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Mama vs. Beebee (Grandma)

Today, I walked thru the bird sanctuary at a lake near by.  I relearned a few lessons,  that to be honest, I  had sort of forgotten. It saddened me, hurt me. It made me feel like I didn’t matter anymore. I had six kids, one lost at 15, the stress almost killing me too.

I walked along. I would smile at couples walking by, see a woman apparently alone, then see her kid run up. Sadness would creep in.   I fed bread to the fish and turtles, like I used to with my children, and a few times with my grandchildren.  I felt profoundly alone as I walked along.

An hour before , I had walked around my neighborhood with three grandsons, two, age 7, one age 4, along with my youngest son who is in college. ( as of October, I will have 11 grandkids!) Though I enjoyed it, I was disappointed at the lack of discipline, especially after “7 year old no. 2” joined us and there was more ‘cutting up’ going on.  The other two were brothers. I tried to show them how to hunt snail shells. I would  tell them that they were called mollusks, I would name the flowers, if they were annuals , biannuals or perennials, that some  were irises  that grew from rootstock a hundred years old. ( I got an audible “wow” from that).We saw butterflies and I asked who knew what kind it was-  ( swallowtails, easily recognizable). We looked at the creek bank and talked about the flood that collapsed on side of it, and had to be shored-up with rocks. We talked about how the rich people scraping off the plants that held the water in the ground was responsible for the flood, but those of us down valley had to financially and physically clean up the mess the mansion makers made,and how wrong that was.

If you are thinking, “that was too advanced to be teaching seven year olds”, I beg to differ. I started having my own version of “home school” when my kids were two years old. They knew their alphabet and numbers 1-20 by the end of their 3rd year and were reading simple books by the end of their fourth year.  It is a matter of discipline on the part of parent and child, but with my kids, its just what we did.Period. When they learned one thing, we moved on to the next step. Having consistency is the key to education. That was my problem today, there is no set time or way to learn at home. All of my kids went to public school. I taught the youngest at home full time in K-1. We had an hour  to an hour and 1/2 or more of home school, depending on  if it was outdoors or such.

I had very little problems with discipline. Some of my kids wDr e not easy, (ask their public school teachers!)They knew we were  doing school on Saturday, holidays,summer, etc BEFORE anything else. It wasn’t a question or discussion. I may hear you saying “and they hated it”. No, they didn’t, they got it done early, knew more about any subject than their friends, and never complained a lot about doing it. My kids were not close in age, so I would have my 9th grader learning world capitols while the 5th grader learned state capitols,lakes and rivers, and the younger one learned to read or memorize math tables.  At some times, I had four at a time and worked with varied topics. We only spent abut 20 minutes on each subject. We did lots of art, nature walks and studies,  all seasons too. In fall we studied mushrooms and watched the mating of spiders and mantises we had followed since spring. We watch plants emerge in spring, develop color for their rest time in fall. we studied weather as it happened. These are examples.

Besides not having any grandswith me,  (especially not having my kids when they were young) it was hard. I could have probably taken one of the 7 year old, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell my kids not to delay teaching until a certain age. I do tell them about using “teaching moments”. When you went to the store, and were unpacking groceries, you could talk shapes and colors with young ones, then maybe names of vegetables or other foods for preschoolers. The story goes on, as they grow. I have worked with kindergarten children who didn’t know their colors, first graders still struggling with the sound of letters, unable to read a very simple book.

If you work outside the home, it is hard, you may have to work for shorter time periods, but it is still possible. When my grandkid complained, I asked them , do your parents go to work every day so you can eat, have a roof over your head? Of course they all nodded “yes’ , I said, ” Do you think they just woke up one morning and knew how to do their job? ”  Answer: (in unison..Noooo…) So they learned all of their lives, right? (heads shaking, “yes”) I asked the 7 year olds if they could read and they said ,”yes”. I asked the 4 year old and he smiled and said, “I’m learnin!”. I pointed out that the seven year olds had learned thing between the time the were 4 and 7. They got it.

The last thing I told them to day was an old Indian proverb: “You cannot learn with your mouth opened.” I asked  them what that meant, and after some delay , I covered my mouth and said ,”We learn by listening, not talking” I told them , “There is a time to ask questions and a time to listen, do you understand?” They all smiled and said yes. Then  I let them choose what to have for lunch. I told them I loved them and hoped that they would grow up learning everything good that they could so they could take care of them selves and their families. They smiled, ate their crazy lunch choices, had extra glasses of tea (After all, it IS grandma’s house (or as they call me ‘Beebee”. )My husband took two of them home and the other walked home, after hugs, smiles and them saying, “We love you, Beebee.”

I feel better about my walk alone now, realizing that it is simply life which has moved me from  ‘mom’ to ‘Beebee’ . Still, it hurts that I can not teach them like I did my kids because they didn’t start at two with a strict schedulde. I will continue to teach my grands as I can. I find myself learning from my own kids now. It is nice to know that they have learned that learning is a life- long adventure. I am trying to think of things that will grab their attention and to express my pride it what they have accomplished. Yesterday “7 years old #2 showed me some barrels of standing water with creatures swimming in it. He knew they weren’t tadpoles. “What is it, Beebee?” He asked.   It was mosquito larva! We poured the water out and I told him how proud of him I was and that he had saved us from a lot of mosquito bites. Today, he got to brag to his cousins bout what he did.

Just thinking of that lesson- one that my grandchild learned long ago, had been used to help his family, cheered me up. Being a mom and making my own rules my suit mr better, but there is a lot to be said for capturing those moments with my grandkids. They have learned from me! And, I also learn from them. Maybe it isn’t so different after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackberry Summer

29720184Kenny was just five years old, his brother, Jack, was 8.  Most of Kenny’s life had been spent on tenant farms in upper South Carolina. It was a hard life.  Momma had been sick most of his life with something called Pellegra.   It made her act funny and her skin break out in summer. Her name was Mattie and her family lived a good distance away. She had gone to the hospital in Spartanburg this time because she was so sick.  Kenny missed his mamma, but he was beginning to have a hard time even remembering what her voice sounded like or the touch of her lips as they puckered and kissed him good  night.

They had lived in a different house every year of his life. Which ever farm owner would offer papa the best deal  for working his crops, papa would load  up their sparse possessions and move his little family a few miles down the road.  The house they lived in now, Kenny and Jack had nicknamed ” the smoky house” because the flue in the fireplace didn’t work right and the house always had a smoky odor and in the dead of winter, there was almost a blur to the air  from the smoke.  It was warm, though, so they didn’t complain. On one occasion, Kenny remembered he and Jack playing with corncobs out in the yard, pretending they were cars. Mama had been sitting on the porch with her two sisters, Bettie and Jettie and they laughed at the boys as they played. The sound of her laughter was all he really had now.

When papa took the boys to town on rare occasions, they hitched a ride because Papa didn’t have a car. The boys loved the bumping and puttering of the car as they drove the ten or fifteen miles to where the big supply store was. They were amazed at the electric lights inside the shops and the fancy furniture in the two story houses on Main Street. Sometimes, Jack and Kenny  were  invited in to a lady’s  house for cookies and milk  while Papa was at the farm supply store.

Kenny had been squirming for ten minutes at the table with the red checked table cloth. Jack finally looked at the  lady who had told them to call her Mrs. Salter and said, “M’am, I hate to bother you, but I think my little brother needs to use yer , um, facilities.

Mrs. Salter smiled and led Kenny by the hand to a room by the bedrooms that had an indoor toilet  and a sink inside. Kenny’s eyes lit up. Indoor plumbing! He’d seen it before but never used it.  He turned to see that Mrs. Salter had cracked the door and stepped away.

At first, Kenny just ran his hands over the smooth white porcelain on the sink, his green eyes wide and his mouth agape.  He turned to the toilet filled with water and proceeded to relieve himself. remembered that the handle had to be pushed down for the  contraption to run clean water in it.

Soon, Kenny was back at the table where Jack was finishing up his last sip of milk.

“I bet you boys know where some ripe blackberries are growing.” smiled Mrs. Salter.

“Yes’m” grinned Jack, “we sure do!”

“Well, you two look like good workers,” Mrs. Salter said with her hands propped  on her thin waist.  “I’ll tell you what, If you bring me a gallon of the best ones you can find tomorrow, I will pay you a quarter for them.”

The boys faces light up with a smile. “Yes’m, Mrs. Salter, ”  Jack called out, “we will have them here by lunch time, , the best you’ve ever seen!

The boys, thanked Mrs. Salter for the cookies and milk and headed for the door. They saw Papa coming out of the supply store and hurried to him. Kenny turned to Jack and whispered, ” She’s got one of them indoor toilets!”  Jack had time only for a look of surprise before they met up with Papa.

“Papa, Papa, Kenny called out, “Mrs. Salter said if we’d pick her a gallon of blackberries tomorrow, she would give us a quarter!”

Papa chuckled and said, “Well thats right good wages, boys. Those lowlanders don’t much like to work when they come up here in the summer, do they?”

“No, sir” Kenny replied, ” and she’s got an indoor toilet!”

“Now how do you know about that, young man,” Papa looked sternly at his younger son.

Jack came to the rescue and told Papa that he had VERY POLITELY told Mrs. Salter that Kenny needed to use the facilities when she had offered them a snack.

“Well, I guess you two have got yourselves a job!” Papa laughed as they walked back down the dusty gravel road toward their driveway.

And they surely did. Mrs. Salter and her sister, had cometo the “thermal belt” as Papa called the area between the sweltering heat of the lowlands and the cool foggy  mountains to the north for relief from the heat. q For weeks, the boys went out in their oldest clothes and gathered blackberries for the ladies.

One time, Papa’s sister had come down to stay a while and fixed the most delicious dinners they had ever had. Fried chicken, biscuits, ripe tomatoes! It was heaven!

The boys had been picking blackberries one morning and after delivering them, they saw the postman talking to Aunt Lena. Curious, they stepped up their walking time to hear the man  try to whisper to Aunt Lena.  He couldn’t whisper very well.

They turned their heads toward the Mailman and Aunt Lena, who had failed to notice them walking  up. The mailman motioned Aunt Lena over to his opened door. Naturally, the two curious little boys were right behind her.

“Mattie died today,” he said, his effort to whisper lost on his effort to speak loudly over then engine. Then boys both gasped, and suddenlyAunt Lena turned around and saw them. She took a deep breath as if she was going to fuss, but turned her head back towards the mailman, wiping a tear from her cheek.

“What happened,” Aunt Lena asked the mailman. “I though she was doing better!”

Well, I can’t say for sure, Lena, ” the mailman replied. “She took a turn for the worse last night and when the nurse checked on her this morning, she was gone.”

Aunt Lena turned to Kenny and Jack and put her arms around them, scowling at the mailman for letting them hear his news. Jack and Kenny looked at each other and then at Aunt Lena.

“Did he say our mama was gone? ” Jack said. Kenny was silent, acting a bit confused.

“Yes, honey, thats what he said, your Mama went to live with the angels.” Aunt Lena spoke softly as she brushed a tear from her cheek.

“Live with the angels?” Kenny yelled. “My Mama wouldn’t  go live somewhere else!”

Jack looked at Kenny and  took his hand. “No, Kenny, that means Mama died. She ain’t coming back.”

“No!” cried Kenny. “She ain’t gone to live with no angels! Thats what they do in the Bible!”

Aunt Lena waved the mailman to go on about his duties and she knelt down beside them.

“You know your Mama’s been sick a long time. She was suffering. God didn’t want her to suffer, so he took her up to live with Him in Heaven, just like in the Bible.” Aunt Lena said softly.

Jack just stood there frozen, then grabbed Aunt Lena’s hand. Kenny was running down the driveway screaming, “Papa, Papa! Mama died, she went to heaven, like in the Bible!” he shouted through salty tears.

Aunt Lena heard the screen door squeak open just as they reached the wooden porch.

Papa just looked up at his sister. Aunt Lena nodded her head to say it was true. The four of them formed a knot of tearing, weeping family.

“Well, That’s it. mumbled Jack. We ain’t go no Mama.”  He slung his hands away from the others and ran up the steps to the porch.

Kenny gently let his hand slip from his Papa’s. He walked up on the porch where Jack was rocking back and forth in one of the wooden chairs. He looked up at his father and Aunt as they walked up the steps behind them. Nobody said a word. Papa walked quietly into the house, followed by Aunt Lena.

“What are you going to do, Furman?” Aunt Lena said to her brother. “You think Aunt Annie will take them?”

“Oh, no!” growled Furman, their daddy. “Ain’t nobody takin’ my boys! I will carry them on my back till moss grows on theirs before I give  them away!”

…………………………..

And he did.

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Snowfall in Mountains

It seems it’s been years since snow piled up for days-
Global warming, I wonder or just that on storm
That seems to haunt us every year.

It seems the pretty , fluffy snowfalls of my youth
Are gone, the snow melts and freezes,
Days of melting snow and dangerous ice.

I remember walking in the pasture, in the woods
Now filled with disgusting mansions and roadways
We can’t walk on the logging roads- there are none.

I can’t imagine what through are going through the
Selfish developers heads when they cut
And saw- tear down the forest, so disgusting.

If I could only make these people go away,
Go back north or south- just go and put our
Forest back like a God made them.

My grandkids will be lucky to climb a mountain in the snow.
Maybe they can find enough for a snow-fort
Selfish greedy people with your mansions.

I didn’t realize until my own family fell in this trap
That I was the last generation that would enjoy
The winter forest it spring flowers

Unless we went miles away somehow on slick roads
I wish we could make a law to stop development
To stop those blind to the beauty of the woods

That I could scrap their horrible mansions and road away
And put holly trees back and spring flowers
And fall mushrooms and mast crops…

Can I at least wish that the selfish developers
And desperate farm owners who no longer farm
Can find a way to keep the land and stop destroying it?

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For Everything, there is a Season

DSCN3825When I was born, my parents lived in a little four-room house that my grandfather had built in the 1930’s  when someone offered to sell him a thousand board feet of wood for a thousand dollars.  With that as an inventive, grandpa built this small house, much like many others he had built around our community. His uncles were carpenters, he was an electrician.

For many years, this little house was the ‘first home’ to many young married couples. It was in a neighborhood surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. A little stream ran behind the house. It was a safe and loving neighborhood. My grandparents ran a little country store right across the creek, which, at that time could be crossed on a board from one side to another.

If I were to write a book that told the story of everyone who had made their start, or lived in that house when thy were young, it would be a long and interesting book.  I could name many families whose first and often second child was born while thy lived there. It wasn’t big, but it was not just a house, it was truly a home.

I think of all the babies who cried softly for attention in that house, the many sets of used furniture, cleaned up and decorated into a sweet and satisfying place to live. Anything from Model A’s to modern trucks have parked in that driveway. Black Heart Cherries served as delicious snacks on early summer afternoons.

My uncle next door often shared a portion of his garden to the families who lived there.  He would share his knowledge of gardening and even his water from the pump he put in the creek with his neighbors.We are fresh green beans in summer and carved pumpkins at Halloween.

I moved there here when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. To come there from a lonely apartment seemed like heaven. After a short,  rough marriage, I spent many lonely days and even some happy times while I lived there as a single parent of two.

I finished a 4- year University degree  in three years while I worked and raised two kids as a single parent. My two cousins across the creek spend many hours at my house during the eight years that I lived there. We played loud music, card games, laughed and passed the time. My best friend and her sisters would sit on my back steps and we would teach each other songs on out guitars.

There were days in the 1970’s that I spent my time with doors jingling colored beads that  hung from the doorways. Psychedelic  posters, Mother Earth Magazines and children’s books shared my walls and book shelves. I proudly called myself a ‘hippie ‘. Without the details, I will soon move on.  I had wicker furniture, pretty rocks, in a stack in a corner, a small black and white TV, no dryer, a hand- me- down washer and a clothes line beside the cherry tree snd flower garden. There were no extra ended or excesses.

i loved plants and one could be found in any feasible location, the floor, tables, or cabinet tops. The rooms were small, full yet cozy. I loved the claw legged bathtub and those relaxing bubble baths after an exhausting  day. After I graduated from college I moved  to my families” big house” which sat rather ‘ kitty corner’ from this little one. I had lived there for 8 years and for 32 more years, the story went on.

Young couples, single people, elderly widows, many more, lived in that house. A man and his mother were the last to live there. My aunt had promised her friend that she would continue to let her son, who never married, lived there after she died and both my aunts son, who inherited the house, and I, who bought a lot with both this  little house and my aunt and uncles house on it, kept our word.

By the time the elderly gentleman passed away while living in the house, it had seen its better days. In fact, it had seen them long before. The floors were warped, the doors no longer shut well, all the new siding  and Windows  and boards on the porches did not make the house truly livable by my standards after nearly 90 years.

With  a heavy heart, I decided last fall that I would have to tear the house down, it would have cost more to fix the little house than it was worth.  It wasn’t easy to watch the house be demolished, but the ease with which it went down,  showed me that I had made the right decision.  I planted flowers and vegetables in a box garden there this spring.

There are so many memories in that little house, I remember bringing my babies home to it, the soft strum of my guitar on the porch- and the loud Lynyrd Skynyrd on the stereo. I fondly recall the meals I prepared, the friends I entertained, the tears when life was rough and the smiles when life was good.

Even  though the house is no longer there, it will always be there in my mind. So many “firsts” to remember, the first steps of my oldest son and daughter, the first furniture that I bought on my own. Painting the walls, the relaxing warm baths, the  poems I wrote in that bedroom and the pictures I painted in the kitchen.

It is almost always hard when a page turns in our lives. Even if what lies ahead is a bit exciting, it is a challenge to move on. I can close my eyes and see the white picket fence, the rose bush I planted when my first child was born, building snowmen with my kids,  or looking out the window and seeing the first car that I bought myself.

Life goes on, through good times and bad. The ages creep in that little house just as they did with me. There is something about a place that holds so many ” firsts” that keeps it written permanently in my mind. So, it is with the little house at # 10. It is a part of my parents first years, of my own first house, and that of my first two babies.

I can close my eyes and see the basket where kittens were born, where I held my newborns, where I dreamed dreams that actually came true once in a while. Little White House, you now live only in my mind  but you are part of me and I love you. I will never forget the night skies or sunrises I saw there. You will always live in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Red., White and Blue by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Red White and Blue
We don’t have no plastic L.A. Frynds,
ain’t on the edge of no popular trend.
Ain’t never seen the inside of that magazine GQ.
We don’t care if you ‘re a lawyer, or a texas oil man,
or some waitress busting ass in some liquor stand.
If you got Soul
We hang out with people just like you
My hair’s turning white,
my neck’s always been red,
my collar’s still blue,
we’ve always been here
just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
we’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue
Ride our own bikes To Sturgis
we pay our own dues,
smoking camels, drinking domestic BREWS
You want to know where I have been
just look at my hands
Yeah, I’ve driven by the White House,
Spent some time in jail.
Momma cried but she still wouldn’t pay my bail.
I ain’t been no angel,
But even…

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Still Unbroken by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Words to song:

Broken bones, broken hearts
Stripped down and torn apart
A little bit of rust
I’m still runnin’
Countin’ miles, countin’ tears
Twistin’ roads, shiftin’ gears
Year after year
It’s all or nothin’
But I’m not home
I’m not lost
Still holding on to what I got
Ain’t much left
Lord there’s so much that’s been stolen
Guess I’ve lost everything I’ve had
But I’m not dead, at least not yet
Still alone, still alive, still unbroken
I’m still alone, still alive, I’m still unbroken
Never captured, never tamed
Wild horses on the plains
You can call me lost, I call it freedom
I feel a spirit in my soul
It’s somethin’ Lord I can’t control
I’m never giving up while I’m still breathin’
I’m not home
I’m not lost
Still holding on to what I got
Ain’t much left
Though there’s…

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HB2 and my CAT-This is legit-please read

HB2 and my CAT- this is legit-so read it please! With this HB2 ( aka “The Toilet Papers”) so much in the news here in NC , I have a serious delima. I took my 6 year old cat to the vet this morning to get a rabies shot and they didn’t want to give it to HER without an exam, so I agreed to the exam. After thoroughly checking HER glands for possible infection, the vet felt that the cat was fine and could get the shot. However, he did have some rather surprising news for me, my cat, Cougar, who was found as a stray 6 years ago by my son, was a MALE.!!! It is NOT a FEMALE, as we have called ‘her’ and thought ‘she’ was for 6 years- since HE was less than a year old!!!! SO, HERE IS MY QUESTION– if my MALE cat identifies as a FEMALE because it had been told for most of its life that HE was a SHE, can HE USE our girl cats litter box? Oh, my,I’m SO confused!!!!

Brenda Lewis's photo.

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