Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pitty Pat!

Mother snapped this picture of Mary Ellen, Pitty Pat and me one Saturday afternoon as we were on our way to the movies at Milwain's.
We had great fun as kids, and although we are slightly older now, we still have great fun. Like tonight, when our family will be celebrating my lovely sister's birthday.
Happy Birthday, Pitty Pat!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coming Together as One Again

I've had another busy weekend, the highlight of which was my 50th high school reunion. Due to family obligations, my best friend, Karen, was unable to come. She was just as disappointed as I, though, and we talked on the phone for over an hour the day before the event.

Bill didn't want to go, so I swung by Friday and picked up another old friend, Mignon Todd Hinkle (her husband balked as well), and we headed out in the country to the Bardwell Hunt Club.

I had a great time visiting and reminiscing with my old classmates, some of whom I had not seen in years. I can't count the times I heard the comments, Where has the time gone? Do you remember when...?

We talked, laughed, joked, and enjoyed a delicious meal of barbecued ribs and chicken with all the trimmings. And then we talked, laughed and joked some more. I took a bunch of pictures, but I didn't get everyone. And some I got more than once. That's why some have been cropped.

Joyce Beardsley Burgess assists Sue McGowan Duncan with her name tag as Lee Mabry looks on. (Joyce planned and executed the event, and she did a great job!)

Roy Wayne Davis arrived tired. And with good reason. One of his cows had a calf, and he was up all night assisting with the birth. (Mother and calf are fine, I'm happy to report!) Roy Wayne is retired, and he and wife Maye own a portable building business in Bardwell.
I had not seen Charles Gholson since the night we graduated. He and lovely wife Dodie and family lived in Chicago, New York, and other places during his 36-year tenure with the U. S. Postal Inspection Service. Like many of us who moved away, they are back home now and living in Clinton.
Betty Samples Hobbs and husband Chuck are retired and living in Lone Oak. They enjoy traveling and spending time at their lake home. They are often outdoors boating, exercising. And it shows; they both look fit as fiddles!
My dear friend, Mignon. I've known her all my life; we attended Mississippi Baptist Church together from the time we were toddlers. Despite what you might think, Mignon is not wearing a feather hat; that's a bird in the picture behind her. (Sorry, Mignon...that was the only picture that came out!)

Bill Terry retired after 40 years in the engineering field. He and wife Kitty now live in Carlisle County. Bill, Karen and I sat together in study hall our senior year, and we often got into trouble. We were always giggling. That's Anne Todd Prince in the corner, demanding center stage again. (Just kidding, Anne the way, you look great!)
What can I say about Amos Anderson? He was a nice quiet boy in high school; now he's a nice quiet man. And the goodness shows on his face. He retired from McDonnell-Douglas, and he and wife Jane now live in Paducah.

What I remember about Lee Mabry is how popular and witty he was. And he's still as witty as ever. He and wife Barbara are retired and living near Knoxville, Tennessee. He tells me he enjoys tinkering with old cars.

Despite the sour-puss look on Luke Allen Brown's face here, he's a very funny man. He was a cut-up in school. He kidded me all the time, often calling me Brenda "Hupstutter." (You'll be happy to know I've forgiven you, Luke!)

Joyce Beardsley Burgess (left) is an owner of Luke's Restaurant in Arlington, where you can get the best catfish dinners anywhere. She and husband Joe live in Bardwell. Anne Todd Webb Prince is a retired elementary school teacher and guidance counselor. She and husband Ralph live in Lone Oak. (She often wheeled around Bardwell in her parents' shiny black '57 Chevrolet. We had a rollicking time graduation night; a bunch of us rode with her to Cairo and celebrated!)

Billy Byassee, one of my favorite classmates. Friendly, jovial and smart as a whip, he drove an old black car which we all piled into on Friday nights and headed to the play party in Wickliffe. That jovial boy has turned into a jovial southern gentleman, with whom I wish I had had more time to reminisce. He and wife Barbara live in Cordova, Tennessee.

On the right is Billy Byassee's lovely wife, Barbara. And his sister, Annette Mix, who was my home economics teacher. I loved Mrs. Mix. I finally got to thank her for helping me with all the mistakes I made on my apron, skirt and blouse in Home Ec class. She never chastised me. (She obviously knew my limitations; I'm still no good at sewing!)

Keith Rowland and wife Kay live in Florida. Keith operated his own construction company until he retired and turned it over to their sons. I'm not at all surprised he has been so successful; he applied himself in school. Unlike some of us!

Judy Bishop Gamblin, another classmate who attended Mississippi Baptist Church, along with Mignon, Anne Todd and me. She and husband Richard live in Paducah. Kenny Tyler, another cut-up, kept us all laughing in high school, and he kept us all laughing at the reunion! He's retired, and he and wife Betty live in Arlington.

Bertha Cobb Myers (left) sews Civil War attire for ladies to wear in the reenactment days at Columbus Park each October. She is married to James "Rabbit" Myers, and they live near Clinton. Ruby Burgess Carter lives in Kuttawa and still has a full-time job. She also loves to play Bingo. (Good luck in your next game, Ruby!)

Bertha's husband, Rabbit, was perplexed when I turned my camera on him. "What do you want to take a picture of me for?" he said.
* * *
Seeing all my old classmates again put me in a reflective mood, and since then I've been thinking about my senior year in high school.
It was an exciting year. All four schools in the county (Bardwell, Arlington, Cunningham and Milburn) had just consolidated, so our class was a big one (or so we thought at the time). There were 65 or 66 seniors, many new people to get to know. In the beginning, most of us stuck with friends from our respective schools, but as time went by, we came together as one: the Carlisle County High School Class of '58.
That year seemed to fly. And as graduation day neared, I was a little apprehensive. I would be stepping into the unknown, leaving that familiar place where Mother and Daddy and all my brothers and sisters dwelled. I would be on my own.
As Kentucky Lt. Governor Harry Lee Waterfield gave the commencement speech that night, I gazed at my classmates, clad in their maroon caps and gowns, gold tassles swinging back and forth as they whispered among themselves, and I suddenly realized this was the last time we would all be together. From here on in, we would be moving in different directions. I was excited, yet sad. It's too soon, I thought, These good times should last longer!
And so the CCHS Class of '58 moved on into history. We all went in different directions; some traveled the globe. But last Friday, after 50 years, we came together as one again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Nearly Long Enough

When I recall my first memory of my father's face, he looks only slightly older than he was in this picture. A slim man, with sandy hair and bright blue eyes, he was determined, enthusiastic, full of ideas. And always working.
Daddy had a strong faith in God. He never shouted his beliefs from the roof tops, but the way he lived his life spoke volumes. He was a strict disciplinarian; we all feared his wrath if we had done wrong, but I knew he loved us, and he showed that love in so many ways.
"Can I have a wristwatch for my graduation present?" I said a few days before my eighth grade graduation.
"I don't know, Brenda Gail," Mother said, "We'll have to see."
On the eve of my graduation, a small velvet box appeared beside my dinner plate. It was a delicate Bulova wristwatch. Daddy had bought it for me on his way home from work that night.
He loved the land, nature, all things that grew. And although his parents were prepared to send him to college, he chose to farm the Mississippi River bottoms. Like generations of Wilsons before him.
He was also a master carpenter, like his maternal grandfather. He built our big brick house in 1946-47; in 1979, he built the house in which he and Mother lived after we all left home. And he built Mary Ellen's house, which was down the road from theirs.
"How on earth do you have the patience to build a house?" I said one day in 1979, as he and I stood gazing at the footings, "It takes so long!"
He placed his hands on his hips and smiled, "You just build it one board, one brick at a time," he said, "and first thing you know, you've got a house!"
As time went on and our family grew, Daddy supplemented the family income by taking a job off the farm. He worked at a shoe factory, F. W. McGraw (the company that built Union Carbide in the early fifties), Union Carbide (but he left in the early sixties, after he and two co-workers were accidentally sprayed with an unknown chemical. I think it's dangerous to work in that place, he said). After that, he worked in maintenance at a hospital until he retired.
When his work day was over, Daddy couldn't wait to get home and hop on the old Farm Al tractor. My siblings and I ran barefoot behind him as he plowed the garden each spring, and when I think of it now, I can still hear the ear-splitting whine of the old tractor, smell the thick blue smoke drifting through the air, feel the cool, moist dirt between my toes.
Daddy was not all work and no play. He had a unique sense of humor, was playful with Mother (often calling her "Doll"), and spent one snowy Saturday afternoon showing us how to make "Jacob's Ladders" and other things with string. He also taught us how to make a small "tractor," using a spool, a piece of soap, a small nail, and two matches. The little thing actually rolled along by itself, and almost made it up Terry's leg!
In spite of never having had lessons, Daddy was an excellent pianist. "I had a burning desire to take piano lessons," he once told me, "But Momma wouldn't let me."
That didn't stop him; he played by "ear." Like Jerry Lee Lewis.
We all stood around the old upright piano many Saturday nights, clapping and singing along to his lively tunes, his foot tapping to the beat. (He was still playing in his later years. I took the above picture in the late eighties.)
I thought Daddy was indestructible. When my brother, Ted, was born in 1947, he came by Maw Maw George's house, where my siblings and I were staying while Mother was in the hospital. Terry, Pitty Pat, Mary Ellen and I all rushed out to meet him that day, and as he knelt to tell us we had a new baby brother, the wind blew his hat right off his head. As I watched it roll and tumble across the yard, I couldn't believe anything had power over him. Even the March winds.
In the early eighties, Daddy was elected Judge/Executive of Carlisle County. He worked hard for the county, and Mother worked as his secretary, without pay. They both felt a deep need to do something for Carlisle County. (I snapped this picture of him not long after he became Judge Wilson.)
Daddy knew the history of Carlisle County like the back of his hand. He was a delightful storyteller; I loved hearing him reminisce about growing up during the depression, the colorful old characters he knew back then. I had many philosophical discussions with him about the meaning of life, death, the hereafter. In later years he began writing. He published two small books and had started working on his memoirs. But he was unable to finish them. There wasn't time.

I could fill a book with memories of my father, but there is no measure of my love for him.  Today is his birthday, and I miss him. I had him for fifty-two years, but that was not nearly long enough.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pie, anyone?

We had a rather interesting 4th of July weekend. An old friend of Bill's spent a couple of nights with us.

Like Bill, Jerry is originally from Alabama but has lived in Chicago for years. Divorced since 1972, he never remarried, but he has had several girlfriends through the years. His current 'significant other' accompanied him on this trip.

A tall, thin woman of 67, Joyce sported a platinum blonde Shirley Temple hairdo, and wore tight, low-slung jeans topped with a hot pink satin blouse. Tucked in. Her make-up was golden and thick, and later in the evening as we sat on our deck, her face seemed to glow in the dark. Her blue eyes were lovely, but they were lined with black-as-coal eyeliner, lashes coated with several layers of black mascara. They resembled the legs of a spider. A stocky spider.

They whizzed into the driveway in Joyce's black Monte Carlo, the SS Dale Earnhardt Signature Edition, complete with dual exhausts and spoiler. It's her pride and joy, Jerry later told us, and when they stay in a motel, Joyce insists on a room directly in front of the parking spot, so she can "watch" it.
Before we opened the door, we could hear Joyce's very loud voice, "Should we bring all the bags in now?"
"Whatever you want," said Jerry.
"Or should we wait until later?"
"Whatever you want to do."
"We could bring a few in and get the others later."
"Whatever you want."
That night, Joyce spent an hour in the bathroom, exiting in pink satin pajamas and high-heeled house shoes trimmed in feathers. The feathers waved merrily in the air as she zipped back and forth between the bedroom and bathroom.
Bill, Jerry and I tried to talk between Joyce's frequent interruptions.
"Jerry! Did you lock the car?"
"Yes, Joyce," Jerry said, raising his eyebrows, "I locked the car."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Do you think we should have brought the rest of our bags in?"
The next morning found us at a Paducah restaurant ordering breakfast.
"I want two fried eggs, well-done" Joyce bellowed, "What kind of sausage do you have?"
Everyone in the restaurant stopped talking, forks poised in mid-air, and the waitress glanced around, obviously looking for a quick getaway, "We have patties and links."
"What kind of sausage is it?"
"Yes, pork."
"Okay, I'll have pork sausage."
"Links or patties?"
Jerry leaned forward, brow furrowed, "Joyce, do you want link sausage or patties?"
"Which do you think I should get?"
We were about half way through our meal when Joyce spotted the desserts. "Just look at all those pies and cakes!" she said, "I'm going over there and look at them!"
Everyone in the place stared as she got up, stretched, tucked in her satin blouse and clicked to the counter on her stilettos.
"What kind of cake is that?"
The waitress behind the counter jumped, "It's pineapple."
"And what's that?"
"Dark or milk chocolate?"
Jerry was rolling his eyes and shaking his head by the time she returned to the table.
"I don't know if I want that chocolate pie or the pineapple cake," she said, digging back into her sausage and eggs, "Jerry, which one should I get?"
"Whatever you want, Joyce," Jerry said.
"Bill," she said, "What kind do you like best?"
"Doesn't matter to me, "Bill said.
"Either one sounds good," I said.
Should I get a few pieces, or the whole pie or cake?"
"Maybe you should get a whole one."
"Would we eat it all?"
By the time we finished and Bill, Jerry and I were at the register, Joyce was back at the dessert counter. "How much is three pieces of that chocolate pie?"
People were lining up at the register. "I have to check out those people," the waitress said, a frantic look on her face.
"Alright, then," Joyce said, placing her hands on her thin hips and taking a deep breath, "I'll just take the whole pie!"
We said goodbye in the parking lot of the restaurant. They were heading on to Kentucky Lake, where they would stay with friends. But they planned to come back and spend Sunday night with us before returning to Chicago on Monday morning.
When we drove off, Joyce and Jerry were placing the pie in the trunk of the SS Dale Earnhardt Signature Edition Monte Carlo. "Be careful, Jerry," she said, "No! Don't put it there; it'll get smashed!"
"I've heard so much about that pie that it makes me sick to think about it," Bill said as we headed home, "I'm glad we don't have to hear about it anymore."
He was wrong.
Sunday afternoon, on their return, we went out to greet them. "Jerry," she said, "Get that pie and put it in the fridge."
A look of panic slid over Bill's face, "That's okay; Brenda made a dessert."
Jerry laughed. "Sorry, Bill, she's going to bring it in, come hell or high water," he said, "Wish I'd thrown it in the lake when I had the chance!"
Later that evening, as Joyce was preparing for her nightly ritual in the bathroom, she pulled the pie out of the refrigerator.
"Anybody want a piece of pie?" she said, "I froze it while we were at the lake, but I think it's still good."
She set it on the dining table, alongside her satin pajamas and a black scarf, and went into the bedroom to fetch her feather-trimmed house shoes.
I quickly snapped the above picture before she returned.
Pie, anyone?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley