Friday, September 28, 2012

Everybody in the South Has a Mammaw, Part 2

Last week I blogged about my mammaw. Mama Carroll, the ladies at Mount Carmel Baptist Church used to call her. I've been thinking about her ever since I published that post. She's been gone since the second semester of my junior year of college, 1978.

I remember the day she died. I came home for the weekend because my mom called me and said Mammaw was near the end of life. She was in a nursing home with a broken hip and had begun to have mini-strokes in her throat. I packed a bag, loaded my '77 Powder Blue Pinto and made the 90 minute drive from Arkansas Tech to my small hometown of Lonoke, Arkansas.

When I arrived Mom had everything under control.  "Let's make chocolate turtles," she said. So she and I took over the small kitchen and began the long process of making a bazillion chocolate turtles. (For those of you who live inside a turtle shell and don't know what this delicacy is I speak of, it is caramel with pecan pieces mixed in it, then dipped into milk chocolate. TO DIE FOR! Oops...bad choice of words in this case.)

We were about half-way through our candy making when the phone rang. It was the nursing home letting us know Mammaw had just passed. I sat at the table and began to cry. Mother cried. Daddy came in the kitchen and said, "Don't you dare cry! I forbid you to cry!"

So we held it in. A few minutes later I heard Daddy's sobs from the family room. She was the only mother he ever really knew. His own mother died when he was two years old from tuberculosis. His father remarried a number of times (I say a number, because no one knows for sure how many exactly. But that's a story for another time.)

When Daddy began to cry, Mama and I felt the freedom to do likewise. When the day of the funeral was upon us, I remember thinking I'd never seen so many people in one building before. Hundreds of people put a hold on their lives to pay their respects. People drove from far and wide to help us lay her to rest.

Remember in the last post that I mentioned her favorite hymn was "In the Garden"? Well, someone sang it at her funeral. And I fell apart. My mammaw was gone and I didn't know it then, but soon my mother would follow. Two strong Southern women whose memories still live in the hearts of those who knew them.

Mammaw: Florence Ella Duncan Carroll. She grew roses and tulips, strawberries and corn, fished with a bamboo fishing pole, wore "stockings" rolled up and tied in knots just below the knees, chopped off rattlesnake heads with a garden hoe, made snowballs and kept them in her deep freezer to use in the heat of the summer to keep a Coca-Cola nice and cold, crocheted a blue streak around all the other women, loved to bake Better-Than-Sex cakes (and spelled sex in a whisper instead of saying the word), watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday night followed by My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction, slept with her head at the foot of the bed in summer to get the fresh air from the open window, never screamed or carried on but you'd best watch out when she growled out "Good Granny".

The longer I live, the more I remember her. I recall a huge arrangement of wax flowers she put in a beautiful vase my Aunt Prudie brought her from Japan.  After arranging the flowers just so, Mammaw placed them on a table that sat centered in front of a huge picture window in my grandparents' living room. One day a hummingbird was flitting about outside the window and saw those flowers and flew smack dab right into the windowpane and fell to the ground. Mammaw ran outside and dug around in the flower bed just outside the window until she found the bird. She watched it for a minute and then it flew away. She marched into the house and moved the flowers to the dining room table where they stayed for a long time. We laughed about that for years, but knowing her the way I did, I know her heart ached over that poor little bird. The only wrath I ever saw from her was chopping the heads off unwelcome rattlers or moccasins.

Mammaw, I love you dearly. I always have and I always will. Nobody ever loved me the way you did...nobody but the One you modeled your life after. One day, day...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Everybody in the South has a Mammaw!

Pronounced Meh-maw, everybody in the South has one. My mammaw was of sturdy stock, worked hard, grew beautiful roses and tulips and loved to sing "In the Garden".

"I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me, And he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known."

I remember it well. Spending summers with them on their spread on Mount Carmel Road just outside of Cabot, Arkansas. Waking up in the wee hours of daylight to tend to the flowers and vegetable garden before the heat got too bad. Papa was off working in the fields, usually bailing hay or repairing fences or some such farm work.  Mammaw would work her gardens then head back into the house and make a breakfast fit for a king.

They never ate small meals, but if there was a small one, it would be breakfast. By today's standards, however, it was a feast. Eggs over easy, fresh homemade biscuits so fluffy and light nobody ever left the table after just one, freshly made jams and jellies from the strawberries in their enormous garden or from muscadines we picked out in the forest, ham, bacon or sausage freshly cured by a local butcher and milk either from their milk cow or the dairy just down the road. As a child I had a SERIOUS weight problem....I have no idea why!

Mammaw taught me how to fish with a bamboo cane pole. Lots of times in the summer months, whatever we caught in one of their fish ponds was what we ate for supper. But it wasn't always easy. I recall one afternoon when Mammaw and I went to the pond across the road from the house. We had just baited the hooks with these gross night crawlers (yuck and double yuck!), cast out lines and settled in being particularly quiet so we wouldn't scare off the fish. All of a sudden, this bullfrog comes hopping between us hellbent for leather into the water. Right after it came a water moccasin moving so quickly after it that he completely missed the fact that two humans were in his path. THANK GOODNESS! I guess it's true that the need to fill our stomachs outweighs any other challenge around us....same goes for snakes, I suppose.

Dinner was greatly appreciated that night. We told the tale for many years of the frog and the snake and two lady fishers who were spared the snake's venom that day. When I think back on my Mammaw I have only fond memories. Seems I stayed with them more than I did at my own home.

She played Candy Land with me for hours, letting her housework go. She always let me win at checkers. She taught me how to starch and iron sheets (seriously!) and cloth napkins. She drew outlines of houses in the dirt and demonstrated how she and her siblings played house when they were little girls. She sat on a blanket under her Mimosa tree in the still, hot southern afternoons with me and played Barbies or read to me or told me stories of "the olden days". But more than anything else, she showed me the love of God.

She didn't gossip, yell, scream, throw tantrums (much) or lose patience with me or the other grandkids and we all loved her more than life itself. She loved to watch her "stories", making sure all her morning housework was done before "The Secret Storm" came on in the early afternoon. And she loved watching the New York Yankees play ball.

Mammaw....everybody in the South has one. I just hope everybody's was as COOL as mine!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week on Obsidian Drive

2 mommies and a baby

Not too camera shy....or people shy.

My favorite sitting place

Our driveway

Love the aspen grove

Okay, so I'm taking the easy way out, but it's autumn and the most beautiful time of the year in the Rockies. The aspens are golden yellow and beautiful, the does are bringing their babies out in public for us to see and life is good. Enjoy the photos. All were taken in our yard in Florissant, Colorado. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where Did the Summer Go?

This afternoon after church, Don, my wonderfully patient, kind and handsome husband and I went for a ride over to Fairplay in Park County, Colorado. It's about 1/2 hour from our house, and for those who aren't familiar to the area, the home of the "original" South Park (yes...that one!) It's a great little town and a fabulous place to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Seems to me the aspens are turning fast and furious this year and while I was oohing and ah-ing, and OMG-ing at every turn, it began to sink n to me that summer in Colorado is just about done.  This may just be an old lady's rantings, but it feels like we, in the higher elevations, get a week of Spring, a week of Fall, two months of Summer, and the rest is Winter.

And this summer, we didn't even really get to enjoy our beautiful state because of local forest fires. All of us in this area spent the early part of summer glued to our televisions watching Ute Pass, Northwest Colorado Springs, and parts of Teller County go up in flames. Our roads were closed, the emergency rooms were only available for fire-related injuries and problems, our city was evacuated as was most of the west side of Colorado Springs. In fact, over 33,000 people were evacuated for several days as we watched Mountain Shadows subdivision burn to the ground. 436 people, many of them friends, lost their homes and one couple lost their lives.

Another fire, the Springer Fire was within 4 miles of our home and we were on pre-evacuation for that one. Plus a rogue arsonist set over 20 fires in our county in less than a week. For about two weeks, the highway just down the hills from us was a virtual whirlwind of emergency vehicles, sirens, and people evacuating their homes, seeking shelter.

During the Waldo Canyon Fire of El Paso and Teller Counties, I broke my right foot (none-fire-related injury, just in case you're wondering). Roads closed, emergency rooms off limits, I sat on the couch for over a week, waiting for an urgent care facility to open its doors.

Don and I love living here. It's beautiful, summers never get too hot, the people are nice and friendly, but the summer zoomed by in a flash and I am sad. Fires and a broken foot have dictated the whole season. And now the leaves are changing with a vengeance.

Soon the snow will fly, the snowboarders and skiers will dominate the slopes and ski towns of Colorado. Everywhere people go they will have their ski equipment on the tops of their cars and live for the weekend when they came make their escape to A Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Loveland or a host of other resorts. As for me, the lady with the broken foot, I will remain inside with my little arthritic joints, write about life and knit.

The good it in Colorado...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Everybody Wants to Be On the Ground Floor...

All of us want to think we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. How many of us have been tempted to jump on the pyramid bandwagon and make not only money from our own sales, but the sales of those we bring into the fold?  Amway, Tupperware, Herbalife, Shaklee, just to name a few. And the latest and greatest one out there is Gorilla-Gobbledee-Goo. I can tell you all about it.

Psych! No such goo-type product. Just something out of the mind of my husband to throw me off track.

I only wanted to blog today to say thank you to those of you who are reading my blog. I also have another one on a Christian writers website where I share my personal woes, beliefs, etc. On that site alone I have had several thousand readers. Who knew?!?

This blog was started years ago under the name Pikes Peak General Store, to help draw people to my online store of the same name.  But I digress. I changed the name of the blog to its current name quite recently because the focus of my blogging has changed.

Soon, I will have a book published on Amazon, Kindle and Nook entitled The Disappearance of Simon Archer. I have been blogging about the book, about life in the Rockies, about memories of my childhood, about a precious uncle of mine who recently passed on, and, oh, yes, about the notorious rogue bear who likes the food in my pantry and fridge.

I wanted today to simply say a huge thank you. I never knew people would actually read what I write, but I'm so glad that you do. You aren't investing in a pyramid plan, but you are sort of on the ground floor of my writing career, watching it emerge from the floor up.

So far around 6000 of you have read my musings between both sites. Please don't stop. I appreciate more than you know that you read my blog.

I remain, forever in your debt,

Until next time,

***Picture: bridge in front yard leading to drive. Love to sit there and write.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How Does a Brain Store All that Info?!???

Back in 2006, I took a psychology course at the local community college and, much to my dismay, I was one of the oldest students in the class. This particular class was a night class, so it was safe to assume that most of us had day jobs. Out of about 50 students in the room, about a 1/3 of us were, shall we say, older than the other 2/3. (You know you're old when you and the teacher have A LOT in common!)

One day, the professor asked how many of us remembered where we were when Kennedy was shot? Giggles all around, as two of the students, who just happened to be grandchildren of the professor, said, "Geez, we weren't even born yet!"

But about 1/3 of the room (the Medicare-eligible crowd) raised their hands. She asked me. I shared my story which bewildered the "not-born-yet" crowd and I feared they were mesmerized because I hid my age so well. (Give me a break! It makes me feel better, okay?)

I was in Mrs. Butler's First Grade Class at Lonoke Elmentary School, Lonoke, Arkansas (home to the now infamous Paula Jones, thank you very much), when I looked out the window to see the U.S. flag being lowered to half-mast. Then the principal's voice came over the intercom telling us the President had been shot and we were to go home immediately. (Tell a bunch of first graders to go home from school and it's a vacation...not a national emergency.)

The next three days my sister, Libby, and I sat in front of the family's black and white television and watched all the pomp and circumstance from Washington as we lay the President to rest. Felt like a vacation to me. It was many years before I realized just what had happened.

The teacher asked me then about Martin Luther King, Jr. I felt like a movie star. I had these kids eating out of my hands. They just couldn't believe that there were people in the room who had first hand knowledge of "history in its making".

Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage were to march from Memphis to Little Rock and our little town was in the path. My dad owned a restaurant on the main drag of Lonoke at the time and the guys who worked the railroad ate there. The day before the march, a train pulled into town and stopped at depot. One of the workers took me across the street to sit on the caboose (I thought that was the neatest thing ever!!!) and we watched as storefronts began to be boarded up, in case of riots and looting.

That night, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Coming from the South, during the time of the Civil Rights movement, I had heard every racial slur known to man. Some of the white people rejoiced, some, like me who never understood how people could be judged on the basis of their color, cried. Some of the African Americans quietly acquiesced to his death, others became so angry. Growing up in that climate, I saw the South burn in so many ways other than just fire. Overt racism, hatred, vengeance, destruction of property and society were all a part of that time. I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now.

As I told the story I wondered how much information my brain could possibly store. I recalled where I was when Robert Kennedy was shot, where I was at the time the first shuttle exploded, where I was when the subways in New York City were riddled with shots that hot summer of 1981 (I was actually in Manhattan that day visiting in-laws), what I was doing when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001.

The kids in the class, though young adults, were spellbound. It was then that I realized what a miracle the human brain actually is. We can pull from its recesses at any moment and recall information we haven't thought of in years.

How does a brain store all that info?