Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Peaked-Looking Housecat

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's nothing I enjoy more than getting together with family and friends, enjoying a big meal, visiting, reminiscing.

When I was growing up, we usually had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. The house was bursting at the seams, with various people in attendance from year to year, but Maw Maw Wilson and Maw Maw and Paw Paw George were always there.

Mother cooked a big turkey, made cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes & giblet gravy, corn, cherry pies. Maw Maw George brought sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, green beans simmered for hours with fatback, pumpkin pies, a three-layer cake, (oftentimes jam). Maw Maw Wilson brought roast pork (so tender you could cut it with a fork), turnip greens, and apple pies, the likes of which I have never tasted since.

Afterward, the men retired to the living room, lighting up their pipes and cigarettes as they settled back in their chairs for the afternoon. The kids rushed out to play, and the women stayed at the dining table, lingering over coffee and dessert.

One sunny Thanksgiving day, when I was about nine, my brothers and sisters were playing baseball. I didn't want to play. I was no good at it anyway. So I stayed inside, skulking here and there, evesdropping on the adults.

There was nothing much happening in the living room; the men were talking about farming and politics. The women talked about politics, too, and they reminisced. But my ears really perked up when I heard more interesting tidbits: Geraldine had a spell last night. It was a bad one, Toy said. Node Morgan's wife ran off and left her kids. Poor Miss Eda had one of her nerve attacks in church last Sunday. She's not doing any good.

"What's a nerve attack?" I said, "Where did Node Morgan's wife run off to?"

"Brenda, what are you doing in here?" Mother said, "Go on outside and play with the other kids."

"You need to get out there in the sunshine," Maw Maw George said, "You look kind of peaked."


I rushed to my bedroom and gazed in the mirror, searching my face. Was it serious? Did I look sick? Outside, I could hear the smack of the bat and my brothers and sisters cheering.

"Come on, Brenda," Terry called through the window, "We need another player!"

"I told you I don't want to play!"

And then I thought about my peakedness. Maybe baseball would help.

I rushed outside, where I was soon up to bat. Terry tried to show me how to hold it, but I grabbed the bat and held it with both hands directly in front of me.

"I'll hold it however I want!" I said, "Just throw it!"

He suddenly spun around and threw the ball.

I dodged, but the it hit me on the arm. So I threw the bat down and headed toward the house.

"Where you going?" said Mary Ellen.

"The game isn't over," Pitty Pat said.

"I don't feel like playing. I'm peaked."

"You are not!" said Mary Ellen, hands on her hips, "You're just using that for an excuse!"

Pitty Pat stared at me, a thoughtful look on her face. "You don't look peaked."

"I'll tell you what she is," called Terry, "She's a housecat. A peaked-looking housecat!"

* * *
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. And God bless.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I know I have been neglecting my blog again, and I apologize to my readers. I've been working on my memoirs.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

Part I - Windy City

I was mesmerized by my co-workers at 43 East Ohio Street, who welcomed me into the fold with open arms. I had grown up in a small town in Kentucky where everyone was white and Southern Baptist, girls taught to keep smiles on their faces, be nice to everyone and keep their personal lives to themselves. Most of the Chicago girls were Catholic, a religion that was unacceptable down home. Or at least in our little community, where backwoods preachers ruled with threats of eternal agony in the lake of fire to those who questioned their doctrine.

The girls knew nothing about keeping their personal lives to themselves; they didn’t care what they said or how someone took what they said. Most of them smoked and drank and were fond of saying, “Oh, my Gawd!” in response to just about everything. They were kind and caring. And they were not hypocrites. I began to rethink my religious upbringing, and, for the first time in my life, question it.

Down on the fourth floor, Carroll was getting a rude awakening. Marie, his boss (whom I nicknamed "Helmet Head"), was a wild-eyed, fifty-something spinster who wore her bleached hair in a heavily sprayed pageboy. She ruled the accounting department with an iron hand, and nothing anyone did pleased her. She yelled, stomped and threw fits when everything wasn’t going to her satisfaction. Some days she went into frenzies and yelled so loud that she could be heard from one end of the fourth floor to the other.

Each day, on our way home, Carroll had another story to tell about Helmet Head. She had jumped all over him or a co-worker, yelled at someone for a mistake, or made a mistake and blamed someone else. One day she ran out of her office, glaring at Carroll and others in the department. They hadn’t done anything wrong, so she reared back and kicked the file cabinet. She blamed them all when she broke her big toe.

* * *

Since Carroll and I had no money, we were short in the clothing department. I had three outfits, a blue shirtwaist dress and a two-piece floral green dress with a peplum and straight skirt. They were seconds; I bought them at a factory in Southern Illinois for three dollars each. The third was a beige sheath wool dress with a short matching jacket, the neckline trimmed in fur, which I splurged on when we went to a company banquet at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. I rotated the outfits that whole winter.

Carroll owned two used suits, a black one, the trousers of which were long enough for a six-foot man (he was five feet, four inches tall). When they were altered for him they just cut off the legs, and if he raised his leg you could see his Fruit of the Looms. He called them his “Knee Straddlers.”

“Looks like it’s the Knee-Straddlers today," he'd say, pulling on the wide-legged trousers, or “Can’t decide what to wear today; oh, I think I’ll wear my ‘Panama Suit!’”

The Panama Suit was a very light gray flannel, almost white, which reminded me of Humphrey Bogart's attire in “Casablanca.” His wool topcoat, given to him by a tall friend in Southern Illinois, sported tiny blue checks on a cream background, and it fell to his ankles.

“We should have it shortened,” I said.

“Keeps my legs warm," said Carroll.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bill!

Some things just get better with age.

Like my hubby (the former hippie),

And our song.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley