Tag Archives: Mama

Funny Face

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Mama always said it might freeze like that…

Digital photography is a marvelous thing.  It allows us to see immediately a captured image, edit/correct it on the fly, and even delete it if editing cannot save it and make it presentable.  What we used to have to wait for, sometimes for weeks, we can now see and share with lightning speed.

It has started me thinking about my face, and the faces of other people in my life. I’ve seen some pictures of myself in the last few years that range from OK to hilarious to horrifying.  When I was little and I made silly facial expressions, I remember Mama telling me,  “You better be careful or your face might freeze like that!”  The advent of digital photography has allowed the face-freezing-like-that phenomenon to happen, and it allows us to see the aftermath instantaneously!  Below are some examples:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will state that I posed for two of these, while the other two were captured without my knowledge.  I kept them all because they made me laugh even though they aren’t necessarily flattering.  Funny isn’t always “pretty”, and in my own case and face, I value the funny at least as much.

My friend (and first ever work husband) Martin once said that laughter is the most intimate of emotions.  I agreed with him.  Genuine, unself-conscious laughter, the kind where I throw my head back and clap my hands, or I laugh so hard I lose my breath, or laugh till I cry or pee my pants, or both…moments with laughter like that are about as intimate as it gets.  Unguarded, open and real.  And if I can evoke that kind of laughter in another human being, it feels like the most lovely of accomplishments.

So if my face freezes in a less-than-flattering moment, it’s just for a moment…and if that moment makes me or someone in my presence laugh, then it’s worth it.  Because if I am being honest, laughter IS beautiful.  Intimate, genuine and beautiful.

 

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Dream A Little Dream

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A little music, a big memory and a whole lot of Mama…

This past weekend a bunch of my kinfolks got together for a reunion in Gatlinburg, TN, an event I had looked forward to for quite a while.  It was a branch of the family tree on Mama’s side, the Williamses, namely Mama’s big brother, my Uncle Otto and his wife, my Aunt Katherine’s, kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.  These are some of my favorite people on the planet, folks I don’t see nearly often enough.  I also saw some younger cousins, all grown up now, whom I had not seen since they were little, and some I’d never met yet.

Before I had even made it into the pavilion I found myself wrapped in a warm, loving hug from my cousin Stacy.

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She and I have been in touch on social media (one of the blessings of technology!) but have not seen each other face-to-face since the late 1980’s.  What a joy to see that sweet face again and enjoy a brief moment to catch up a little.  Second hug of the day was from her daughter, my cousin Danielle.  I’ve also been in touch with her online, but we had never actually met until that moment.  The musical genes in the Williams side of the family have passed on to Dani in a big way, and I was able to share a little bit of family musical history and heritage with her as we talked.

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Soft breezes blew through the shaded pavilion as my cousin Hazen asked the blessing over our meal and time together, adding special prayers for Aunt Helen as she deals with ongoing health issues.  I breathed a prayer as well for Dean, her husband, that he will remember to take care of himself as he tries to take care of her.  Seeing and hugging her was a special joy, as it always is.  She and Mama were so close, and when I hug her, I can almost feel Mama hugging me back as Aunt Helen does.

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I felt Mama with us all through the day, as we shared food and pictures and stories.  Aunt Helen’s kids, Lisa and Mike, were the kids out of the bunch I spent the most time with growing up.  And they were there, with Lisa’s husband Tim, who is a recent addition to the family and fits right in.  Mike’s wife Jane never changes, still glowing wth a headful of red hair and a huge smile.  All Mike and Jane’s kids were there, Aunt Helen’s grandchildren, and a huge light in her life.

As we shared food and stories and pictures, I felt Mama all around me, and I saw glimpses of her…in my cousin Robin “volunteering” to get up and sing, something Mama used to do…in the adult recreations of childhood photographs and the howls of laughter that resulted…

…in talking with Hazen about how active “my dead people” are in my dreams…

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…in the photo of me and my closest-in-age cousins performing a “family breast exam” (Mama and Uncle Otto are in Heaven laughing their heads off at that, while Aunt Katherine is telling us to “Be refined!”)…

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Family is not always dignified.  But that’s usually when it’s the most fun.

Unbeknownst to most of the family, Dani and I had cooked up a surprise to share, and after the meal was done, we offered them a little song, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”.  Making music with a cousin I’d just met for the first time was both a joy and an honor, and I hope it’s only the first of many more times we can do it.  My beloved Sweet Pea captured the moment with his phone, and I am so grateful that he did!

All through the day I felt Mama there with us, along with all the others on the Williams side who have gone to Heaven and wait for us there.  The last verse of the song we shared says:

“Sweet dream till sunbeams find you,

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you,

But in your dreams whatever they be,

Dream a little dream of me.”

I dream little dreams of them all the time, waiting for the day we are all together once more, with God and one another, all the generations of our family making music together. All worries behind us.  What wonderful dreams!

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When I Was Six…

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The world looked different…

 

When I was six

Richard Nixon was President

and all the grownups on the news

were talking about a place called

Viet Nam

If I wanted to mail a letter

a stamp cost 6 cents

but I was only just learning to read and write

 

When I was six

Courtesy and Sense both seemed

more common

We were raised to say “Please” and “Thank you”,

“Ma’am” and “Sir”

 

When I was six

I sang all the time

just because it gave me joy

All the kinfolks I loved

were still alive

Talking to Jesus was

the easiest thing in the world

and my little-girl prayers were simple

 

When I was six

Summer vacation meant Myrtle Beach

and I always threw up

going over Saluda Mountain

Mamaw’s house at night seemed like

the quietest place in the world

and if Mama took us to Aunt Ruby’s

for a glass of tea

that meant there’d be time to play

 

When I was six

The world outside was not innocent

Then, as now,

people were doing

unspeakable things

to other people

But it seemed like those things happened

less often

When I was six

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(My first grade picture from Giffin Elementary School, in one of many dresses Aunt Ruby made for me.)

 

 

Best Friends

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Too many kinds to count…

This week many people observed National Best Friends Day.  I think it’s a nice idea to recognize the value of friendship and to appreciate the people who add such richness to our lives.  It got me thinking about the many “best friends” I have enjoyed over the years…and why I can’t really say that I have ONE best friend.

There were the earliest friendships I enjoyed with my brother and cousins, before school started and we met all those other kids in our age group.  Even though I am not as closely in touch with my cousins as I’d like to be, they are in my heart always, and I would give any of them anything I could offer if they were in need and I could help.  We share memories, blood and decades of love.

Then came the school friends, those people outside my family circle, the ones I met and learned how much we had in common.  Those moments of discovering that we liked or disliked the same foods, or shared a favorite song or hobby, were the youthful foundations upon which some of my longest-time friendships were built.  I am still in touch with some of my grade-and-high-school friends on social media, and seeing how their lives have progressed to this point is both fun and rewarding.

The church and college friends began my deepest connections, ties that bind us across years and miles to this day.  My college graduating class has a milestone reunion coming up this fall at homecoming, and I look forward to seeing many of my classmates there to reminisce about our times in the dorm and the music building.  My roommates especially helped me bridge the transition between living at home with my parents and making a new home with my husband.  I crave in my heart to see Janet and Dana, and soon.  It has been WAY too long since the three of us have been together.

These days I am still making college friends through my connections as the Chapter Mother for Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity at Carson-Newman University.  Getting to know these young student musicians and to encourage them has been my joy for almost 10 years now, and I hope to continue in this capacity for many years to come.  My musician friends come in all ages, shapes and sizes, with specialties ranging from voice and instruments to conducting and composing.  These friendships help me to continue growing as a musician and as a human.

I’m grateful that almost every job I’ve held has yielded one or two lasting friendships as well, and since I’ve worked in predominantly male environments, I refer to some of these fellows as my “work husbands”.  At my first TV job, there was only one other woman in my department, a top-notch board operator named Linda.  We referred to ourselves as The Gyno Mafia!  I have a dream team of current and former coworkers I would surround myself with if I ever had the chance to build my own company.  The combination of professional excellence and wacky humor makes work a lot more fun, and shared goals (and grievances!)  give us much to share.

So many other “best friends” come to mind.  Mama and The Aunts who wait for me in Heaven.  My precious husband, who, after nearly 30 years of marriage, is still my favorite person to spend time with.  And our beloved, goofy dogs, Ernie The Wonder Beagle (in Heaven) and Our Boy Roy, who has been part of our family for almost 9 years now.

So, who is my “best friend”, really?  They all are!  And if I spent the rest of my life counting the reasons I love them, I would never finish.

 

Secret Passages

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Life logistics, gateways and forks in the road…

I have a photo album on Facebook called “Doors and Windows”.  Mostly the pictures are of stained-glass windows in churches where I have been blessed to sing over the last several years, although there are some pictures of other windows and doors that have captured my attention with their beauty, location or some other unique quality.  The possibilities they represent fascinate me, the prospect of leaving a place and entering another one.

Life is like that for me right now, and, as I am firmly entrenched in middle age, it will continue to be like that for the foreseeable future.  I have encountered a number of passages over the last several years, gateways to step through, forks in the road that have demanded difficult choices.  And even as wide-open as I tend to be, there are some passages I have to navigate alone, only discussing my journey with a few trusted friends and my beloved Sweet Pea.

Choosing between good and bad options is a no-brainer.  The difficulty comes in making a choice between a good thing and a better one.  Discernment is key, and can only be achieved with prayer and wise counsel from people whose opinions I respect.  Sometimes I have to realize that “doing it all” is logistically just not possible, especially if I want to do things well.  Sometimes, I have to choose between good and better.

Baseball great and amateur philosopher Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “When you come to a fork in the road…take it.”  (Wait, WHAT?!) On the other hand, my Mama, when someone was having trouble making a decision, would often say, “Either ____ or get off the pot!”  I’ve thought about that a lot lately, and while her words were not exactly genteel, they got the point across.

Here’s to passages, doors, windows, gateways and taking the fork in the road!

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In Stitches

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Mama, The Aunts and the fabric of memory

I’ve been missing Mama and The Aunts a lot lately.  Mama’s birthday was July 4, and the second anniversary of Aunt Ruby’s passing is coming up on August 12, so I guess those are a couple of reasons they’ve been on my mind.  While I was blessed to know all of Mama’s sisters well, when I refer to The Aunts, it’s Aunt Ruby and Aunt Martha I am thinking of.

They were the ones who sewed quilts together with Mama, along with Ruby Allred, our next-door neighbor on Ford Street.  I and many of my family members possess these works of art and craft, some stored away in cedar chests while others decorate our beds and couches.  Their colors and patterns brighten our lives and homes with warmth, both physical and spiritual.

It is fairly easy to determine the age or era of our family quilts by the fabrics used to make them.  Lots of the older ones contain material from many of Granny’s old dresses, and they are backed with a type of cotton fabric that Mama and The Aunts called “domestic”.  It was basically a coarse cotton muslin near as I can tell.  Later quilts were backed with king-size bed sheets.  They provided a good expanse of seamless fabric and were smoother than domestic.  I think that domestic had become more costly as well, which may have contributed to the switch.  Some of the later quilts also had lighter-weight batting inside between the patterned top and the plain backing.  These lighter quilts are perfect for use in warmer weather.

The older quilts backed with domestic seemed to pucker up more after laundering, especially if the batting was also all-cotton.  I love that almost seersucker-y texture of an old quilt, as well as the weight and substance of it.  I love the contrast of white stitching against solid-colored fabric.  Mama and The Aunts and “Mamaw” Allred sewed with such precision!  They made such teeny-tiny, evenly-spaced stitches, as Aunt Martha would say, “Ever’ stitch a stitch of love.”

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Nowadays quilts are available in many stores, mass-produced, machine-made items, often designed to look like their older, handcrafted counterparts.  And many of them are good quality and beautiful.  I’ve actually bought some retail quilts over the years.  But even the nicest ones can’t rival the quilts made by Mama and The Aunts and “Mamaw” Allred.  The hours spent choosing the fabrics, cutting and marking, and the late nights sitting around the frames as their thimbled fingers sewed—no amount of money can buy the love they left behind, in stitches.

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Carried

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Words, burdens and letting go…

For nearly 20 years, I have carried a small book around with me.  It’s gone pretty much everywhere I’ve gone.  Inside its front cover I wrote down when and where I bought it.

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I have always loved blank books and journals, their potential for creativity and a place for me to vent my thoughts.  This particular one drew me in for 2 reasons.  First, I loved its cover art depicting the sun, moon and stars against a swirly blue background.  I think it’s permissible to judge a book by its cover when the inside is blank!

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Secondly,  I especially loved that its pages were unlined.  I have enough restriction in my life.  The pristine whiteness of its pages gave me freedom to write whatever I wanted, in whatever way I wanted…upside down, in a circle, diagonally or just crooked.

This little book became my constant companion, a safe place for me to write down the feelings I could not express any other way.  Looking at those words now brings back memories of the extremes in my life at the time…mostly extreme pain and sadness.  It contains the overflow of my broken heart and spirit during the last year of Mama’s life on Earth, a period when I was afraid and lonely, not thinking clearly and not making good choices.

I’m not proud of a lot of what I did during this chapter of my life.  My spiritual life and relationship with God were at an all-time low.  I couldn’t pray, really; all I could do was hurt, and sometimes, feel angry.  I realize now that God heard every anguished scream of my heart, even though I was not talking to Him.  He was still listening.

Even as wretched as I was, as horribly as I was acting and as distant as God seemed to be, I know now that He was right beside me all along, carrying me when I could not walk through life on my own.  And not just carrying me, but sending blessings, glimpses of hope that I could survive this valley.  His grace eventually brought me out the other side, altered for sure, but profoundly grateful.

I don’t think I need to keep my little book any longer, or at least, not the words it contains.  I think I can finally let that part of my life go.  Those pages need to be burned up in the bonfire of forgetting, of cleansing, never again a burden to be Carried.

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