Tag Archives: memories

Take Me There

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Radio days…

This time of year always brings with it a tsunami-sized wave of nostalgia, memories of holiday seasons past and the people who fill those memories.  Sights, smells, flavors and especially sounds, fill my head and heart with both laughter and longing as I recall the many hours I spent “on the board” working in radio stations playing Christmas songs in the solitude of a tiny studio, music unheard at any other time of year except in my memories.

Working on the air was, for me, a chance to touch people without ever seeing them.  Different from live performance in that I spoke to an audience I couldn’t see, radio also allowed my listeners to imagine what I might be like without ever laying eyes on me.  I had regular callers at every station I worked for who, for the most part, were friendly, polite and respectful…even those who flirted and asked me out, sight unseen!  There were also occasional callers who made me feel uncomfortable, even threatened.  Anyone who has ever been on the air has experienced such things, especially my fellow “lady jocks”.  We all have stories to tell!

I’ve been out of the business for a long time now, but listening to the radio this time of year always takes me back to specific times and places.  I can’t hear Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Auld Lang Syne” without being transported to the top of Sharps Ridge, remembering the view from the studio window…often with my friend Ron visiting after finishing his own air shift at another radio station across town, drinking coffee and smiling at me from across the console.  This is the same Ron with whom I shared my shortest radio gig and built one of my longest friendships, until he passed away last year. That relationship is not over…it’s just changed until we’re in the same place again.

A simple song can take me there.

The synth intro to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” immediately returns me to my first radio gig in a tiny building in the Florida panhandle.  I worked in the AM studio where I played Southern Gospel music and preaching/teaching programs, while next door the FM station aired “Light Rock & A Little Country”, hence the Paul McCartney holiday offering.  I cut my radio teeth there, learning how to do everything the old-school way because of the antiquated equipment I worked with.  My real-life husband and my first ever “work husband” worked on the FM side, with the work husband and me sharing a shift time and often standing in each others’ studio doors talking and laughing between songs on automation.

A simple song can take me there.

Music is such an evocative force in my life, whether I am singing it or listening to it.  The music I played during my radio days is especially poignant.  Those sounds bring to mind both the places and the people with whom I shared them.

A simple song can always take me there.

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(At my first radio gig, Circe 1989)

 

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.)

 

 

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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Dear Lola

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Just In The Neighborhood…

I drove by your house the other day

I was just in the neighborhood

Had some time between errands

and thought about you

My car seemed to know the way

by itself

having gone to check the place

so often after you died

I was curious to see if

the new owners were changing things

A car sat in the driveway

and a wreath of yellow daisies

hung on the front door

limage

Not your style at all

but still

signs of new life

in your old house

and I thought

This is good

Someone is making

a fresh start here

Meanwhile

I snuggle under your blanket on my couch

I see my candle glowing inside

one of your wine glasses

and your drums and basket

nestle on my bookcase

And I too

try to

make a fresh start

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The First Friends

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And the blessings of a large extended family…

Mama was the youngest of 9 children, and Dad was the youngest of 6.  With that many aunts and uncles, most of whom had some kids, I’ve got cousins in abundance, some on Dad’s side whom I’ve never even met.  And many of my cousins are clustered fairly close together in age, which means most of us are in or approaching our 50s.  It hardly seems possible that we’re adults, let alone eligible for senior discounts!

A bit of wisdom shows up on social media from time to time which states, “Cousins are the first friends we have”.  My history seems to agree with this statement.  Before going to school or to Sunday school, my cousins were part of my life.  And even though our lives have taken us far afield from one another, we are family.  We share history, DNA and many of the same memories.

Our lives are busy, though, and it’s difficult for us to get together.  Even the bunch of us who live in the same city don’t manage to see each other very often.  And frankly, I’m just in closer touch with some of them than with others.  Social media has been a real blessing,  enabling us to have at least a little glimpse into each other’s daily lives and activities.  I enjoy seeing what my cousins are doing, and what their children (my 2nd and 3rd cousins!) are up to.

About this time last year, I had the chance to spend a day with my Aunt Helen and my cousin Lisa, as well as sharing a meal with Lisa’s brother Mike and his daughter Haley.  During the course of our visit, Lisa shared an old photograph with me.  I think it is the only one in existence with this configuration of the cousins all together, and it’s a treasure I am thrilled to have.  The picture was made at Lisa’s 8th birthday party, and I can only imagine the effort it took to get all of us kids to be still long enough to snap it!

Today another member of our group celebrates a milestone birthday, entering the world of senior discounts and AARP mailers.  I don’t think of us that way though, at least, not most of the time.  I think of those long summer nights playing Fox & Hounds, birthday parties with homemade ice cream, Barbies and army men and that old Fisher-Price barn that moo’ed when you opened the door.

I think of how young we were.  How young we always will be, if only in memory.

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Script

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Lost arts, letter scraps and putting pen to paper…

I read somewhere recently that many schools are no longer teaching cursive handwriting to their students, and I was flabbergasted that the world has come to this!  While the advent of computers and word processing has changed the landscape of written language, it seems to me that cursive handwriting is still a valuable skill to have in one’s communications arsenal, if for no other reason than developing a distinctive signature for legal documents.  For me, though, it goes far beyond the need for a signature.  I believe that cursive handwriting, whether it is especially beautiful or not, is needed for civility and a personal touch in communication.

I’ve been on a bit of a pilfering jag lately around the house, and as is usually the case, I haven’t always found the thing I originally went looking for, but I’ve found other things I had no idea were in my possession.  It’s like Christmas finding such wonderful surprises!  For at least a decade, Dad has been asking me if I had the recipe for Mama’s Sherry Cake, and I always told him I didn’t think so, but if I found it I’d let him know.  A couple of weeks ago in my search for something I didn’t find, I came across a treasure trove of old recipes, including Mama’s Sherry Cake.  I gave it a try and took the resulting cake to Dad and Carole’s for them to try and see if it was anything like Dad remembered.  It was a yummy taste of nostalgia, although Dad and I both seemed to remember a thicker coating of glaze on top, and we decided that Mama must have double-glazed the cake and didn’t write that part down.  I’ll try that next time I make it.  And there WILL be a next time.  It was delicious!

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Seeing her handwriting on that slip of ruled paper, the kind she always kept around the house for letters and lists and recipes, brought me back to the days when I was young, she was healthy and life was simple.  Typewritten documents, as neat and easy to read as they are, lack personality and don’t provide that sense of nostalgia.  My fear is that writing things down is becoming a lost art, and that future generations literally won’t know how to write their names, because writing things by hand will have become obsolete.

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I make it a point to write letters to people now and then, because I think it’s important to do so, especially to convey to them that I love them, that they are special and they matter to me.  I have boxes filled with notes, cards and letters from people in my life, past and present, people who took the time to write something down by hand and send it to me.  The recipes are another precious source of insight into the people I have loved, memories of food and caring shared among us.

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Computer-processed documents have their place, of course.  I don’t dispute that.  But I will always believe in the importance of handwritten communication, letters, notes, recipes and the kind of one-on-one exchange that only happens when we put pen to paper.  So, be checking your mailbox.  There might just be a letter from me in there…  an honest-to-God, snail-mail, handwritten letter.  I might even include a recipe!