Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jingle, Jangle, Jostle Christmas ~ By Allison Rhodes

Winter winds were blowing down the mountain into the South Carolina hamlet of Walhalla when my sister and I hatched our holiday scheme. It was 1957; Becky was 6 and I was 9. We wanted to surprise our mama and daddy with gifts we purchased ourselves. Only one problem: no money. When we spied the box of empty Coke bottles at our grandmother’s back door we knew what to do. The A&P paid two cents for every returned bottle. Out of the shed came the red Radio Flyer wagon and we began our day of work. To create the needed volume we scoured roadsides, went door to door and talked two grandmothers out of their glass stash. As our load grew, so did our excitement. We were on a mission.

We made at least four trips down Main Street to the A&P. Shoppers would stop and stare as the two runny- nosed girls pulled their metal wagon of rattling glass bottles. As the older sister I was becoming socially savvy enough to recognize expressions of annoyance on the faces of adult onlookers who did not appreciate the racket made by our entrepreneurial sibling team. It was the 1950’s and small town children typically ran free all day long. So we were sure Mama and Daddy had no idea what we were doing. The fluttery feeling of a shared secret was palpable in our endeavor.

We skillfully dodged the dreaded street evangelists who posted themselves in front of the A&P every Saturday thrusting pamphlets at shoppers. Once, when grocery shopping with Daddy, I took a flyer that urged me to consider where I would spend eternity. Fear filled me when I studied the caricature of a screaming man burning in hell. Today I was sure we were earning immunity from the flames by our work of love. When we had collected all loose bottles inside a one mile perimeter and redeemed each wagon load with the patient grocery cashier, we tabulated our profit. Fourth grade skills of division enabled me, the senior partner, to announce what we had for each parent. Time to shop. We went to Bell’s Drug store and finally decided on a beautiful deck of cards for our bridge-playing Mama and a new red pack of Winstons for our Daddy. Finally these thought-filled gifts were wrapped and placed under the family tree. We were satisfied with the triumph of giving from our own efforts.

Over half a century has passed since that cold Saturday. Different choices and paths added to the old sibling rivalry created distance between my sister and me. Now I yearn for the simple joy of joining our hands on a cold wagon handle and embarking on a shared adventure. Wonder where two women in their 60’s can find some loose Coke bottles?

Take time to remember and share your holiday memory. It can create meaning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sunbury~ by Marcia Mayo

This past Thanksgiving, my daughter Molly and I drove down to Sunbury, on the Georgia coast, where my parents had a home when my children were young. For Molly, who was only six when my folks sold their house to move into a retirement community, Sunbury seems a bit like a dream. For my two older children, though, it was a magical place very different from our home town, a place on the river where they could run and play with their cousins, watch and laugh with their grandfather at the antics of the neighboring peacocks, and go fishing and shrimping with their grandmother. There was even an electric car they could drive up and down the sandy roads to and from the dock. Sunbury helped to define their childhoods, embellishing their remembrances with the smell of river mud, the feel of the coastal sun on bare backs, and the taste of a low country boil. For me, it was a place to be a daughter again, turning over the reins of daily life to my mama and daddy for a few short days.

Sunbury is, to my children, what my friend Mary Summerlin calls a sacred place, a place that anchors them, a place replete with the gentle ghosts of fond memories.

What are your sacred places and what memories do you have of them?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Going Up the Mountain ~ by Allison Rhodes

During his late eighties, a veil of dementia slowly descended over my father. A quiet man who listened more than he ever talked, in these cloudy moments of life I yearned to know him more. Preoccupied with my own life I had talked far more than I listened.
On a typical visit to daddy in the nursing home, I sat down. “Hi Daddy.”
He greeted me with the name he called me when I was a toddler, “Hello Ah-hee.”
“What have you been doing today?”
He fingered the newspaper he always held close and then looked me straight in the eye and answered, “George (twin brother), Strother (friend since boyhood) and I went up the mountain.”
Rather than reminding him these two companions were dead, I asked, “Where did you go?”
The fog lifted for a precious moment and Daddy told me of a day three young boys in early adolescence walked the six to eight miles up the mountain to Earls Ford, where the Chattooga separates South and North Carolina. They went to fish and caught nothing and he smiled at this. “We did take along cans of beans and picked summer berries to eat.” I asked more and he answered. A smile was on his old face and I saw the boy he once was.
After Daddy’s death, I accompanied my siblings down the dirt road to Earl’s Ford and there along the banks of that still beautiful river, we each released a part of our father. In that moment, I heard the laughter of young boys and I smiled.
Stories are a gift that span the generations and shine a light on the circle of life. Precious moments of connection.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rachael and the Extension Cord ~ by Marcia Mayo

The other day, Rachael, one of my former students whose mama had just had a baby, ran up to me in the lunchroom and called out, “Dr. Mayo! Dr. Mayo! My baby brother’s extension cord fell off!”
That’s such a great story to me, not only because Rachael confused the words “umbilical” and “extension,” but also because it reminded me of confusions my own children had when they were little. For example, my youngest, Molly, called eggs “meggs” because we were always asking her if she wanted some eggs, which, in her little mind, sounded like “some meggs.” To this day, in our family, when we talk about eggs, scrambled, poached, or sunny side up, we usually call them “meggs.” Indeed, “meggs” have become a part of our family lore.

What are your memories of confusions you had as a child or malapropisms that your own children or young relatives or friends employed? Take a minute to jot them down or share them with someone. But beware! Memories beget more memories so get ready for them to flood on in.