My Birthday

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OK, so today is my birthday. Wow! I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize I have actually made it this far on this plane of existence. I have beaten some heavy odds along the way. I mean, there was a big chance for many years that I would be murdered . . . become another statistic of spousal abuse.

I got away.

I’ve had good opportunities that I squandered. I’ve had some bad opportunities that I leaped into without a second thought.

Born under a Cardinal Grand Cross, my biggest battles have always been with myself. I’m a fierce adversary. I fight the battles, win some and lose some. Shoot myself in the foot some. Then I get up, dust myself off and go on. Often, with a sense of wonderment: life can be an adventure when you are pulled in all four directions at once.

I have lived 58 years on this planet on my current journey. If I lived no more than this it would be quite a story. If I live to an old age, the chapters of the story will no doubt become even more convoluted. The ending is yet unwritten. It is a mystery.

To all who have touched me on my journey I give my thanks. To those I have touched, I hope it was for the good.

Now, at the ending of this, my 58th birthday, I bow to the Four Directions and begin an attempt to draw them to the center.

Wish me luck, for I will need it.

Family Traditions

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We all trooped into Mema’s kitchen on a cold December Sunday; stopping in the tiny galley kitchen to give her a hug before moving on through to let those following get inside. The leader of the row of people carefully opened the sliding door to the dining room. It was made of plywood years ago and had a tendency to hang and refuse to open. It could be a real pain in the ass to fix when it did.

Once in the tiny living room, we took turns standing around the fireplace for warmth while chatting with Papa and waiting for the others to show up. Papa would tease the smaller children for a bit and then make a few pointed comments at those of us posing as adults.

I slipped back into the kitchen to talk to Mema while she cooked. I helped with whatever needed doing while we talked about the children, family, or any of a million other topics.

Gradually other family members began to arrive. My brother-in-law and his family, Aunt Edith and Uncle Chris (Papa’s sister and brother), and Little Ma, (Papa’s mother and the matriarch of the family) arrived. Joe (my other brother-in-law) was still in school and was in the living room helping Papa tease the smaller children.

My sister-in-law came back to the kitchen after getting her children settled and together we laughed and chatted with Mema and helped get the meal on the table. Aunt Edith also came into the kitchen, darting around with quick, jerky movements, complaining about everyone and everything in her sphere of influence.

Before the meal could begin Mema made an announcement. This was not just a Sunday dinner. No, this was a birthday dinner for everyone in the family whose birthday was in December. That was the reason for this meal together. In two weeks we would meet in the little house again to celebrate Christmas. Today was our birthday party.

There were (at that time) five family members with December birthdays. Laughter and love filled the room as we celebrated our winter birthdays. There was a home-made coconut cake made by Mema for dessert.

From that time onward for as long as she was able, Mema held the December birthday dinner. It became a family tradition that was enjoyed by all.

Family traditions hold families together. Mema lived her life for God and family. She single-handedly held that family together for many years against all odds. Thank God for the Mema’s of this world and the family traditions they create for the rest of us.

 


 

Pillow to Post

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When I was growing up there was an old saying used in reference to people who were being tossed around a bit by life. “They’ve been pillow to post” Mama would say. Usually the poor soul in question was down on their luck, living with friends or family being unable to make it on their own at that time.

I’ve been pillow to post many times in my life. Right now I’m in a “pillow” stage, with a home and my own bed to sleep in. But I can sure remember those posts. I “went home to Mama” so many times in my first marriage that she almost had a revolving door installed. It seemed like I always managed to come back with another child as well. Mama and Daddy always had room for just one more though, and we all survived those days in their little country home.

Finally Daddy gave me an acre of land next door and with the addition of a mobile home it let me be close enough for them to help when needed (read that most of the time) and yet live on my own.

I raised 5 children there; the four I gave birth to and the one to which I was married. It was a crazy life. It was a life guaranteed to produce the many stories that we all use to entertain our friends with now-a-days. It was never boring.

Over the years we grew to call Hell’s little acre “Red Dirt Hill”. My daughter writes about it in her blog when she has time. We all left there over the years. Well, almost all, my ex-husband still lives there. It will be his home until he goes to a better place.

Red Dirt Hill was a pillow, but it was thin and worn and not very comfortable to sleep on. But when you are poor, a worn pillow is better than none at all.

That piece of land had long ago been an Indian campsite. Evidence of their occupation continues to surface to this day. After that it became my grandmother’s then Daddy’s, and finally mine. For many years it was a cotton field. The result to the Hill was that the land was extremely poor. All it would grow was red dirt and dust, with some small rocks and many pebbles thrown in for good measure. We all experienced walking barefoot across that hot, dry yard and watching the dust squirt from between our toes.

Life at the pillow that was more like a post was hard. We carried water, used an outhouse, washed at the coin operated laundry, and gladly took hand-me-down clothing from whoever had it to give away. We cut trees and dragged them to the house to saw up for fire wood. In the 20th Century we lived a life similar to those lived by pioneers.

It made us a little flaky. It made us very independent. It made us stubborn. It made us resilient. It made us who we are today.

Against all odds, the children of Red Dirt Hill (myself included), grew up and survived to tell the tale. Maybe we will write a book someday. Maybe we will tell it in our blogs. Maybe we will just whisper it into our pillows.

If Only …

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I’m writing this in response to or, maybe, inspired by my daughter’s post Today I Cried. Her post was inspired by her sister’s post, Regret. These are posts about the loss of grandmothers. We all face that loss in our lives if we are lucky enough to have living grandparents as a child/young adult. These are stories of wishing things had been done differently. About our own fears and how succumbing to them result in those deep feeling of, “if I had only (fill in the blank) while he/she was still here”.

The two grandmother’s in question were both women of great love. “Grandma G” in Wyld Chyld’s post was my mother. This woman, at age 53 took me in as a child barely 3 years old. It was 50 years later before I could truly appreciate what she did. She and my daddy (who was 58 at the time) had raised their own family of three children. They didn’t have to take me. The fact they did speaks volumes’ about their capacity for love and caring.

While my mother had worked in a textile mill as a teenager, she was a housewife for her entire married life. She read and kept up with the times, but her main interest was her family. Each grandchild was a blessing to her. Her distaste at Wyld Chyld’s birth was that, to her, it sealed my fate of being with a man she considered worthless. Mama never hesitated to let him know what she thought. They were at war from our courtship until her death. Our divorce occurred years after her passing, but I’m sure she turned to her heavenly companions and smiled on that day.

The grandmother in my other daughter’s post was my mother-in-law. Nellie was a strong woman, educated, with an intense love of God and her family. She never judged, but would offer advice or her opinion when needed in a soft calm way. In all the years I was her daughter-in-law, she only raised her voice to me once. I was about 25 years old at the time, and I deserved every word she said.

As my relationship with her son deteriorated, she advised me to leave on more than one occasion. When I finally did, she refused to turn against me. Amazingly, she welcomed my second husband into the family with open arms. I had married her son at the ripe old age of 14, and over the years I think I became HER daughter-of-the-heart. I know she was truly my “other mother” as I walked through life.

When Mama ceased to know who anyone was, the trips to the nursing home became increasingly difficult for me. I, too, wanted to remember her as “Mama” instead of the tiny figure who talked about how Harvey and the mules should have come in from the fields by now as she wrung her hands in worry. She wasn’t Mama anymore, and I too, stopped going about a year before her death.

When Nellie sank into the depths of dementia it was almost more than I could bear to hear. By then I had moved away far enough to use it as an excuse not to go. Besides, my old car wasn’t up to the trip; my job took up a lot of my time, and countless other things stood in the way. I didn’t go visit, and have my share of regret as well.

My daughters spoke more eloquently than I ever can about these two women and how they are missed.

Both Grandmothers loved all their grandchildren. Both lived long, full lives. I miss them both and am reminded each day of what we’ve lost at their passing. Their wisdom could help you find an answer to any question. Mema knew how to lead you to your own answer, instead of telling you what to do. Grandma and Mema, we all ask that your loving eyes continue to watch over us as we stumble along on our journeys through life.

My grandchildren and I are in contact with Facebook, email, text messages and cell phones. I love them dearly and they love me. It is great to have so many ways to stay in touch. Even so, it is not the same as going to the kitchen and talking about life, love and the world like their parents did with their Mema. Nothing, but nothing can surpass that.

Obama 12 Days of Christmas

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