away with my own “Dawning of Aquarius”. I am sure the Church Mothers would be shaking their heads in disbelief at my reverse identity struggle.
I smiled when the Rev. Dr. Matthew recalled that Martin Luther King was an average student when both men were at Morehouse College. I briefly met Dr. King when he came to speak at the University of Minnesota at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I do not know what I was expecting – perhaps a superhuman being with a cape and all. He was not as tall as I thought he would be; he was quiet, well-mannered, and a little average. As a teacher, I would celebrate his birthday with my third and fourth graders. I always mentioned meeting Dr. King and how he seemed to be just an ordinary man who was doing extra-ordinary things and how his leadership changed our world for the good of all people.
I know you miss your grandmother. I understand how you long to hear her voice and how you wish you could say “I am sorry for all the stomping up the stairs and the eye-rolling.” (There must have been eye-rolling.) So I wrote the following with you in mind. I may not speak for your grandmother, but I believe my words and thoughts are pretty universal Nana-Speak.
What My Granddaughter Didn’t Know When I Was Busy Lecturing Her about Privacy Rights and Boundaries
There was a minor little incident when my delightful eight-year-old granddaughter visited me a few weeks ago. She was playing with my iPad, and I asked what she was doing.
“ I am changing the setting so I can get in easy.“ she announced.
“Oh no, you are not,” I answered, “An iPad is like someone’s purse. You ask permission before opening it, and you never change my settings.”
That was my message, and I wanted to get the lesson across. To her credit, she listened and hopefully was not crushed by the authority in my voice. Now here is the part she didn’t know. I was also secretly proud of her misplaced initiative, and her knowledge of technology. I call this a soul-tickle. Soul-tickling is a feeling of pride grandmothers keep to themselves. It is an amusement not often shared, and it is known to produce mild head-shaking and half-smiles on our faces.
So for all those grandmothers out there and those granddaughters who are listening. Please know three things. First we grandmothers know about stomping upstairs, and impatience, and obnoxious behavior. We may not always admit it, but a lot of our knowledge comes from personal experience. Second, our ability to forgive and forget the grievances of grandchildren nears saintliness, and last, but certainly not least, grandmothers understand soul-tickling better than anyone else. I suspect, Alysia, your antics soul-tickled your grandmother more than you will ever know.
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What a wonderful Easter Sunday. It was filled with fun, family, and festivities. I have just spent the day making six pages for the kids’ memory books. Easter looked a lot more like Christmas than Easter. This is because the twins have new beds and desks and I bought sheets, bedspreads, desk lamps, and book-ends for their room. Then wrapped them along with some toys and said the Easter Bunny brought them.
It is pretty much tradition to have Macaroni and Cheese, made from a recipe that came from Maya Angelou. We of course had the marvelous honey-baked ham, as well as, honey glazed carrots, Harvard beets, and the highly requested Strawberry/Cranberry Jello from Mary Axsom’s Michigan recipe. It is a fact that Midwesterners know Jello better than anyone else in the U.S.
We are experiencing winter. Of course, we switched from heat to air-conditioning last week. The skies are filled with dark clouds, the wind must be close to fifty miles an hour, and we worry about our back yard fence going down. Such is life and poor California certainly can use some rain, although I know this storm will only produce a smidgeon of the amount we need to recover from our devastating drought.
This is a good time to share my album pages. As they say, “A picture is worth a dozen words.
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I had a great day with Lucky and LuAnn yesterday. It was our annual visit to the health center. Everyone loved Lucky’s new shirt so thought I would make a memory book page and share it on=line.
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Today was delightfully busy. Sipping my first cup of coffee I hear the phone ring and to my delight, It is the voice of Mary A, a Michigan Blogger, and dear friend. We talk through that first cup of coffee and a second before running out of conversation and having to say goodbye. Mary is a great influence on me. She has that mid-west strength about her and takes in strides the bad times, survives, and pushes on. Mary has that ability to find humor in everyday life and to write about it in an entertaining way. Her blog is http://mamascorner.com/ and certainly worth a visit or two.
Finishing early morning chores, I rush off to get my hair done, attend a Journey to Happiness group, and meet old friends for a lunch time celebration of my birthday. New friends are beautiful, but for me there is always something special about old friends and the time spent with them. I am sure none of these friends will like being compared to comfortable shoes, but I will take a risk and say it regardless. There is something pleasant about wiggling your toes in old shoes that have been worn a long time and are stretched to perfection in all the right places. That is the feeling I get when I am with these three women. We have known each other since our children were young, compared notes on life, worked in education, and yes, laughed and cried together.
I hurry home from lunch, brush Lucky, and LuAnn while Bob finds their leashes, and we rush out the front door and into the PT for a trip to Ridgecrest Health Center. Wednesday is our day to visit the residents, and the dogs have new Valentine Day shirts to wear. I carry 30 Valentine cards with the dogs’ photo on them ready to pass out to all I visit. Bob and I have a routine set up. He sits with one dog in the lobby while I take the other to visit in the rooms. It ’s hard to keep track of how many people we visit. It is usually about ten or 12 before the Maltese I have in hand grows tired. So I take it back to the lobby where Bob and a rested dog are waiting. We switch dogs, and I am able to make it back down the hall to meet with 10 or 12 more residents. Guess it is a little like the way the Pony Express riders changed horses way back in the day.
Home and the couch never looked so good so I turn on the news, put my feet up and two white dogs curl up on each side of me. Life is good, but soon it is time to feed all the critters, and I hurry through it all thinking eight o’clock a most sensible time to call it a night. As I pass the bedroom, I see the unmade bed, and I remember Bob was still asleep when I left for yoga. I smile because on busy days like today; I rationalize or perhaps fantasize that beds with rumpled sheets and askew pillows are simply more comfortable and more welcoming. They do seem to have some memory of how we slept best the night before. Thank God, for an understanding husband who is only amused by my ramblings about mussed-up bed coverings and more interested in how much I enjoyed my busy day.
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Certain times in our lives are fairy dust moments; moments so sweet that they can only be seen through the mist of eyes brightened by tears of happiness. I have been blessed with more than my share of these moments throughout my life, but none sweeter or brighter than those of tonight’s celebration of my 79th birthday
We are in San Diego with our Daughter Kristi, her wife, Theresa, and our eight-year-old twin grandkids, Eric, and Danica. We spend most of the day at LEGOLAND. In the morning, the twins take part in an LEGOLAND competition with others from their school, win the obligatory blue ribbon, and enjoy the recognition of achieving their creative goal. In the afternoon, we ride the little tour boat, admire the Lego built replicas of America’s cities and the Seven Wonders of the World. The weather is San Diego perfect; blue skies, gentle cooling ocean breeze, and delightful sunshine. The twins run from one ride to another with the enthusiasm and energy of third graders while their mothers follow closely behind or share the rides with them. Bob and I smile and watched and occasionally find a welcomed bench to rest on before heading to the next ride or exhibit.
Dinner is at Albie’s Beef Inn. It is a restaurant directly out of the fifties with red carpet and piano bar. It also has a wall of delightfully decadent paintings of nude women. The twins come to a dead halt when they first see them; mouth open and eyes wide. After being seated in the dining room, Eric and Danica make two or three trips to the bathroom. These trips are not out of a pressing need to go. Rather it is because the bathrooms are close to the front door, and as they pass by, it provides the opportunity to sneak fleeting glances at the gallery of womanly nakedness and perky breasts.
A competent waitress who has been told ahead of time that it is my birthday comes to take our order. To my chagrin and the others’ amusement she refers to me as “The Birthday Girl”. It seems to be Filet Mignon for everyone, except Eric and Papa who deviate with Chicken Fingers and Ground Sirloin. Our glasses are filled with juice, coke, or wine and dinner is on its way.
And now for the first sprinkling of fairy dust. Eric stands, taps his juice glass with a table knife. He looks around to making certain we are all paying attention and says in a voice resounding with enthusiasm, “Lift your glasses, I would like to make a toast”.
Our grandson is a child with autism. A child whose speech I often have difficulty understanding, who frequently is off in a world of his own, and for whom making eye contact is a challenge. However in this magical moment he speaks with the clarity and the confidence of a veteran Toastmaster.
Eric eyes each of us and announces, “This toast is for Momma T for finding this great restaurant and for Momma K for driving us here and for the good food that we will have.” We all raise our glasses in a salute and dutifully tap the brim of our glass with that of each family members. The clinking sound resonates as sweetly, to this grandmother’s ears, as musical wind chimes in a gentle breeze.
Fairy dust continues to fall when a few minutes later Eric once again leads us in a toast. This time as robust as the first, but it has more to do with our manners. The toast includes a reminder to use our napkins to wipe our faces and to chew slowly to enjoy our food. It gives us all a good laugh and brings me to my feet to propose a toast to family, happiness, and love. Not to be outdone, Danica stands and toasts the joy of having the second Filet Mignon of her young life on her Nana’s birthday and ends with the most beautiful smile radiant in its confidence and affirmation.
Proposing a toast moratorium so that we can enjoy our food and lively conversation turns out to be a good idea. It is followed by a promise that after-dinner toasts will be welcomed. Then the table is cleared and my celebratory birthday dessert arrives with its lit candle. Happy Birthday is sung, and Papa gives a birthday toast that ends in praise for his grandchildren. Next comes Kristi’s toast; a sweet testimony to our Mother-Daughter relationship and Theresa finishes off the toasts with wonderful words filled with gratitude and love of family.
The bill is quickly paid, and as we stand to leave the restaurant, I glance around at other diners as they smile and nod approval. It makes me think a little of the fairy dust has floated around the room. As we pass the nude paintings, I believe one or two of the women in the portraits wink at me. Perhaps, it is just more magical fairy dust bringing to an end, the most perfect birthday party ever.
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