Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fuzzy Thinking


For those of us who arrive, with no small surprise and absolute horror, in the Land of Old People, one of the most important things we must learn to balance is the great amount of wisdom we have and want to impart to others, along with that other thing, that fuzzy thinking thing, which reminds us that Alzheimer’s is just an overlooked Sudoku puzzle away from our deteriorating brain cells.

I was reminded of that balance just this past week and it unnerved me.  In my defense, my brother had just died and I was exhausted, not only from mourning him but also from celebrating his life.

Some background info: The reception following my brother, Sandy’s funeral was at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD.  I was in High Cotton, folks.  Out of my element in my Macy’s easy-pack ensemble, I found a sofa to sit on while holding tightly to my Diet Coke, as the over 300 attendees visited the open bar and the buffet table and commiserated with each other,  remembering their friend and colleague.  I did find that, after a few minutes, folks started coming by my couch to tell me how much they loved my brother.  One such person was an older man in a wheel chair.  This man introduced himself as my brother’s one and possibly only Republican friend and told me of the great times he had had when Sandy and his wife, Katherine, visited at his vacation home in Jamaica.

It was later when I thought to ask Katherine what that Republican had done in his life to pay for the vacation home in Jamaica and she reported that he had been Goldwater’s “money man”.  Although I didn't quite know what that meant, I chuckled and put the shiny tidbit of info in my brain to consider at a later time.

That later time came when I was talking to Melissa, my eldest, on the phone after I’d returned to Atlanta.  Since my darling Melissa, in what has to have been an early and catastrophic mid life crisis, has made a hard right turn in her political leanings, I though she would enjoy hearing about her Uncle Sandy’s one Republican friend.

When I got to the Goldwater’s “money man” part, I figured Melissa, although a definite right leaner, wouldn’t be up on Barry Goldwater, since, unlike me, she didn't grow up during the Goldwater era.  That’s where my wisdom, based on my long life well lived, would come in handy.  I'd spent several summers as a child with my grandparents who lived in Phoenix and I'd sat in on many a debate between my liberal grandfather and his more conservative friends, debates often centered around old Barry.

Melissa took the bait.  “Now, who was Barry Goldwater?”   

And, I'm sorry to say that  this was the point at which my great wisdom (and my opportunity to articulate it) ran head on into my fuzzy thinking.  With all of the certainty that comes from being there and seeing it happen, I said, “He was president,”

“What?  Barry Goldwater was president?  Of What?” asked poor young Melissa.

“Of the United States.”

That’s when I heard the “Oh no, here we go” tone in Melissa's voice, the tone that said we need to start looking into "homes".  She hesitated and then said, “Mama, I don’t think Barry Goldwater was president of the United States.  I’m looking him up here on my IPad and it’s says he was a senator from Arizona and he ran for president but didn’t win.”

Really?  Hmm.  Maybe he wasn’t president. Damn those IPads where whippersnappers can look up everything just like that.

Okay, I know Barry Goldwater wasn't ever president of the United States.  I should know.  I was alive when he wasn't president, unlike that smart ass Melissa with her IPad.  It's just that, in my fuzzy brain, my full brain, sometimes things get all mixed up together.   Nixon, Agnew, Rockefeller, Reagan, all those Bushes.  So many Republicans, they just all run together (as do many of the Democrats).  

So, as I like to say these days:  I know a lot; I just can't remember any of it. Maybe a Sudoku puzzle would help.  The only problem is where I put it is a bit fuzzy.

Monday, December 3, 2012



If ever, in the future, I feel the need to conjure up the embodiment of grief, I’ll have only to think of my sister-in-law’s beautiful face eviscerated by it.

My brother was a saint.  We all knew it as did the five hundred or so people who attended his funeral, many from the international law firm where he worked for close to forty years and served as General Counsel before his retirement a year ago.  A lawyer beloved?  By other lawyers?  Unheard of.

My brother, the saint, left a motley assortment of sinners and merely mortal fools ill equipped to navigate life without him.  Although we promise to do better, to be more like him, we probably won’t.  Nonetheless, his daughters have years ahead of them, a new job and a wedding in their near future.  I have my home and my interests and my family.  His wife, his cherished companion, will adjust and adapt to a very different life on her own.

One morning, while I was in Bethesda for the funeral, I took a long walk in the midst of some gorgeous Maryland countryside.  At one point, I came upon a small herd of deer.  I stopped; they stopped.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  It occurred to me that we were fellow dwellers in a world my brother no longer inhabits.

A tear caressed my cheek and the deer moved on.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Very Own (Personal) Early Voting Miracle


Earlier this month, my incredibly organized downstairs neighbor and friend, Susan, sent me information about early voting here in Atlanta.  At first, I didn’t think early voting was something I’d be interested in doing  since I love the tradition of participating in my civic duty on election day itself, especially since my normal polling place here in midtown includes a walk through the absolutely beautiful Ansley Park to the indubitably historic First Presbyterian Church where I cast my ballot.

But as my retired hours became busier and busier and I became more and more sure something just might happen to keep me from voting  on the assigned day, and my vote would, because I am the center of the universe, be the very vote required for my candidate to be victorious, I decided I needed to go ahead and get it done early.  That way,  I could relax and know I wouldn’t be the one responsible should our country go to hell in a handbasket as of November 7.

So, this past Monday, as I was en route to my home away from home, the Atlanta History Center, to learn how to weave on the big old loom at the Smith Family Farm, my Civil War era ensemble languishing in the back seat of the Corolla, I decided to stop by the Buckhead Library to take advantage of early voting.  It turned out to be quick and easy and I was in and out in just a few minutes, proudly sporting my I'm a Georgia voter! sticker on my chest, with visions of warps and wefts and shuttlecocks and heddles dancing around in my head as I carefully backed out of my parking space.

Here's where the miracle comes in:

  • It was not that the car I backed into wasn't a Masurati, which it could have been as this was Buckhead.
  • It was not that the car had no people in it so that I had go back into the Buckhead Library to interrupt presidential early voting to announce that I'd just hit a car in the parking lot.
  • It was not that the people sitting in the car weren't hurt or weren't mean and nasty even though they were none of those things.  They were a couple maybe even more elderly than I and they were sweet and understanding when they saw the dent in their fender that was caused by me.
Here's the miracle:

After we'd stood around a few minutes sharing information, the couple had custody of my insurance card and I'm pretty sure I'd made some stupid jokes about my bad eye and my blind spot and how glad I was that I wasn't wearing my Civil War dress, etc. etc. etc. At the point, the very nice man said something about how it probably wouldn't cost much to fix, and the repair people would probably just hammer the dent out.  With that,  we walked back around the car to look at the damage one more time.   And that's when, just like in The Song of Bernadette, we observed a miracle.

The offended fender (which was probably made in Detroit) had popped itself back out while I was going on and on to the very nice couple about the whole thing being my fault and what an idiot I am.  Yes, that fender had unoffended itself; indeed, it had taken its own initiative to pop itself back out.  That sucker had just popped itself right back out from where it had before been dented in!  

The very nice couple and I just looked at each other in stupefaction and touched that fender to make sure we weren't hallucinating.  At that point, the very nice lady handed me back my insurance card, saying they wouldn't be needing it after all.

Okay, it wasn’t a major miracle.  It wasn’t like I'd gone into the Buckhead Library and voted early and as soon as I clicked on the new-fangled computer submit-ballot button, a brass band started up, and red, white, and mainly blue balloons were unleashed, and someone came over a loud speaker announcing that my candidate had somehow already won! thanks to, yes, that early voting lady, the one who was very carefully backing her Corolla out of the parking lot not hitting anybody, the one with the Civil War era ensemble languishing in the back seat.

But, it was still a miracle and we are all in need of miracles.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wore Slap Out

Photo: Hawheeeeeeeeeee...

wore slap out – a Southern colloquialism that describes, at least somewhat adequately, how grandmas feel when their precious progeny finally buckle up and head for home.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my grandkids.  It’s just that they are very, very busy and my home is very, very small.  

In an attempt to define grandkids' kind of busy, I’m going to try to quantify five-year-old Miles and three-year-old Georgia’s recent visit that ended, thank you God and Jesus, Thursday afternoon at 4:29 PM, despite daughter, Melissa’s worries that they might hit rush hour traffic. 

Number of:
  • Grammy's knick-knacks rearranged by Georgia:  472
  • knick-knacks moved by adults to get them out of Georgia's sight line:  327
  • crumbs on the floor: infinity
  • times Georgia hit Miles: 73
  • times Miles hit back: 6
  • times Georgia told on Miles for hitting her: 6
  • bath salts poured into bath: all
  • Grammy’s bran muffins eaten by grandkids:  just 1 as the rest were hidden
  •  cups of milk poured: hundreds
  • pictures colored by Miles for Grammy: 3
  • times Georgia lost her bear, Beary Manilow : 326 
  • Nick Jr. shows ordered On Demand: 8 (well worth the cost no matter what it was)
  • parks visited: 2
  • swing pushes: infinity
  • times I went down a slide: 4 
  • times kids were told to stay with us: 500
    times they listened: 0
  • times we mistakenly thought we could go to a restaurant as long as we dined al fresco: too many
  • escalator rides to nowhere: 2
  • Pumpkin Patches we visited: 2
  • times Georgia dropped her pumpkin: 15
  • times we got lost going to and returning from the zoo: 5
  • animals we saw at the zoo: 35 (1000 counting the naked mole rats)
  • times we had to pick up a kid so he/she could see: 72
  • animals we got to feed:  just 1 but it was a GIRAFFE!!!!
  • things climbed on in spite of our admonitions not to do so: 85
  • animals brushed at the petting zoo: I don't know.  I was sitting on a bench at that point.
  • times we rode the train despite telling the kids we were all out of money: 1
  • times Georgia and I rode the Merry-Go-Round despite telling the kids we were all out of money: 1
  • times Miles climbed the very tall climbing wall: 2
  • minutes Miles waited patiently to climb the climbing wall: at least 30
  • times we lost the children: only 1.  We were sitting and resting while they played on the playground at the zoo, patting ourselves on the back about how careful we are with them at all times.  While we were talking and resting and watching so carefully,  they somehow managed to see the little kid door into the naked mole rats building, which they visited unchaperoned until they gleefully exited via the tunnel at the other end of the building while we were dutifully watching the playground where we were sure they were. 

To tell the truth, the visit was a great one and the kids were pretty good, considering their ages and my small Atlanta home. I would have liked for them to stay longer, but when they finally, thank you God and Jesus, left, I was wore slap out.
Number of lies I just told about wanting them to stay longer: 1
Number of sweet memories of the trip: infinity




Monday, October 1, 2012

What I Learned from the Gypsy Farm Story

 Black Jack at the Smith Family Farm

It was one of my first days volunteering at the Smith Family Farm at the Atlanta History Center and I wasn’t all that enamored with the visiting school group.  Oh, the children were cute and inquisitive and relatively well behaved; it was the adults who were bugging me.  The kids were on a field trip and they were from a Megatively Conservative Mega Church Private School and, since I couldn’t blame the kids for sending themselves to such a school, I could only blame the parents (some of whom were serving as chaperones).  Everyone was vanilla and coifed and all the same, generally the kind of people who don't interest me all that much.  However, I was on my best behavior, trying to be helpful without anyone figuring out I had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing.

I’d heard Ava, our Kitchen History Maven, telling the kids that she was cooking up some carrots they’d been keeping down in the root cellar, and minutes later, I found myself outside, standing next to the door of said root cellar, wondering if there really were any carrots down there and what else might be down there and if there really was a down there.   

The Smith home, an1840s era house and detached kitchen, are the real deal, having been moved to their present location from Dekalb County in the early 1970s, but the additional out-buildings, while historical, aren't from the Smith family.  In addition, some of the accoutrements are faux (although firmly-documented fine faux) because, well, because everything can’t be all real all of the time, even in a place as wonderful as the Smith Family Farm at the Atlanta History Center.

So, there I was standing by the either real or faux root cellar as a field trip mom stepped up to me and said, “Root cellars give me the creeps.”   

Like she would know anything about root cellars, this lily-white, suburban, probably gas-guzzling SUV driving, tennis-playing trophy wife, I thought.    But I went into docent mode anyway, using the only information I had.  

“Yeah well, the Smiths stored things like carrots down there,” I said, hoping she wouldn't ask me anything else that would indicate I'd already given her everything I had.

“My parents kept their homemade wine in ours,” she offered.  

What?  This transparent mega-church-going, private-school-sending mom had parents who kept bootlegged booze in a root cellar?  I was envisioning some color spilling on to her pallid cheeks, like Two-Buck Chuck Premium Red on a perfectly pressed linen napkin.

“You grew up on a farm?  Where?”

“Up in Michigan.”

“Your parents were farmers?”

“Well, not really.  At some point, they got a wild hair and they bought a farm.  From gypsies.”

“Your parents bought a farm from gypsies?”

“Yeah, and when we moved in, there were still gypsy wagons on the property and apparently they’d kept their animals inside the house.”

“You mean dogs and cats?”

“More like goats and chickens.” 

It turned out that this woman had grown up on a former gypsy farm and her parents had raised their own chickens and goats (outside) along with cows and vegetables and grapes for wine making, reading books as they went along to figure out how to keep everything alive, all while running a family business in a nearby town.   And these very same parents now lived with this women here in Atlanta because she was a divorced mom of three who was struggling, finishing up nurse’s training, specializing in flesh wounds.  

It was like at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz, you know the part when the black and white goes all technicolorish as Dorothy and Toto start out on the yellow brick road? Suddenly, this lady's family story and personal history brought her into a full and interesting light, and she became a reminder for me to avoid judging what could be a great book by what seems to be a stereotypical cover.  Here stood this colorful, vibrant woman who was interesting and absolutely worth getting to know, with a story only she could tell.  All I needed to do was open my mind and listen.

 By the way, there really is a root cellar under that door at the Smith Family Farm at the Atlanta History Center.  Just like the woman I talked to that day, it's  real.


For more information about the Smith Family Farm at the Atlanta History Center, see:

Smith Family Farm

Friday, September 28, 2012

Adventure Thursday: Enjoying a Scenic Byway while Having to Pee

One of my new post-retirement goals is, each week(ish), to see or do something I’ve never  seen or done before and that’s what I saw and did yesterday.  I’d read in Brown’s Guide to Georgia that the route voted most scenic by the Georgians they surveyed was the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway out of Helen.

Brown’s Guide describes it this way:
A nationally designated scenic byway, this 38-mile loop winds its way through the area of the Chattahoochee National Forest which surrounds the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. The loop, which begins and ends outside of Helen, has good views of Raven Cliffs Wilderness to the south and Mark Trail Wilderness to the north. It passes Jack's Gap where Jack's Gap Trail leads to Chattahoochee Gap and the source of the river. The drive also passes through Unicoi Gap where the Unicoi Turnpike crossed the Blue Ridge.

It seemed like the perfect time and place to begin my weekly(ish) forays into my version of a bucket list.  The time being fall and a weekday would juxtapose the beginnings of the leaves turning, while ensuring that thousands of other bucket fillers wouldn’t be doing the same thing, hogging the roads and annoying me.  The place was good in that it was close enough for an easy day trip and far enough away not to be the other end of my sofa.  Plus, my first baby was conceived in the general area some 38 years ago, so there was that.

Driving up 400 (the Hospitality Highway 50 cents up 50 cents back) I was enjoying myself. I had a full tank of gas, a Diet Coke by my side, NPR on the radio, and my trusty I Phone in my lap with the GPS up and running.  Little did I know that the Diet Coke and GPS overuse would cause me a couple of problems later in the day.

I knew the small town of Helen would be a disappointment and I wasn’t disappointed.  Re-crafted in the early 1960’s to save a small town, Helen is a German Alpine Village in the middle of the North Georgia Mountains.  On what turned out to be our first conception experience in 1974, The Big Kat and I stayed at the absolutely gorgeous nearby Unicoi Lodge as part of a weekend trip with his new work buddies at Abbott Labs.  For dinner one evening, we all traipsed into Helen and I still remember its cheesiness.

Yesterday, when I stopped by for my Alpine fix, Helen had, if possible, become even more cheesified.  Although it appeared that they've added more walkways down by the river, which is actually quite pretty, there are now lots more gift shops with many more items not handmade anywhere, much less in North Georgia.  There is also a glut of fast food restaurants and chain motels, all sporting the yodel ay hee hoo motif.  Another new addition is that you currently can’t park anywhere in Helen without paying the $5 cash only, all day parking fee.

The $5 parking fee was a problem in that I needed to pee and I didn’t have five bucks in cash after paying the Hospitality Highway toll.  Although the kind ticket taker told me that, if I would hurry, he wouldn’t charge me, I couldn’t find a single place in Helen to pee in the two minutes I gave myself, so I left the parking lot and Helen with my $4.50 in cash and my bladder full, confident there would be a gas station in my near future.

There wasn’t.  I guess one thing that makes a scenic byway scenic is that they don’t allow gas stations and, because this scenic byway was clinging to the side of a mountain, I couldn’t find anywhere I felt safe enough to run out into the scenic part to squat with my pants down around my ankles.  So I kept on, my bladder petulantly undulating with the dips and digressions that made that particular byway so blasted scenic.  After what seemed like miles and miles of freaking scenic beauty, trusting my GPS to read the swerves and the curves, I finally found a sign that said: Brasstown Bald, Highest Point in Georgia, Historic Site and Rest Stop, 6 miles.

Rest Stop!  Thank you God and Jesus! Surely Rest Stop meant Restroom Stop!  I careened onto the road, and six painful miles later, I came to a tiny house with a sign that said Entry Fee: $3.

"Please tell me you have a restroom." I said to the guard, so so grateful I still had $4.50.
"Yes mam,  Right up there.  Three dollars please."

It was as I was sitting on the wonderful potty in the fantabulous Women's restroom at Brasstown Bald, Georgia that I realized my phone battery was almost dead, and no, I didn't think I'd ever need a car charger for my cell phone because I don't drive that much, thank you, Mr. Phone Salesman.

But at least I was at the highest point in Georgia and that was something to be proud of.

It wasn't until I was finished powdering my nose and had walked back outside that I realized I wasn't at the highest point in Georgia. Not yet. That would be just a short half mile walk up the path or I could take a shuttle for another three bucks.  I looked in my pocket book and counted out the dollar fifty I still had left, remembering I'd need another 50 cents to get past the toll booth to get back home,  So I started up the path knowing I could certainly walk  that far.  After all, I did much farther every morning back at home.

Straight uphill.  That path was straight uphill.  I stopped a couple of times to read some markers and try to breathe.  One of of the markers said the path had been built by convict labor in the 1950s. 

After about an eighth of a mile (and 4 markers and lots of bending over) I turned around and headed back down.  I could have made it all the way if I'd just had on tennis shoes and if I hadn't had my pocket book with me and if my phone was charged and if there wasn't the chance I'd need to pee again.

I ended up eating my granola bar lunch in the parking lot of the Brasstown Bald History Site, which was really quite scenic.  As I ate, I tried to ascertain if and how my Tom Tom GPS system (Tommy Jr), which I'd just remembered was in my glove compartment,  worked. 

Tommy Jr. did work and he talked me off that mountain a whole different way, a way that was truly scenic, and I made it home in time to watch the end of Katie on ABC. 

See that tiny thing at the top of the picture?  That's the highest point in Georgia.  

 What I learned from my first Adventure Thursday:
The only people who sightsee during the week are old people, some of whom ride motorcycles.
Helen is still Helen.
I need to watch my Diet Coke intake while traveling on scenic byways.
Using my cell phone GPS probably isn't the way to go for road trips.
I can walk long distances but not straight up and not with my pocket book.
I can travel a pretty long way and still get home in time to watch Katie on ABC.
Maybe I do need a car charger for my phone now that I'm such an adventurer.

What my adventure cost me:
$20 for gas
$1.00 for tolls
$3.00 for entry into the Brasstown Bald Historic Site
$1.29 for a bottled Diet Coke

What it could have cost me:
$25.29 for all of the above
 $5.00 for peeing in Helen
 $3.00 for the shuttle
 $10.90 for a car charger
 $10.00 for lunch other than a granola bar
$200 ticket for public indecency if there hadn't been a bathroom at Brasstown Bald

All in all, and in spite of not making it to the top of Georgia, I think I did okay with my first Adventure.   But if you are disappointed that, because I didn't learn all that much about any of the places I visited, including everything mentioned in Brown's Guide, and therefore you didn't either,  see:

Brown's Guide to Georgia

Helen, Georgia

Brasstown Bald

PS. As with the way of bloggers and blogging, my friend Diane, after reading my story, posted a wonderful tale about being stuck in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with three teen-agers, which also included a great, somewhat bi-partisan look at the history of the interstate highway system.  Here's the link:  The Road from Pigeon Forge  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Hours between Lunch and Happy

The hours between lunch and happy.

 I used these words recently to describe my visit to a popular area of Atlanta at a time when a good parking space was mine for the taking and I could get alfresco seating at a trendy restaurant without a reservation in order to drink my Diet Coke and enjoy the view.  More recently, as I've thought about it, I've concluded that these particular hours illustrate my vision for my new and untested retirement, while they also, in fact, offer up a bit of a problem.  On the one hand, I do now have the time to do many of the things that, in the past, I was too tired and busy to do and I’m available during the hours when most people are at their desk, their post, or their station.  On the other hand, some of these very same hours sit and laugh at me from my couch and call me names like loser and has been, which hurts my feelings.

I’m a routine-oriented person which has allowed me to survive and enjoy over 40 years in the field of Education.  I like to do the same things at about the same time and in the same way and I like to know what those things are in advance.  You will never find my picture at the top of a Google search list under the key word “spontaneous”.   

I’ve been this way since I was a young child.  I remember as a little girl sitting in our small TV room on a summer’s day writing down my vacation schedule, which went something like this:

9:00     Get up
9:05     Brush teeth
9:10     Breakfast and TV
10:00   Draw
11:00   Read
12:00   Lunch and TV
1:00     Get dressed
1:15     Go outside
1:30     Draw
2:30     Make bed
2:45     Read
3:45     Snack and TV
4:45     Practice piano
5:00     Make something
6:00     Supper
7:00     TV
9:00     Read in bed

Aside from some different time slots and an exchange of internet for drawing and the addition of an evening cocktail, I’m afraid my retirement schedule would look very much like that of my childhood.  Also note that, with the exception of "make bed", there was nothing akin to "clean room" on my schedule and that certainly hasn't changed.

Here’s the conundrum:  I retired because I did want more time and freedom and I do want to be able to plan my day my way and I definitely want to be able to spend more time with my kids and grandkids, but I still need something else, especially since I live alone and get tired of talking to only me (and those annoying hours that keep ridiculing me).  However, I do believe, in the past, I’ve allowed my full-time job to keep me hemmed in and safely away from things I might, under just the right circumstances, be interested in doing, things that just might scare me a little bit.  Now that I’m unhemmed, I'm also unhinged just thinking about the possibilities, which seem limitless (within my teacher retirement financial limits, which are definitely limited).

I’m getting there.  I’m holding on to some of the old by continuing to teach on-line for my old college bosses and teaching a writing class at my old school.   I’m also doing some new things with volunteer work at the Atlanta History Center (I get to wear a Civil War-era frock and bloomers) and I’m planning writing trips to North Georgia and Stone Mountain, all within the hours between lunch and happy.

The only problem is that those hours, according to my schedule, are for watching TV, having my snack, and making my bed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Girl

 Dear Molly,

If I were with you this morning, I’d make blueberry muffins from a mix and I’d put a birthday candle in yours, worrying as always that the melting candle just might be carcinogenic, one of many reasons why there wouldn’t be twenty-eight of them. 

People told me a late-in-life child would keep me young.  I’m not sure if that was true for me with you, but you have certainly kept me going, sometimes from worry, sometimes from necessity, often from your sheer Mollyness, your quirkiness, your dark and dorky humor, your carnsarned cussedness.

Through your more than a modicum of spills and struggles, you’ve managed to come to an understanding of yourself and others that I think is unusual for someone as young as you.  Although you don’t always trust enough to share this quiet discernment, at just the right moment, under the right circumstances, you offer up something so deep and insightful it leaves me slack jawed in wonderment.

People love you because you’ve been there, because you ask so little and offer so much: a sturdy shoulder, a big heart, a from-the-gut laugh, and a thoughtful answer to afraid-to-ask questions.   Your sense of irony comes from your sincere belief that, if it fell apart, it was because you didn't screw it on tight enough.  And, while that may not be all that healthy for you, it sure makes the rest of us relax a bit.  There’s such a comfort in world-worn you.

You worry that, at twenty-eight, you should be further ensconced in your adult life, more firmly rooted in knowing where you’re going and when.  I’m afraid I feel the same way at sixty-two, so I won’t be much help in figuring that out.  I do believe there’s a road map for your journey and an itinerary, both of which will come into your sight-line as you travel your life.  What a surprise that your heart’s own true love turned out to be with kids in high school, the very place that almost did you in.  Talk about courage, and perhaps a perverse form of payback.

You, my youngest child, share with me a love of reading.  In fact, you’re so pitiful and geeky that you profess the home-made Harry Potter coasters to be the best present you’ve ever received, and I’m pitiful and geeky enough to believe you.  We also now share a profession and a desire to pass on what little knowledge we have to anyone who will sit long enough to listen (and especially to those who won’t).  I’ll never forget that your first full-time teaching job came to you at the same moment I was leaving my final one.

The baton has been passed and the circle is unbroken.

Love always,


PS:  Some photos of times you may or may not remember

 And we didn't realize you needed glasses?

 Easter at Houston Lake

 Remember the naked years?

 The first of the "Maw" cruises

With your big brother

 With your big sister.
Reading most likely

 This must have been the Melissa and Billy booze cruise 
before they found the free liquor behind the closed bar.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Buying Toilet Paper in Cabbagetown

It just felt right.  I was in Cabbagetown and out of toilet paper.

When I first moved to Atlanta seven years ago, someone took those of us who toiled together out to lunch at a funky little restaurant called the Carroll Street Café.  That someone, who was a native, said the restaurant was in Cabbagetown, a former working-class neighborhood that got its name from – well, I bet you can guess.  The restaurant was cute and crowded during the lunch hour and it was difficult to find a place to park.  The area looked like it was in the midst of some gentrification but it still appeared very different from midtown where I’d just moved.

That was the last I thought about Cabbagetown until I discovered Whittier Mill, a former mill town up by the Chattahoochee River, while I was writing my children’s  book about Georgia history.  I was telling a friend about Whittier Mill, saying I hadn’t realized there had been mill towns so close to Atlanta, when she responded with “How about Cabbagetown?”  Duh.  The things I don’t know continue to amaze me.

For some reason probably having to do with being born a Democrat, I’ve been attracted to mill towns since I was a child, riding in the backseat of the family car as we traveled by the collections of houses all looking the same, houses situated in close proximity to each other like a large toothy grin.  I was used to farms, cities, and suburbs and these small communities looked so different and appealing in some way.

So, recently, with my newly-acquired retirement time, time that allows me to visit the Carroll Street Café between the hours of lunch and happy, I decided to give Cabbagetown another look. 

But first, I revved up my trusty computer and did some research and found the following from Profiling Solutions:

In the Battle of Atlanta, The Atlanta Rolling Mill was a primary target of Sherman, as it was one of the South’s largest producers of rail track, cannons and two inch sheets of steel. Destroyed during the Battle of Atlanta by the retreating of the Confederate army, the mill site was acquired by Jacob Elsas and Isaac May, German Jewish immigrants who came to Atlanta during reconstruction. Starting out as rag, paper and hide dealers, they transformed their business into a container business focusing on cloth and paper and incorporated the Fulton Cotton Spinning Company in 1881.

The International Cotton Exposition of 1881 was held in Atlanta in an effort to attract investment to the region. With many industries relocating to the post-Reconstruction South in search of cheap labor, the partners acquired the site and built their factory. Expansion of the complex occurred over the years with addition of a bag mill, but a dissolution of the partnership and change in business direction lead to the incorporation of the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill with Jacob Elsas and his family having control of the site in 1889.

Cabbagetown was built as the surrounding mill town. Elsas built a small community of one and two-story shotgun houses and cottage-style houses surrounding the mill. Like most mill towns, the streets are extremely narrow with short blocks and lots of intersections. At its height, the mill employed 2,600 people which consisted mostly of poor whites recruited from the Appalachian region of north Georgia. A protracted strike in 1914-15 failed to unionize the factories workforce. For over half a century, Cabbagetown remained home to a tight-knit, homogeneous and semi-isolated community of people whose lives were anchored by the mill, until it closed in 1977. Afterwards, the neighborhood went into a steep decline which didn’t end until Atlanta’s intown renaissance of the mid-1990s. The mill itself was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

What I found when I went were cottages that appeared to be inhabited by people who didn’t seem to mind being a bit different, some were pristine, others barely hanging on.

  There was some yard art, including a shrub pruned to look like pacman and a large sign on a front porch proclaiming, “You are here.”  And my favorite sight was someone manning a skateboard with a twelve-pack of Pabst under his arm.

I stopped by the Carroll Street Café for a Diet Coke, which I enjoyed out front on a gorgeous and not terribly hot September afternoon, looking up at the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill smokestacks that were looking back down on me, as were the inhabitants of Oakland Cemetery,  I was thinking about the people who've walked Carroll Street throughout Atlanta's history. The Fulton Mill is now the nation’s largest residential loft community but the cemetery still only houses dead people, some of whom were famous. 

While I enjoyed the Carroll Street Café and the sun warming my face, I fell a Little in love with Little’s Food Store, just down the street.  Not only do they sell fruits and vegetables and hamburgers and beer and wine, they also have toilet paper.

For more information about Cabbagetown and its history, see

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Uncovering an Ancient Truth

Just lately, as the days grow warmer, in order to get my hair out of my face without paying for a haircut, I’ve been pulling it back into a pony tail on some occasions (okay, on all the occasions when I don't feel like washing it). Although I was keenly aware that uncovering my face just might not be all that esthetically pleasing to the people I encounter on a daily basis, I did think it might look all right from the side and back. That’s before I used the photo device on my handy i-phone and discovered just what else I’d uncovered. 

Old people ears!

 I’ve always been relatively proud of my ears, ones I didn’t inherit from my jug-headed father, ones that weren’t too little like chewed up chunks of gum people attached to the underside of a dime store lunch counter, ones that were shaped nicely and just the right size.

I remember I was a teenager before I talked my mother into having my ears pierced and she made me to go a doctor for what she perceived to be major surgery.  I had noticed through the years that the holes had enlarged to some extent from wearing heavy earrings and on several occasions, I've inserted two earring into one ear and none in the other.  But I still had full confidence that my ears themselves remained diminutive and relatively unspoiled.

So I snapped the shot and then looked in horror at what the years had wrought.

At least there's no hair growing out of them (yet).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Cast Iron Skillet and some Thoughts about Family

I come from a long line of bad cooks.  My mama preferred fishing or shrimping or knitting or painting or playing that god-awful little organ of hers to cooking.  Me, I’d rather be reading or writing or watching House Hunters International than doing anything in the kitchen.  But Mama was a good mama, a post WWII mama, who believed the key to a happy family was dinner on the table, eating all together, and that’s why she gave me the cast iron skillet for a wedding present.

I liked that skillet for several reasons.  One, it was from my mother whom I loved dearly and respected more than just about anyone.  Two, it felt historical, knowing that people had used iron skillets for eons.  Three, it didn’t have to be cleaned all that well.  In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be cleaned at all.  For someone who enjoys cleaning even less than cooking, there it was gaving me personal permission not to clean it.

That’s because iron skillets need to be seasoned.  True to form, Mama gave me more detailed instruction on seasoning the skillet than she did on cooking with it.  Seasoning involved lathering it with lard or, in Mama’s modern case, Crisco from the can, and then putting it in the oven for a while.  When it came out, you were supposed to cool it down, wipe it out, put it in the cabinet, and never wash it again.  Just wipe it out.

I used that skillet most days for the twenty years of my married life.   However, when I divorced, and in spite of my still needing to feed my kids, I left that skillet along with the house Gary (aka The Big Kat) and I had built in our younger and more optimistic days.

Twenty-one years later, my oldest child, Melissa, moved back to Georgia with her husband, Trevor. In less than two months' time, Kat had had enough of three generations living together and decided to purchase a new home, one close by but far enough away.

Trevor is a cook, a good cook, one who likes the old ways.  And while all my kids inherited my lack of culinary skills, and my grandkids, Miles and Cami, inherited my left handedness, my last grandchild, Georgia, inherited her father’s interest in cooking.  So these days, my son-in-law and my granddaughter stand in the same kitchen where I stood so many years back, sautéing in the cast-iron skillet my mother gave me over forty years ago.

That’s family for you, inheriting some things you hope for and expect, and others you couldn't even begin to imagine.

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