Thursday, March 27, 2008

Intellectual Reading

On a recent visit to Mother's, she gave me stacks of magazines. I read several of them today, and I've listed a few things I feel you should know.
Meredith Vieira, of The Today Show, is ready to quit her day job. She and Matt Lauer have never gotten along, and, like me, she hates getting up early in the morning.

Angelina Jolie is pregnant with twins. She was afraid Brad Pitt would leave her if she didn’t give him another biological child.

Valerie Bertinelli is very upset with ex-husband Eddie Van Halen. He's back on the booze. But Valerie is a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig now, and she's too busy starving herself to convince him to return to rehab.

Kirstie Alley, former spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, is not starving herself; she now weighs almost 250 pounds. She was recently fired. Unfairly, she says, calling Bertinelli a "skinny bitch."
It must be going around; Barbra Streisand has gained 40 pounds. Friends say she has become very moody and frustrated. There is a bright side, though; husband James Brolin is constantly reassuring her that she's beautiful. (He'll keep it up if he knows what's good for him!)

Author Joe Nick Patoski has written a biography about Willie Nelson—Willie Nelson: An Epic Life—which will come out in April. The excerpts are interesting. His first wife tied poor Willie up and beat him with a broom when he came home late after a night of partying, and his second wife cornered him with a gun and threatened to blow him away because he was seeing another woman.

Now we know why Willie penned Always on my Mind!

Lisa Marie Presley is pregnant by her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood. She says a child with Michael will make her life complete. Priscilla Presley is very excited about the prospect of another grandchild. But she's upset about her last facelift. The plastic surgeon botched it, and her face is now stiff as a board.
Remember Gary Coleman of Different Strokes? His new wife accused him of trying to run her over with his pick-up. According to the police report, the little fellow was in a rage, pounding the steering wheel of his truck, throwing his arms wildly in the air, and screaming nonstop.
Now, I'm going on to more intellectual reading, such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. But I doubt they will be as interesting as The National Enquirer!

Friday, March 21, 2008

That Little Girl

Suzanne had just gotten home from school on a crisp October day when I snapped the above picture. She was in the front yard of our home in Normal, Illinois, standing beside a tree she helped her dad plant.

When I think of her at 10, I always see her in this dress, dashing into the house, bubbling over with excitement about something that happened at school.
I'm waxing nostalgic today; I came across a box containing some of her little dresses. For years, I carted them with me in my moves across the country and back. Along with her crib, which Chase slept in twenty-one years later.
I gave away most of Suzanne's clothes as she outgrew them, but I couldn't bear to part with that school dress. And I couldn't bear to part with the long dresses she wore when she participated in various church and school programs. She wore the pink dress when she sang a solo from The Sound of Music in a school program. One of Suzanne's best-kept secrets is her lovely singing voice. (Sorry, sweetie...just couldn't help myself!)

This white eyelet dress was handmade by her Great-Grandma Williams, a neat little woman who lived in a neat little house in Ina, Illinois.
When people ask me why I am saving Suzanne's dresses, I tell them I'm sentimental. And I am. But I must admit there is another reason. I sometimes entertain the thought that Chase just might someday present me with a great-grandchild. Maybe a little girl. Just like Suzanne.
So I guess that little girl is who I'm saving them for.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

George-Wilson Literary Club

I've had a very busy week. We've bought two more bookcases, and I'm now unpacking boxes of books I've had in the garage for ages. I've missed having all my books around me. They're like my old friends, well-read, always there, and never-changing as the years go by.

I also enjoyed a nice visit with my sister. Patsy, or "Pitty Pat," as I call her, is two years younger than me; we not only shared a bedroom as we were growing up, but our thoughts and dreams as well. We still do. She, as was Terry, is a part of just about every memory of my childhood, and I don't know what I'd do without her.

Yesterday, we gathered at my aunt's home in Bardwell for our monthly literary meeting. An excellent cook, Mona served a meal fit for a king: catfish, hushpuppies, french fries, baked beans and coleslaw. Later, we enjoyed angel food cake swathed in huge, juicy strawberries. Accompanied with lots of good strong coffee, of course.
After our meal, it always takes quite a while for us to settle down to business. First, we discuss what is going on in our lives, our children’s and grandchildren’s lives, what’s happening around Paducah, Bardwell and Cunningham. And on to news around the world.
After that talk dies down, Mother reads the minutes. Our secretary, Mother does a great job of keeping us all on track. She keeps excellent records, sometimes reading minutes of past meetings, five, 10, or even 15 years ago. Of particular interest is the "what’s-going-on-in-our-lives" section, and we are constantly interrupting her.
"I don’t even remember writing that story," says one member.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long since I lived there," says another.
The George-Wilson Literary Club has been meeting each month for 19 years. Sometimes Eva (our youngest sister) attends, and occasionally our children join us, but the "die hards" are always there. (Left to right are Mona, Gina, Mother, Mary Ellen, Pitty Pat and Tom.)
Mary Ellen read her short story, Twilight Time; Tom read his poem, Ghost in the Time Machine; Mother read pages from her memoir, This is my Story, This is my Song, and I read a portion of my short story, Aunt Fanny's Drawers (which I still haven't just might become a book!)
Although I had a great time, I was glad to get home to my Bill. And Dudley, who grieves each time either of us leaves the house.
Well, he says, about time you got home!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Because of the War

World War II was brewing when I was born, and although I was not quite five years old when it ended, many of my memories are as sharp and clear as though it were yesterday.
I didn't understand exactly what was going on, of course, but I tried my best to figure it all out, listening to the adults every chance I got. And asking questions.
"Where is the war?"
"A long way off," Mother said.
"How far?"
"Way across the ocean."
Everyone was consumed with the war, even Terry, Patsy and I. We often played "War," using sticks as machine guns.
"Tat-tat!" Terry yelled, chasing us around the yard, "Tat-tat-tat!"
I crumpled to the ground, hand over my heart, and Patsy threw herself to the ground beside me.
"Get up, I'm taking y'all to Hitler," he said, "You're prisoners of war!"
One of Daddy's best friends was a prisoner of war, and most young men we knew (and a few young women) were serving in one branch or another. Daddy's brother, Uncle Bob (that's him in the picture) was drafted near the end, and, thankfully, wasn't sent overseas. But Mother's brother, Uncle Tom, served more than three years in the thick of it all, France, Germany, North Africa, and in the bloody battle of Anzio Beachhead in Italy.
Uncle Tom wrote to us regularly (tiny, slick letters, "V" mail, they called it, and I wondered how he managed to write so small). Terry, Patsy and I stood quietly around Mother, as she sat with Mary Ellen on her lap, reading his letters aloud. For a long time, they began with Somewhere in France.
"Why does he say somewhere in France," I said, "Where is he?"
"Nobody knows," Mother said, "Nobody's supposed to know."
"Because of the war."
Uncle Tom was one of the lucky ones, but I remember the gaunt look on his dark, handsome face, the restlessness and nervous energy surrounding him when he finally made it home. (That's him and Mother in the picture.) He is now 89 years old. He recorded his war experiences and gave them to me, so I am just now discovering some of the horrors he went through.
I remember rationing books, war bonds, and the syrup pies Mother made for dessert many nights for supper because of the shortage of sugar. I remember news reels preceding the movies at Milwain's in Bardwell, and the narrators' terse, sharp voices. They reminded me of the actors in James Cagney movies.
Gigantic tanks rolled across the black-and-white screen, bombs exploded in faraway oceans, German soldiers marched in a strange way, slinging first one leg straight out and then the other. (Terry and I marched around the yard for days thereafter, trying to synchronize our steps.)
I watched President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur exiting meetings, waving to the crowds, odd-looking smiles on their faces. Once I saw Stalin. But he was not smiling.
I watched our troops going off to war, wives, mothers and girlfriends crying and waving their handkerchiefs as their loved ones boarded ships, planes and buses on their way to The Front. And I studied the face of a stiff and scowling Adolf Hitler, wondering why he was so mean.
I was thrilled and excited by the news reels and booming music, but disturbed by the alarm and apprehension that hovered. Everyone became very serious when they discussed the war, and looks of panic slid over Mother's and Maw Maw George's faces when they spoke of Uncle Tom.
I remember Daddy telling us to "settle down" as we all huddled around the battery-powered radio, listening to President Roosevelt's Fireside Chats. I remember the silky-smooth voice of Edward R. Murrow, who began his broadcasts with "This is London," and Walter Winchell's high agitated voice spewing out, "Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. North America and all the ships at sea!"
I incorporated some of my memories into a fiction piece, and I was delighted when editors informed me last week that Because of the War has been accepted for publication in Straylight Literary MagazineStraylight is published by the English Department of the University of Wisconsin.  It is scheduled for their spring issue.
So now I'm able to put those memories to rest. Well, for a while anyway.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley