Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Very Special Birthday Party

Blowing out the candles on 178 years.

Families as big as mine celebrate birthdays often. But yesterday, we celebrated two very special birthdays: Mother, who is 88 today, and her brother, Uncle Tom, who turned 90 on Sunday.
* * *

On important occasions like these, the paparazzi usually shows up, and Sunday was no exception. They were there in full force, flashbulbs popping as they pushed and shoved their way to the best shot. Mother and Uncle Tom handled it all like real pros, though, ignoring the constant flashing, elbowing and pushing, and went on about the business of unwrapping gifts and blowing out candles.

Although both were born in Kentucky, Mother and Uncle Tom grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois. It was during the depression, and times were hard. But their parents always managed to provide a warm, comfortable home for their children.
"We didn't know the difference," Mother said, "We were happy."
They regaled us with story after story of their growing-up years, amazing us with their ability to recall, in great detail, incidents that happened more than 75 years ago.
"We walked to church, and Mother always gave us each a few pennies to put in the offering plate," Uncle Tom said, "But there was an ice-cream stand between our house and the church, so Evelyn and I took turns using part of the Lord's money each Sunday to buy one ice cream cone. We shared it the rest of the way to church."
"If Uncle Tom took more than one lick, I threatened to tattle," Mother laughed, "But then I realized I couldn't. We would get a whipping!"
On January 26, 1938, at the tender age of 17, Mother eloped with Daddy and moved to Carlisle County, where they raised all of us. We lost my older brother, Terry, in 1976, so they raised his two daughters as well. Mother and Daddy were happily married for more than 50 years.
Uncle Tom was drafted into the army in 1942 and served three and a half years in the thick of World War II, including the bloody battle of Anzio Beachhead. After the war, he worked for Ford Motor Company until he retired. Maw Maw George and I rode a Greyhound all the way to Detroit the summer I was 10, and he showed us all around the big city. I was fascinated by the skyscrapers, the people rushing here and there, the roar of the city. But what I remember most of all is my first Banana Split. "Bet you can't eat it all," Uncle Tom laughed. (I did, by the way!)
After he retired, Uncle Tom and Aunt Jo moved back to Bardwell, so brother and sister are close again. Uncle Tom walks two miles each day, and he frequently stops at Mother's along the way. So they can often be found in her kitchen, enjoying a cup of coffee and reminiscing of days gone by.
Happy Birthday, Mother and Uncle Tom! If there were more people like you, the world would be a much better place.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

To Pitty Pat's House We Go

Mother and we five sisters get together for a Christmas lunch each year, and yesterday we all headed to Pitty Pat's house for a lovely brunch. (Mary Ellen was kind enough to provide me with these photos; I left my camera at home again!)

* * *

Pitty's Little Village

Her quiet, serene dining room (before we descended).

The tree, heavy with ornaments from Pitty's collection.

Mother is our sun, around whom we all revolve.

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

* * *

The merry family gatherings,
The old, the very young,
The strangely lovely way they
Harmonize in carols sung.
For Christmas is tradition time,
Traditions that recall,
The precious memories down the years,
The sameness of them all.

~Helen Lowrie Marchall~

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Recipe for Beautiful Skin

While thumbing through a women's magazine today, I discovered this recipe for beautiful skin:

2 Ripe Bananas
6 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Flavoring

Whip up this mixture, slather it over your body, and take a shower. It will make your skin very soft, and as smooth as satin.

Think I'll stick to my trusty Jergens lotion.

And now I'm headed to the kitchen to see if I have any Vanilla Wafers. For some reason, I have a hankering for banana pudding.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Slow Dancing

I'm cleaning house today, and, as usual, I'm playing ABBA.  They really get me moving.
Dudley becomes a little suspicious when that happens, because I often swoop him up and we twirl around the living room a few times.
He much prefers slow dancing.

Friday, December 5, 2008


O. J. Simpson was found guilty today on 12 charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, assault and kidnapping with a deadly weapon in a September, 2007, incident at a Las Vegas hotel and casino. He was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.
What goes around, comes around. And it has finally come around for O. J.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

For Tim

When the Goldenrods bloom in the fall,
I remember our walks down The Old Dirt Road.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends...

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blowin' in the Wind

It is Friday, November 22, 1963, and the sun is shining in LeRoy, Illinois. Suzanne is two months old, and I am giving her a bath. The TV is on in the family room and I’m listening to frequent updates on President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas, Texas:

“Cooler weather was forecast, but it’s a warm, sunny day in Dallas," the newsman says, "So Jackie Kennedy is wearing a wool Chanel suit.” He chuckles. “She might get a little warm before the day is over!”

Suzanne loves her baths; she coos and gurgles as I soap her tiny bald head. But she stops, blue eyes studying my face, as I begin singing to her:

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry...
In the background, the newsman continues: “The motorcade will go to Dallas where he will speak at a luncheon with civic and business leaders at the Trade Mart.”

I wrap Suzanne in a towel and turn off the TV, and then I mix her oatmeal and heat her bottle, looking forward to getting back to the book I plan to read while she’s taking her nap.

But first, I’ll feed her while watching my favorite soap opera.

In Dallas, the motorcade is arriving at Dealey Plaza and turning right from Main to Houston Street. And then it takes the 120-degree turn into Elm Street passing the School Book Depository Building.

Shots ring out.

The right side of President Kennedy's head is blown off, a huge mist of brain matter and blood spewing over everything nearby, including Mrs. Kennedy. She crawls onto the trunk of the limo, reaching for a piece of his skull.

"I have a piece of his brain in my hand!” she screams, "My God…they have shot his head off!”

I have dressed Suzanne and I’m settling in my chair to feed her and watch As the World Turns. Between bites, I glance at the TV where Nancy Hughes is giving advice to daughter-in-law Lisa.

As I pause to wipe oatmeal from Suzanne's chin, Walter Cronkite suddenly appears on the screen.

“Here is a bulletin from CBS news,” he says, “In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

I stop, spoon in mid-air: What?

Suzanne begins whimpering, but I am frozen, unable to move.

She whimpers again, tiny mouth open.

“Shhhhh,” I whisper, “Shhhhh…”

I panic, not wanting to be alone. I must to talk to someone!

As I head to the phone in the kitchen, I hear Cronkite’s voice again.

"From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at one p.m. Central Standard Time, two o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago."

When I get back to the TV, Cronkite is pausing. He takes his glasses off and looks down, and then he puts them back on and swallows hard.

Our young, vibrant President is dead.

Why? Why would someone do this?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Congratulations, Carson!

Carson, my grandson Chase, and Carson's older sister Barclay
Circa 1995

* * *

Paducah is honoring Alben W. Barkley this week on the 60th anniversary of his election as vice president of the United States. Last night the winners of the Barkley essay contest were announced, and I'm very proud to report that my great-niece, Carson Dubrock, won first place at Tilghman High School for her essay. Carson is the daughter of Christa Dubrock and granddaughter of my sister Mary Ellen.
And so today I'm thinking of Paw Paw Wilson and how proud he would have been to know his great-great granddaughter won an essay contest about his good friend, "The Veep," whom I had the honor of meeting at that picnic so long ago.
Congratulations, Carson!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who is this lovely little girl?

Our next Secretary of State (I hope!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice Day

Ninety years ago our country celebrated Armistice Day, the end of World War I. Armistice Day officially became a holiday in the United States in 1926, and a national holiday 12 years later. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans.
I can only imagine how happy Uncle Ray must have been on Armistice Day, 90 years ago, and how anxious he was to come home to Kentucky.
Ray Underwood was my great-uncle, Maw Maw Wilson's youngest brother, and he and Uncle Wilbur, her other brother, fought in The Great War. Maw Maw had large portraits of both of them, and Pitty and I often sneaked up the steep stairs to gaze at the two handsome brothers dressed in their military uniforms. They stood at attention, hands on their guns, as if waiting for enemies to come creeping up the stairs.
Uncle Ray was a happy, jovial man with a great sense of humor. And although his sandy hair had turned to silver by the time I came along, each time he saw me he swooped me up in his arms and threw me high into the air. He was always joking and laughing, a mischievous look in his piercing blue eyes.
Today I search Uncle Ray's young face, imagining the horrors he must have gone through. (They didn't train troops then; they just gathered them up and sent them off to battle.) What a shock it must have been to him and all of those young men, many of whom had probably never even been in a fist fight.
My ancestors fought in all the major wars: the Revolutionary War (including seven brothers from one branch of the family), the Civil War (some for the north; others for the south), World War I, World War II, and a cousin, brother-in-law and ex-husband in Vietnam.
So I stop each Veterans Day and say a prayer for all of our brave young men and women who went off to war. Some came home and some didn't, but they are all heroes.
God bless you, dear veterans. And thank you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Thrill is Gone

I'm the recipient of a fresh bunch of National Enquirers, thanks to Mother. And I'm a bit concerned about Hugh Hefner.
According to the Enquirer, the Playboy mogul is in a deep state of depression. His three live-in girlfriends (Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson) have flown the coop! The silicone sweeties plan to complete the fifth season of the E! reality hit, The Girls Next Door, and will continue to make appearances with Hef throughout the season. After that, they're outta there.
"It's strictly business now," says an insider, "The thrill is gone."
Why did they all leave? Well, according to friends, the gals wanted romances with guys a lot younger than 82. (Can you imagine?) Two of the buxom blondes already have new boyfriends. And Kendra just got engaged, to a Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver!
I think that just adds insult to injury, don't you?
Friends say the Viagra poster boy was trying to have a baby with Holly not long ago, so I can only imagine how disappointed he must be. He probably dreamed of having a son, crawling around on the floor with him, carrying him on his shoulders, going to all his baseball games. And seeing him off to college when he's 100 years old.
Hef is not a quitter, though. Despite his deep depression and disappointment, he has moved in sexy 19-year-old twins, Kristina and Karissa Shannon.
But he should have checked their references.
Sources report both twins were busted for felony aggravated battery in January, and Karissa was also hit with a misdemeanor battery charge last year. The girls were working at a chicken wing restaurant at the time, and they went to a house party after work with a Wing House co-worker. But trouble started not long after they arrived. It seems they raised such a ruckus at the party (one twin smashing a beer bottle over someone's head) that they both received probation and were ordered to pay restitution.
All I can say is Hef had better sleep with one eye open when they're with him in his big round bed. And put the champagne bottles away.
Or maybe he should just retire his big round bed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change has come to America.

"The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep. But I promise you we as a people will get there."
President-Elect Barack Obama

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Love/Hate Relationship

I watch HGTV's House Hunters just about every night. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, each night a realtor shows a couple three homes. After the tour is over, they make their choice, and we are fast-forwarded a few months, where we see the family all settled in and enjoying their new home.

It's fun being a observer on the tours, and it's fun guessing which house they will choose. I'm usually impressed with the houses and the couples' choices, but I'm often disgusted with the house hunters themselves. Especially first-time buyers, most of whom are young couples.

Many jump in way over their heads, thinking nothing of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their first homes. (Granted, location makes a difference; homes in Manhattan and cities in California, for instance, are outrageous. But many spend exorbitant amounts of money in all parts of the country.)

There are many young couples who use their heads and buy what they can afford, of course. But on House Hunters, there seems to be an inordinate number who throw caution to the wind, insisting on four or five bedrooms (one for each child), and three or more baths. (One haughty young woman insisted that each of her three young boys, all under 10, have his own bedroom and his own private bath. Another couple, who had no children, wanted six bedrooms. The misses insisted on a room for her scrapbooking, another for her sewing; her husband wanted a media room and a practice room for his rock band. And they both wanted an exercise room and an office.)

One woman strolled through a magnificent Atlanta mansion, raising her eyebrows and shaking her streaked-blonde head. "It's nice," she said as she viewed the huge great room and beautifully-appointed kitchen, cherry hardwood floors, six bedrooms, and a walk-in closet the size of Paris Hilton's, "But not as nice as our house in Austin." (She made that statement time and time again throughout the tour.)

The realtor should kick her a$$ all the way back to Austin.

Speaking of Texas, one young man was disappointed by the size of the basement and the garage in a huge home he and his wife were considering in an affluent suburb of Dallas. The basement was as big as a bowling alley and boasted a large recreation room, a kitchenette, a bar, a bedroom and a bathroom.

"I'll be honest with you," he said, "There's just not room for a pool table, big-screen TV, and couches and chairs for my buddies when we watch football."
He opened the door to the two-car garage. "I'll be honest with you," he said, "There's not room for my ATV, golf clubs, fishing gear and what have you."

His wife gave the realtor an indulgent smile, "He has to have his toys."
The man sauntered through the living room, gazing up at the oak-beamed vaulted ceilings, obviously not seeing the sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows and dancing on the cherry hardwood floors. Or the sparkling lake beyond the yawning yard. "I'll be honest with you," he said, "The yard isn't big enough for Twinkie and Tootie."

Twinkie and Tootie were their Poodles. Their tiny Poodles.

Nevertheless, the couple bought the house. And as the credits crawled down the screen at show's end, Twinkie and Tootie cavorted in the vast yard like cotton balls tumbling in the wind.

I'll be honest with you, Mr. House Hunter. You and your wife are a couple of dumbbells.
Another couple entered a lovely home in a suburb of Chicago, unimpressed by the spacious and airy rooms, all painted a rich buttery cream, the three sunny bedrooms and the two modern bathrooms decorated in soft shades of green and blue.

I was impressed by the beautiful living room, but even more impressed when we got to the kitchen. It was large and square and surrounded by sparkling white cabinets. An enormous island stood regally in the center of the room, and the appliances were brand new.

"Oh, my god! That island has got to go," the wife said, "It's not big enough, and the top isn't even granite!"

I watch her husband rush to her side: Ah ha! He'll bring her down to earth in a hurry.

"Just look at this," he said, running the palm of his hand along the cabinet countertops, "We would have to change this to granite, too." He suddenly jerked his hand away, as though a Cobra had sprung from the disgusting countertop and injected him with deadly venom.
The wife nodded and turned to the new refrigerator, the new stove and the new dishwasher. "These appliances are all white," she said, giving the realtor an accusing look, "We'd have to change them to stainless steel."

"Needs a lot of updating," the husband said, "It would cost us a chunk."

I have owned four homes in my lifetime, three of which were new constructions. And when we built our first, I never wished for larger rooms, more baths, or better hardwood. I was just glad to have a new house. (I did, however, insist on a coppertone wall oven. I had longed for one since I saw the first episode of The Donna Reed Show!)

Despite it all, I will continue watching House Hunters while eating popcorn and bitching to my heart's content.

"I guess I have a love/hate relationship with House Hunters," I told Bill last night as he lay dozing on the sofa, "I love the show, but those people irritate me. Don't they know if they get everything they want in the beginning, there's nothing to look forward to in the future?"



Bill suddenly woke up, a startled look on his face. "Right!" he said, "If McCain is elected, there won't be anything to look forward to."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mary Ellen!

It was the summer of 1960 when 15-year-old Mary Ellen spent two weeks with us in our little attic apartment in Brookfield. And before we left for work in downtown Chicago each morning, I (all of 19 at the time) instructed my little sister not to go outside, under any circumstances.

I was afraid she would be kidnapped!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sworn In

Justice Karmeier, Eva, and her husband, Tim
* * *
Eva was sworn into the Illinois Bar on Wednesday by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier. She has practiced law in the state of Kentucky for a number of years, and now she'll be practicing in Illinois.
Congratulations, little sister!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Bill and I saw Oliver Stone's "W." tonight. It wasn't a Bush-bashing movie, as I thought it might be, and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't. But it was interesting.

"W" is a light-hearted drama about Bush's (played by Josh Brolin) rise to the presidency. The first scene is in the Oval Office, where the term "axis of evil" is coined. When one of his advisers comes up with the term, he says something like, I like that...he-he-he! (he sounded just like Bush!).

There are flashbacks throughout the film: Bush's college years, alcohol addiction, his romance with Laura (played by Elizabeth Banks), and his conversion. There are a few jabs taken at him, and because of his obvious deep-rooted insecurities, "W." almost made me empathize with him. Almost.

Bush, for the most part, is portrayed as a good man who should never have been president. James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn play Barbara and Senior George, and it's obvious they both believe Bush's brother, Jeb, is their smarter son. Bush resents it, of course, and continually tries to get his father's approval. (He called him "Poppy," which made me sad, for some reason.) Cromwell looks nothing like Senior George; he just plays the part as a disappointed, concerned father. And it works.

There's nothing about 9/11 or criticism of his politics. This film explores who Bush is and how he got to be where he is today. Stone paints him as a good man with shady associates influencing him. That's true, of course, but I felt too much was left out, that he was a little too easy on Bush.

Brolin is very believable as Bush; Banks okay as Laura. But the portrayals of the minor actors aren't believable. (For one thing, Rove looked like Truman Capote. And acted like him!)

Richard Dreyfuss is excellent as Vice-President Cheney. At times, I felt he was Cheney...sneaky, cold-hearted, smirking. And Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice was great; she had that walking-on-eggshells look, that unsure voice. And those snake-like eyes (although she worked too hard at times to make them look snaky!).

The soundtrack and cinematography were great. But the scene where Bush choked on a pretzel should have been left out. I felt it was in very bad taste (no pun intended!).

Overall, I would say this film is worth seeing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Real Divas Read

Another busy weekend! On Saturday night, Suzanne and I had dinner with friends, and then we saw Stomp at the Carson Center. (You talk about creating something out of nothing; those entertainers did amazing things with brooms, mops, garbage cans. And much stomping, of course!)
On Sunday morning, bright and early, Suzanne and I drove to Nashville. We dined at Noshville, one of our favorite eateries, and then we headed over to the Southern Festival of Books.
And what a festival it was...books and authors all over the place! There was every genre on display, from pickle-making to espionage. Highlights for us were readings and question-and-answer sessions with best-selling authors, Ann Patchett and Bobbie Ann Mason. Although I haven't read a book by Patchett, I plan to. She's a very motivating, funny speaker. And Bobbie Ann Mason? I've read every book she has written. She's around my age and born and raised on a farm near Mayfield, so I can really relate to her stories. Many are about working-class people in this area, someone you might see at Kentucky Oaks Mall or Wal-Mart. And she is a master at telling their stories. As you may recall, her 1985 book, In Country, was made into a movie, starring Bruce Willis.
We just missed Rick Bragg. He's an Alabama boy and one of Bill's favorite authors. I wanted him to autograph Prince of Frogtown for Bill, but he up and left the day before. Darn it! I highly recommend anything by this talented writer. My favorite is All Over But the Shoutin.' But all of his books are entertaining. His writing style is distinct, quirky, and very homespun, with dialogue so real his characters practically jump from the page and start talking to you!
Suzanne and I bought tee-shirts, of course. I have enough already, but I just couldn't resist this one. What else could a Reading Diva do? Suzanne's is rather unique, to say the least. But she's not one for the mundane, as anyone who knows her will tell you!
And now that I'm motivated, I'd better get back to my writing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Puppy Love

Dudley fell in love with her when he was a puppy. Each time she visited, he hopped onto her lap and insisted she pet him. He tried to kiss her.

I thought it was puppy love at first, but his love is growing deeper as time goes by. He barks with joy when she arrives; he grieves when she departs. And the minute she grabs her car keys, he whines: Don't go...please don't go!

Now that he's older, he somehow knows when it's her on the phone saying she's coming over. And when I hang up, he sprints to the front door, eagerly awaiting her arrival. If we walk her to her car when she leaves, he tries to hop in.

She visited yesterday, beautiful in her black-and-white outfit and red accessories. I wanted to take her picture, but she refused. She did, however, allow me to snap one of her pretty red high heels.

I knew Dudley was near; he never leaves her side when she visits. But imagine my surprise when I transferred this picture to my computer and found him at her feet, a look of pure love on his face. (Or is it lust? If you look closely, you'll see his tongue is hanging out a bit!)

There is also a deep sadness in his eyes. Suzanne had just picked up her car keys.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Festival, a Meeting, and a Little Chair-Dancing

Bill and I went to the Fountain Avenue ribbon-cutting and festival on Thursday night, which was a huge success. And why would it not be? Suzanne coordinated the event!
We had a great time. There's just something about a crisp fall evening, the scent of hot dogs wafting through the air, music playing, kids cavorting here and there. We toured a couple of the newly-renovated Fountain Avenue homes, and they were beautiful; everything "done up" first-class. There is no greater cause than bringing old neighborhoods back to their former grandeur, and our city leaders are doing just that. They, along with the developer and local financial institutions, are to be congratulated on this very worthwhile project.

Earlier in the day, Eva hosted the monthly meeting of the George-Wilson Literary Club. We enjoyed ourselves, as always, and Eva's lunch was outstanding, as always. (She's a fabulous cook!)

Come and get it, y'all!

After stuffing ourselves with heavenly almond bundt cake and soft chocolate chip cookies, we were getting a little lethargic. So...

Gina cranks up the music and gets us moving.

Go Pitty, go Pitty, go Pitty, GO!

Shake it, Eva, shake it!

Chair dancing at its best. You go, Mary Ellen!

Mother sits this one out. But there was a time when she danced the nights away to big bands on the Delta Queen!

And finally...time to get down to business and read our stories.

* * *

Have a blessed Sunday, dear friends.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Close to my Heart

A few months ago I informed readers my short story, Blue Waltz, had been accepted for publication in Wanderings Literary Magazine. It is now in print, and Editor Mike Wever tells me my contributor copy is in the mail. It is also posted on the Wanderings website.

Blue Waltz is a story close to my heart. It's a work of fiction, and most of the names have been changed, but it is based on fact. Although it happened many years ago, I can still put myself back in that time and place when I first realized anything can happen to anyone. Anywhere.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Movin' On

She didn't begin first grade with us, but somewhere along the line Bobbie Jean appeared in our class. Slim, with deep brown hair that matched her impish eyes, she had a tiny black dot smack in the center of her bottom lip.
"I did it when I was little," she told us, "I just kept sharpening a pencil and sticking it there every day 'til it stayed."
We didn't know what to think; you never knew about Bobbie Jean.
Though she was only 11 or 12, she wore deep red lipstick and matching nail polish. I'm sure she wore a dress on occasion, but I can't remember seeing her in one. In my memories, she wears a checked shirt, tucked into blue jeans rolled to her knees, a scarf around her neck. Scuffed Penny Loafers on her small feet.
Bobbie Jean rarely got her lessons; she sat in class doodling or gazing out the window. When the teacher called on her, she acted as if she hadn't heard a thing. She just didn't answer. But as soon as the teacher turned her back, she smirked. And we snickered.
I admired her fun-loving ways, her spontaneity, devil-may-care attitude. Sarah Mae and I were fascinated, and we hung out with her for a time in fifth grade. Or maybe it was sixth grade.
Bobbie Jean was a year or two older than us and wise beyond her years. She knew about things. Like sex. She filled us in on the sordid details one afternoon during recess down in the bowels of Bardwell School. It was the day the circus came to town, and we were all excited, planned to go as a group the following Saturday.
But this news put the circus on the back-burner.
"Come on," she said, "I got something to tell y'all."
We all followed her down to the washroom, a dank, dark place where all the kids washed their hands before marching single file to the cafeteria for lunch. It seemed strange down there at that time of day, no other kids around. The only sounds were pots and pans clanging, low murmurings of the cooks as they cleaned up for the day. Hank Snow's I'm Movin' On was playing on a radio far away. Probably in the janitor's tiny apartment, down one of the shadowy corridors of the basement.
"My mother and daddy don't do that!" I said.
"Mine don't either!" Susie Jane said.
Sarah Mae and Mignon were frozen, apparently unable to respond to this ridiculous revelation.
"Well, pray tell," Bobbie Jean said, "How do y'all think you got here?"
She reached into her jeans' pocket, removing a crooked cigarette and a book of matches. "Well," she said, "All I can say is y'all got a lot to learn." She clenched the cigarette between her teeth and struck a match on the concrete floor.
"Where'd you get that?" Mignon said.
"Mom's purse," she said, twin spirals of smoke rolling from her nose, "She'll never miss it." She tossed the match into a corner and leaned against the wall. "Besides, I'm thinking about running away with the circus."
We looked at her in disbelief.
"I met the cutest boy helping put up the tents, and he said he'll get me a job and I can go with them when they leave town."
"What kind of job?" Susie Jane said.
"Oh, maybe feeding the elephant, cleaning out the monkey's cage. Or something like that."
We were speechless. Sarah Mae shook her head.
"Well, y'all can believe it or not," Bobbie Jean said, "But I'm movin' on."
As we got up and headed toward the door, she flipped her cigarette to the floor and ground it flat with the heel of her loafer. "Y'all are a lost cause!" she laughed.
Bobbie Jean didn't run away with the circus, of course. And not long thereafter, Willie Mae appeared in our class, just as Bobbie Jean had. She didn't much care about schoolwork either, so she and Bobbie Jean became good friends.
Sarah Mae developed asthma and had to miss the rest of the school year. Karen also arrived that year, so she and I immediately became best friends. She was as ignorant as I about the facts of life and boys, so we were a good match.
Willie Mae and Bobbie Jean drifted along together after that, always laughing and having a big time. We often saw them leaving school early, oblivious to Mr. Petrie's office which faced the street. He could have glanced out the window at any time and seen them leaving. But they never looked back. Both quit school after we finished eighth grade and got married.
I never knew who Bobbie Jean married or what happened to her. Until yesterday.
Pitty Pat called to tell me she passed away a few days ago in a town out west somewhere, over a thousand miles from Western Kentucky.
I was surprised how hard it hit me; I've been thinking about Bobbie Jean all day, hoping she was surrounded by family and friends; that life had been good to her.
Farewell, my old friend. May you rest in peace.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman: A True Gentleman

I was saddened to learn of the death of actor Paul Newman. He passed away yesterday at his farmhouse near Westport, Connecticut.

Newman was not only a great actor, he was one of the most handsome men I have ever seen. I first saw him on the big screen in The Long, Hot Summer, and when I glimpsed those bright blue eyes, I felt I just might melt and run down into the sticky, Coke-spilled crevices of the unpadded seat at Milwain's.
Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, co-starred with him in the Tennessee Williams classic, and although she was a great actress and had already received an academy award for The Three Faces of Eve, I couldn't understand why he married her.

"She's not pretty enough for him," I told Patsy, "He should've married someone beautiful."
Patsy agreed, "Like Elizabeth Taylor. She'd be perfect for him."
When we saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I agreed.
But as it turned out, Joanne was the perfect match. They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in January of this year.
When asked the secret to their long marriage, Joanne said, "Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who is considerate and romantic, who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat."
And Newman's response to Playboy magazine when asked if he were ever tempted to stray? "I have steak at home," he said, "Why go out for hamburger?"
Now that, I think, is just about the nicest thing a man could say about his wife. He was a true gentleman.
My heart goes out to the Newman family during this sad and difficult time. He will be missed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Anne of Green Gables

My favorite book when I was a child was Anne of Green Gables. I discovered it when I was eight years old, and I read it over and over for years, lolling in the swing during warm summer days; curled up in a chair next to the stove during those cold winter nights, munching on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. And in the bed at night, until Daddy made us turn off the lights.

The last time I saw the book, one of my younger sisters was reading it. Dog-eared and battered by then, most pages had been scribbled upon by our youngest siblings. And the peanut butter & jelly smudges were still there.

Wish I still had that original copy.

The book was about Anne Shirley, the orphan girl who comes to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings who live at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The Cuthberts had decided to adopt a boy to help on the farm, but due to a mix-up at the orphanage, they send eleven-year-old Anne Shirley instead.

Anne is bright and quick, with a vivid imagination. But she is dissatisfied with her name, her pale skin, freckles, and bright red hair. She takes much joy in life, though, and adapts to living on Prince Edward Island in no time at all.

She soon meets Diana Barry, who becomes her best friend, and Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis. When classmate Gilbert Blythe teases her about her carrot-red hair, she turns on him with a vengeance, and although he apologizes many times, she refuses to forgive him. Both very competitive, they continually spar back and forth in class, one trying to outdo the other. And then one day, Anne suddenly realizes she no longer hates Gilbert. But she will not admit it. (That drove me crazy; I desperately wanted Anne to go ahead and be friends with him!)

The book also follows Anne’s adventures in Avonlea, her games with Diana, Jane and Ruby, her rivalries with the Pye sisters, and her mistakes, such as dyeing her hair green and baking a cake using salt instead of sugar.

One of my favorite parts is when Anne pleads with Marilla to buy her a dress with puffed sleeves. Marilla refuses, saying her homemade dresses will do just fine. But soft-hearted Matthew sneaks off to town one day and buys the prettiest puff-sleeved dress in the store. (That brought tears to my eyes when I was eight, and it brought tears to my eyes when I saw it in the movie, many years later!)

Anne, Gilbert, and a few other classmates eventually go to the Queen's Academy where Anne obtains a teaching license in one year. She also wins the Avery Prize in English, which allows her to pursue a B.A. at Redmond College. The book ends with Matthew's death, after which Anne shows her devotion to Marilla and Green Gables by giving up the Avery Prize. Since Marilla's eyesight is failing, Anne decides to look for a teaching position at a school nearby to help her. Gilbert has secured a teaching position at the Avonlea School but gives it up so Anne can take the position, enabling her to teach at Avonlea and stay at Green Gables. Because of Gilbert’s generosity, Anne fully forgives him and they become best friends. (Finally!)

Anne of Green Gables was written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who drew upon her own childhood experiences in rural Prince Edward Island for this wonderful book. It has sold more than 50 million copies and translated into many languages.

Montgomery was born November 30, 1874, and died April 24, 1942. At the time of her death, it was reported that Montgomery died of congestive heart failure; however, her granddaughter has just revealed that she suffered from depression and took her own life with a drug overdose.

There has been much speculation about this latest discovery, some people saying Montgomery’s image has been tarnished because she committed suicide. I disagree. In my opinion, Anne of Green Gables is one of the greatest children’s books ever written; it continues to enthrall young people to this day. And the fact that she wrote 20 novels (including Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and other sequels), over 500 short stories, an autobiography, and a book of poetry while suffering from deep bouts of depression, just shows what a dedicated writer she was.

Anne of Green Gables was written in 1908, and events are planned all over Canada this year to celebrate the centennial. I’m sure Lucy Maud Montgomery would be thrilled and honored to know her outstanding book is still being read one hundred years later.

I predict that young people all over the world, and older ones as well, will be reading it two hundred years from now. Regardless of how Montgomery died.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brandi: A Very Odd Cat

I once had a huge calico cat with topaz eyes. When we adopted Brandi at six weeks, she was wary of everyone and would have nothing to do with anyone but Suzanne and me.

A few years later, Harry joined our family. A Chow/German Shepherd mix, he was two months old and thrilled to have a playmate. But Brandi put an end to that with a hiss and a slap of her paw. Later, as a dumbfounded Harry looked on, she sat bathing herself, shooting daggers at him each time he moved: Back off, you little toot or I’ll do it again!

Though Harry grew into a gigantic, formidable dog, the two lived in harmony the rest of her life.

Brandi had no use for small creatures. When Chase was a baby, she sat on the arm of a nearby chair, a look of disbelief on her face: What the heck is that?
Each time he visited, her big tail ballooned to twice its size and she scurried away. Then she fluctuated between hovering and recoiling, flinching each time Chase moved. When he began crawling she became even more alarmed, skulking here and there, hiding under furniture, peering around doorways.

As time went on, though, and with much work on Chase’s part (he loves animals), Brandi came around. But she was still a little guarded; lowering her head when he petted her and not completely relaxing until he was around six years old.

After much scrutiny, Brandi allowed a few more people into her circle: Gina and her husband and two daughters, Pitty Pat, Mother and Daddy. But she hid when anyone else came calling. And after our guests departed, she strolled back into the living room, ears back, looking up at me: About time they left!

Brandi hated the outdoors. When I tried to coax her out, she balked. A few times I picked her up and carried her out, but as soon as I set her down, she sprinted back to the door, looking around with apprehension: No telling what’s out there!

She was very picky. She only drank water (didn’t much care for milk), ate Purina Cat Chow, and tuna (water-packed). If I offered her anything else, she gave me a dirty look, flicked her tail and sauntered away.

She was brought to her knees a few times, though, by several catastrophic events in her long life. It’s a wonder she survived some of them.

One incident occurred when I went to Michigan for a visit.

I had left her alone many times before, with everything she needed: two big bowls of water, two big bowls of Purina Cat Chow. Litter. If I planned to be away longer than a day or two, I had someone check on her. And she always did just fine.

But after I had been in Michigan nine days, I suddenly realized I had forgotten.

I called Gina.

When she called back, Gina’s voice didn’t sound quite right. “First of all, Brenda,” she said, “Brandi is fine….she’s just fine. Now.”

My heart dropped. “What happened?”

When they got there, Gina said, Brandi was nowhere to be found. Her food and water had not been touched; her litter was unused. And from the bedroom, they could hear a faint meow.

“I was afraid to open the door,” Gina said, “I just knew she’d be nothing but skin and bones. And maybe dying.”

But when Gina peeked in, there Brandi stood, looking up at her. And none worse for the wear. “She was really glad to see us,” Gina said, “She couldn’t get enough petting!”

As it turned out, before I left for Michigan I had gone to my bedroom and grabbed a sweater, and rushed back out to the car. Apparently, Brandi had followed me and I had closed the door, not knowing she was there.

Brandi acted less haughty for several days thereafter and seemed much more appreciative when I fed her. Before long, though, she was back to her old self.

Another incident occurred when Brandi spent time in the country with Mother and Daddy. She somehow got out one night and Daddy found her on the deck the next morning, her throat almost slit in half. We determined she had gotten into a fight with a Coon or a Possum. Maybe both, knowing Brandi!

After a trip to Lone Oak Animal Clinic, she soon recovered.

Since she hated the outdoors, I never figured out why she sneaked out that night. Maybe she considered the deck just another room. Or maybe she saw a Coon and went after him. Or maybe she just stepped out to get a breath of fresh air.

As Brandi grew older, I began worrying about the inevitable. “She’s 10 years old,” I said to Suzanne, “What if she dies?”

I said the same thing the next year, the next. And the next.

And then one day I didn’t have to coax her to get into my lap. She just climbed up there and laid her big furry head on my knees. Which was unusual for her.

“What’s the matter, Brandi?”

She looked up at me and meowed, topaz eyes sad.

She was still eating well at that time, though, and acting normal. So I put it out of my mind.

A few days later, she walked up to me and meowed, and when I invited her onto my lap, she was unable to jump.

“It’s her kidneys. That’s what gets most cats when they get to be as old as Brandi,” my veterinarian said.

“What can you do for her?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “We should probably put her down.”

I refused and took her home, where she spent the next few days on my bed. She was getting worse, and I knew I would soon have to make a decision.

Suzanne and Chase came over the last night we had with her, and we all sat on the bed, holding her, petting her, and talking to her. Tears were shed.

The next morning at the Lone Oak Animal Clinic, I held her paw as she quietly slipped away. She was 17 years old.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yes, Stanley, you are remembered.

I was so happy to learn that Stanley Walker has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Adam Shull wrote a great piece in Sunday's Paducah Sun about Stanley's career, much of which I did not know. Not only did he play with country rock legends like Ray Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams, Jr., he did a two-year stint as a session musician at the Grand Ole Opry. And barely missed a chance to join Johnny Cash's band.

When I returned to this area in 1979, people often talked about a singer named Stanley Walker. So one night when he was playing at a bar in Paducah, I went along with friends. And I was glad I did. His voice was wonderful, deep and soulful, kind of a cross between George Jones and Travis Tritt. And his guitar-playing? Well, that was something else.

"He’s great!" I said, "I can't believe he isn't famous!"

In the 1980's, his band played regularly at the Executive Inn. I worked for the city then, and co-workers and I often headed there for Happy Hour on Wednesdays, sometimes staying later into the evening just to hear Stanley play.

Although I didn't know his name back then, I had already seen Stanley play. Years ago, and many times.
I was a junior at Bardwell High School when a bunch of us began going to the play-party in Wickliffe. Unbeknownst to our parents (They drink and do no telling what over there, Mother warned.), Patsy, Karen and I, along with other friends, piled into Billy Byassee's big old black car and headed to Wickliffe on Friday nights. The dances were held in the VFW hall. I think. But I don't know for sure which hall it was.

What I do know is things were really hopping in that big, smoke-filled place, people of all ages having a great time. Ray Smith was a skinny guy, enthusiastic, energetic, and singing like there was no tomorrow. It was obvious how much he loved his music.

One song he always sang was Elvis's Hard Headed Woman, and when he belted out those first few lyrics, everyone hit the dance floor, crinoline petticoats swishing, ponytails bouncing; Old Spice cologne wafting through the air, crew-cut heads bobbing to and fro, and white bucks slipping and sliding across the floor. The air seemed to snap and crackle.

Early on, Raymond Jones, a classmate of mine, played guitar in Ray's band, and when Raymond left, he was replaced with a boy who could really pick the guitar.

That boy was Stanley Walker, and he went on to play lead guitar for Ray Smith's Rockin' Little Angel, which sold several million records. It was recorded at Sun Records in 1961, and there were other songs as well. He toured with Ray Smith, appeared on Hee Haw, did solo recordings. And much more.
Not long ago, Stanley received a letter from Dr. Hank Davis, a music buff in Canada: I really love your guitar playing and think you contributed immensely to Ray’s records.

“I just can’t believe anybody would write that to me,” Stanley told Shull, “I didn’t know anybody knew me anymore.”

I agree with the good doctor; he did contribute to Ray’s records, and I, along with many people in this area and fans all over the world, certainly do remember him.

Congratulations, Stanley. No one deserves this honor more than you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What I Didn't Know About Paw Paw

Paw Paw and great-granddaughter, Suzanne

* * *
My maternal grandfather was a very tall man with a head of thick, white hair. When he got dressed up in a suit, white shirt and tie, complete with a gold watch chain dangling from his pocket, he looked like a judge. Which he was for a time.
Paw Paw George had many friends in Bardwell and surrounding areas, and when he drove through town he was always sticking his head out the window and calling out to friends along the way. And they to him. In his later years, he could often be found at Bardwell City Hall, playing checkers with many of those lifelong friends. He outlived most of them.

He had a great sense of humor, loved playing jokes, and seldom visited without a bag of candy: He kneels, all of us kids gathering around him. "Who do y'all love?" he says. "Paw Paw!" we chorus. We all give him a hug and then he opens the sack and passes Mounds candy bars around. (My first bite of the moist coconut, sheathed in rich dark chocolate, brings tears to my eyes!)

When we spent the night with him and Maw Maw (which we often did), he kept us laughing: At the supper table, Paw Paw picks up a bowl of potatoes: "Would you care for some potatoes?" he says. He sets the bowl down in front of his plate, then picks it up again, "Why, thank you; believe I will have some!"

No matter how many times he did that, it was always funny to us. (We laughed so hard one night that Terry spewed iced tea all the way across the table!)

After we lost Maw Maw, we were worried about Paw Paw. He was 80 then, and she was his rock. What would he do without her?

He stayed in his home, Mother helping out, for years thereafter. I lived out of state at the time, and I imagined him there alone, sitting in his big recliner at night, dozing, watching television. And then dozing some more.

Long after his death (when he was almost 92), Mother showed me a poem Paw Paw had written when he was 87.

"Paw Paw wrote poetry?" I said.

"Yes," said Mother, "He wrote lots of poems to Maw Maw when they were courting."

So I had to revise my mental image of Paw Paw in his last years. Now I see him at his kitchen table, pen in hand, drawing on his wealth of memories as he writes a poem. More than likely, he's enjoying a bowl of ice cream (he loved ice cream).

I like that image much better.

* * *

School Days on College Hill

Edward T. George

When I was six years old, I lived on College Hill,
Haven’t forgotten it yet, and never will.

I started to school about 10 till eight,
Had a First Reader and 10-cent slate.

Teacher rang a little bell about 10 till nine,
All the kids would run and get in line.

We marched to our room down through the hall,
In about five minutes, we had roll call.

If anybody was late or played hooky that day,
The teacher called him up front and made him pay.

He’d have to stand in the corner ‘bout an hour and a half,
When the teacher wasn’t looking, we all had to laugh.

Some walked to school, ‘bout a mile or two,
Waded water and snow, but they got through.

They got to school with a smile and no fuss,
And there wasn’t such a thing as a car or bus.

We had a good time as I recall,
Playing “Wolf Over the River,” marbles, and ball.

The girls had a good time jumping rope,
Never heard of such a thing as kids taking dope.

Most all of my school friends have gone on before,
But someday I'll meet them on the other shore.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Or Something Like That

I'll be honest with you. I haven't been working on my novel lately, nor have I been working on a short story. I'm kind of at a stand-still. Nothing serious; this happens occasionally. So I've been occupying myself with other things...housework, cleaning closets, reading Anne Rivers Siddons' Off Season, sipping Diet Coke. Thinking.

I'm also wondering what Eudora Welty did when she went through a dry spell. (That's her desk in the picture above.) Maybe she worked in her garden. Or baked a cake. Or played with her cats (don't know if she had cats, but she seems like a person who would).

As for me, after I have done everything else, I motivate myself by going through my Works-in-Progress folder, reading the first paragraphs of some of my stories:
Murder at the P. O.

C. J. Pickens loved walking to the post office. Excitement swept through his body as he awoke each morning, eagerly anticipating his two-mile trek into town to see what was going on, catch up on the latest gossip, and check his post office box. He never knew what to expect. Would it be Publishers’ Clearinghouse sweepstakes information? Entry forms for a trip to the Bahamas or Disneyworld? A letter from his cousin in Tiptonville?

* * *

Greek Grandma's Funeral
She looks peaceful, thin lips forced into a smile, white hair ratted and stiffly sprayed. Spit curls, like tiny bird nests, rest in front of her ears. Dressed in a blue satin ensemble, a brooch pinned at her squashy neck, her cheeks are covered with lipstick prints from grieving female relatives, their wails and moans echoing throughout the sanctuary of St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.

* * *

The Rise and Fall of Boyd K. Wilkins

From the time Boyd K. Wilkins was old enough to think, he knew there were great things in store for him. He couldn't wait to get out in that great big world and experience everything life had to offer. And the quicker, the better. He had long ago decided he would not be living out his life in a tiny, dilapidated old house, wearing bib overalls and worrying about how to pay for groceries. He would not marry and have a bunch of kids he couldn't afford. And he would, by god, have the things he had always wanted.

* * *
Aunt Fanny's Drawers
Uncle Robert was old when he finally got married. Forty-six was too old to do much of anything, let alone take a wife. And it was so unlike him. The Uncle Robert I knew wore bib-overalls, farmed, milked cows, fished, and spent his evenings reading The Louisville Courier-Journal and Time Magazine. A wife just didn't fit into the picture.

* * *

The Night Has Passed

We drive into Beech Grove, Kentucky on a cold Sunday afternoon in early March, turning down the street where most of the stores are perched: the little restaurant that serves up delicious slaw burgers each day; the small dry goods store where Momma bought our shoes when we were little, and a mom & pop grocery store, the aisles so narrow you are forced to brush against familiar-looking people to get by.

* * *

Jake, Duke, Dolly and Me

Jake Turnbow was 52 years old and owned the Jiffy Mart when I met him. The clerk hired me, and I didn’t see him until I’d been working there for a good little while. He never said nothing to me when he was around the store. But that was before I jumped into the back room. I used to jump a lot. Instead of walking from one room to the next, I’d kind of hang onto the door frame and jump into the next room. Of course, I was only 17 then. I don’t jump nearly as much anymore. Anyway, I jumped into the back room and you would not believe what Jake Turnbow did.

* * *

Maybe I'll get motivated tomorrow. Or the next day. Or something like that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Join the Queen, the Corgis and me...

Elton John and Davey Johnstone

I've been enjoying the songs of Elton John for the past few days, which I do quite often. In my opinion, no entertainer on the planet today can compare to him and his music.

I'll never forget the first time I was mesmerized by one of the British singer/songwriter's songs. It was in 1973, and Suzanne and I were meandering around a book store at Eastland Mall in Bloomington, Illinois. I had just stopped to thumb through Kurt Vonnegut's new book, Breakfast of Champions, when I became aware of a song playing somewhere faraway in the mall:

Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road...

I stopped and looked around: Oh, my goodness! Who is that? The lyrics and music were outstanding; the singer's voice spoke to me.

I bought the album that very day, and I played Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road over and over for months, not knowing, of course, that it would go on to become Elton John's best-selling studio album, or number 91 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I also had no way of knowing that Elton would become the biggest pop superstar of the early '70s.

In the years since, Elton John has recorded many wonderful songs (charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996!). A few of my favorites are Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Your Song, Sacrifice, Daniel, Something About the Way You Look Tonight. But my all-time favorite is The One, which he recorded in 1992. So romantic!

As you know, Elton is not tall, muscular and handsome, as are many celebrities of today. But I'll take that little fellow in his earrings, odd spectacles and elaborate costumes any day over just about any other singer. Well...Bob Seger does have his place in my heart, as does Elvis. And a few others. But Elton John touches my soul with just about every song he records. They are classics.

Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II feels the same; she knighted him in 1998. (I can see her now, watching the video of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, head back, eyes closed, Corgis draped here and there: Their ears perk up and they begin yelping as the lions cavort across the screen. "Emma! Holly!" HM says, "Quiet, you bloody pooches, quiet!")

I would be remiss if I left out Bernie Taupin, Elton's lyricist. How did Elton find him? Believe it or not, Bernie responded to an ad Elton placed in a newspaper for a songwriter. So he has written many of those great lyrics (bless you, Bernie!), and Elton put them to music. What a collaboration!

I have long wished I could meet Elton and thank him for all the hours of pleasure his songs have given me. It's unlikely I will ever be near him, of course, but I was once near someone who is. And has been for years.

I was in London, along with Mother, Pitty, and my brother, Tony. We stopped at a restaurant in Kensington, that June day in 1996, for lunch. And as I sat in the cozy little restaurant, digging into my delicious meal and enjoying the lovely British accents floating through the air, I noticed a group of several men at a table a few feet away.

They were a lively group, not loud or obnoxious; just a bunch of British chaps chowing down on their fish and chips. They looked a bit different, though; kind of like hippies. Older hippies. One was tall and very thin, with long blond hair. He looked vaguely familiar.

It wasn't long before I realized a big commotion was going on around the hippies' table. Waitresses, faces flushed, were hovering over them, others standing in the doorway of the kitchen whispering and tittering among themselves. The cook peered over their shoulders.

Pitty and I looked at each other, then at the group. "They're really excited," she said, "They must be someone important."

We had finished our meal, and Mother and Tony were headed toward the register, when one of the waitresses rushed out of the kitchen.

I stopped her as she started past our table, "Who are they?"

"Elton John's band!" she said.

"Where's Elton John?"

"He's not with them today."


I gave Pitty my camera. "Act like you're taking a picture of me," I said, "so we can get one of the band!"

I know, I know...I look like a ghost, but I had to lighten the picture so you could see the band in the corner. (The little guy on the right was oblivious to all the activity; he just kept right on eating!)

As the band members were heading out the door, deep in conversation, the blond man hesitated in the doorway. So I grabbed my camera and snapped this picture. (I later learned he was Davey Johnstone, Elton's long-time guitarist.)

I considered asking him to tell Elton how much I appreciate the hours of enjoyment he has given me through the years with his timeless songs. Davey appeared to be a nice, friendly bloke; he would probably have smiled and said he would be happy to do so.

But I didn't. Now, I wish I had.
Be that as it may, if you are reading this post, Sir Elton John (and you probably are), all I can say is keep singing, my friend, and I'll keep listening.

And now, if you have time, relax with the Queen, the Corgis and me, and enjoy Can You Feel the Love Tonight.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley