10

One more post and then it’s time for bed. Besides being the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, today is special for another and more happy occasion. Today is the 10th birthday of Courtney, the girl who I call the daughter of my heart.  I met her when she was 10 months old and fell in love with her immediately. There’s been a whole bunch of water under the bridge since then but I still think of her often, especially on her birthday. I know her mother, who reads this blog, will pass on my love and birthday wishes.

Happy Birthday, Court! Hard to believe you’re double digits now! Miss you every day. Uncle Charlie

Anniversary

For Mother’s Day yesterday, I got a chance to share something from my mother’s cookbook with you all. Today, May 11th, I wanted to share another piece of writing from another woman that’s been a huge influence in my life. I wanted to share something written by my grandmother, Iva Harris Wright. She is the most remarkable woman and is someone I respect and admire greatly. She has a great sense of strength and faith that I have striven to emulate in my life. I can’t say enough good about her.

Over the last two days I have had ample opportunity to think of my grandmother for a number of reasons. Obviously, yesterday was Mother’s Day and mothers and grandmothers readily spring to mind. Today is another notable occasion but one that is not so obvious. Today is the 39th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing.

Since I was still a month away from being born at the time, I did not get a chance to know him.  But, because of my grandmother’s love and respect for him, shown through all the stories she has told me about him, I am sure that he was a great man and I regret that I shall not have the chance to know him personally.

The one thing that strikes me when I hear my grandmother speak of him is that she still, after 39 years, misses him daily. I know that today he is on her mind as he is every day. So I think of her and how she’s been without her husband for 39 years and I hate that she is lonely for him. I cherish every moment I have with her and hope there are many more to be had but I know that I will be smiling when God calls her home, knowing that she is finally reunited with the man she’s missed all these years.

The piece below is from a collection of verse my grandmother has written since she moved into the Cypress Glen Retirement home in 1993.  It is about her life with my Pappa (paw-paw), Reverend Carl Wright.

***

His Guiding Hand

It came about so gradually,
I really could not tell
Just when it started happening,
But I recall it well.

It was, I know, soon after
My graduation day,
My life was full of happy plans.
All seemed to go my way.

And then one Sunday morning,
Dressed neat, in coat and tie,
A young man sat before me.
Who could he be, thought I?

With dignity and reverence
He sat that summer day,
While others who were near me
Were whispering away.

His hand lay very quietly on
The backrest of the pew,
And somehow there, it spoke to me
Of character and devotion, too.

Before long, he was coming to
Our evening Epworth League.
We thought it very nice of him;
He was helpful, we agreed.

We found he was a hometown boy
Who’d spent his recent summers
As counselor of boys at Camp Cosby
And was hoping to help others.

He’d finished at Birmingham Southern
And was looking for work to do,
But because of those depression days,
There were no jobs to do.

The meantime, we took advantage
Of his willingness and skill
By making him our president,
But a vice-president was needed still.

Well, I was the one elected, and
Luckily we had to meet
Quite often, so it seemed to me,
For program planning each week.

We worked together also at
Our Summer Institutes,
Gathering food from farmers nearby
To feed the hungry groups.

And more and more I noticed that
He sought to be with me.
He also asked if he could have
The pleasure of my company.

He said, “Am I too old for you?”
“Well,” I said, “Not at all.”
So we began a courtship that
Blossomed on into the fall.

My plans for going to college soon
I realized could not be.
My father could not find the funds
To pay my bills and fees.

There were no jobs available,
No scholarships – how sad.
What disappointment was in store
For those lovely plans I’d had.

But when Carl said, “I love you.
I need you. Marry me.”
His plans became my own plans, and
Where he went, I’d be.

By this time, Carl had realized-
No longer could he delay-
He would say “yes” to God’s clear call,
That call he would obey.

We were married at the parsonage
By our dear pastor friend.
There ceremony was a simple affair,
But we were joined then.

We had to wait for several months
For Conference in the fall.
Then, if things went as we hoped,
We would receive our call.

My father’d retired from his postal job
And was seeking work to do.
He rented a nearby truck farm, and
He needed Carl’s help too.

My parents asked if we could stay
Until our call came through,
And get the farm in readiness;
There was much work to do.

During the summer, we were asked
To preserve all food and meat
To help us through the winter months
So we’d have plenty to eat.

There were more than a hundred peach trees,
Two acres of strawberries, too,
Plus other vegetables and fruits.
We canned sausages ready to use.

Finally, the waiting was over.
The Bishop let us know
That we were to serve a mining town-
Cordova, our first place to go.

We were so thrilled about our church,
We danced all over the room,
Then hurried home to spread the news,
And pack to move on soon.

We were given a small apartment there,
Not a big, old empty place.
‘Twas fine for us – just large enough,
Except for shared bathroom space.

The church was full of children, and
They needed a younger man,
So we felt we had been sent to a place
Where we would fit right in.

That year, it passed so quickly, and
We saw much poverty.
For the miners were on strike, you see,
And suffering desperately.

Then in the Christian Advocate,
Carl saw an interesting note –
A couple were being sought to serve
An island church, they wrote.

The church was on Harker’s Island,
Up on the N.C. Coast.
It sounded exciting, so we sent
The information needed most.

The forms were sent, but not returned.
Our decision? What should we do?
Should we leave the little church we loved
And take on something new?

Later on the Bishop said,
“Harker’s Island has been taken;
But just across the water there,
Marshallberg’s church is waiting.”

When this door was opened to us,
We followed our hearts and prayed.
We would leave our mountain homeland for
The land of sea and spray.

That seaside town was quite different,
The food cooked a different way;
The talk, it was not our talk,
But we could all sing God’s praise.

So the Alabama mountain’s folk
Met the Carolina shore,
And we started our life of moving around
And really stopped no more.

It was not long ’til we were blessed
With two little daughters, sweet,
Then two fine sons, so welcome,
To make our home complete.

The children brought real joy to us,
Through all their growing days;
And just when they had flows the nest,
God called Carl home to stay.

Today, I am remembering
The day God guided me
To recognize in Carl’s strong hands
The things a mate should be.

How very fortunate we were,
To have our thirty-six years;
Some easy times, some hard times, and
Some laughter through our tears.

When we began our life as one
We struggled in many a way;
But all of it was rewarding, and
It brings me happiness today.

“All along my pilgrim journey,
I want Jesus to walk with me.”

Split Screen Sadness

It’ s been a while since I posted the song in my head. It’s not that the music isn’t there. I just haven’t felt a song personally in a while. There’s a difference between having a song in your head and feeling a song in your heart, I suppose.

The song in my heart and in my head this morning was John Mayer’s “Split Screen Sadness”. Like so many songs you hear these days, it expresses regret over a lost relationship and lost opportunities to make a relationship work.

I don’t know nothing about that, nosiree.

I do like the song though. My favorite lyric, and one that speaks to me very personally, says “I can’t wait to figure out what’s wrong with me, so I can say that’s the way I used to be”.  I’m eternally laboring to discover my faults and figure out where I went wrong. I tend to believe that if I can just figure that out, I can fix all the mistakes I’ve made and make things work that just didn’t. I realize that this is a fool’s game but it makes me feel like I’m growing if I at least try to tackle my major failings.

The other line that sings out at me is one that makes me smile. I’m a pretty stubborn guy and like to fight for things long after it makes little sense to do so. I’ve never liked to quit, never liked to give up and have always been convinced that things could be seen through by judicious application of faith and perseverance. I don’t have any evidence to back this up as I’ve been proven incorrect again and again…but I’m assuming this means more faith and perseverance need be applied.

I could be wrong.

Anyway, the line says “I know it was me who called it over but I still wish you’d fought me ’til your dying day.” I kinda’ like the idea of fighting with someone until the end, even if you’re making each other miserable.

Maybe I’m just a romantic at heart.

Happy Mother’s Day from the Baby Birds

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m here to fulfill the one request my mother made of me today: write something for the blog. Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.  This one is just for you.

My intention for the Mother’s Day blog was to honor my mother by typing up one of her recipes in this space. Given that it’s two hours later than I’d hoped to get this done, that may have to wait until a time in which I’m not utterly exhausted.  I may be able to find a suitably short recipe if you’ll give me a moment.

Okay, the following is not short but it is a good story and mentions my great-grandmother, Granny Holloway. She is the woman responsible for raising my father and it seems appropriate to honor her and my mother on this Mother’s Day occasion. I hope you enjoy it.

***

Granny’s Recipe For Feeding Baby Birds

My Harris grandparents loved parakeets and they had more than one pair during the years I best remember them. One pair they had in the 1950’s were named Ike and Dick after President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon. (My grandparents were ardent Republicans during the years when most Alabama citizens were rabid Democrats.) My grandfather doted on them. He taught them to say “I like Ike” and “Dickie Bird” and they flew around the house freely or rode on his shoulders.

Granny Holloway loved birds as well. According to Sidney, she always kept a red bird (cardinal) in a cage and had an uncanny way of finding young birds that had “fallen from the nest.” Perhaps Granny helped some of them fall but, however she found them, she successfully raised them to adulthood and kept them for her pleasure.

When our children were small, we raised baby birds as well – once two blue jays we named Jack and Jill, and once several starlings. Sidney remembered Granny’s recipe for feeding baby birds and they did well. We kept them in a cardboard box until they began to perch on its sides and then we moved them to the back porch.

When they learned to fly, they enjoyed perching in the trees in the back yard but would come back to the porch to be fed. Later they perched on the telephone wires in front and flew down the street to greet Sidney as he walked home from the college. Unfortunately, they began to fly down to greet others who did not understand their friendly intentions. Our mailman and our neighbor were terrified when the birds began darting down from the sky and landing on their head and shoulders.

Unfortunately, Jack drowned one day, apparently while admiring his image in a tub of water. But Jill and the starlings lived to fly off into the trees and become independent. We suppose they did, that is. They came less and less often to be fed and eventually they didn’t come back at all. We hope they adapted themselves to the wild and lived long and happy lives.

Granny Holloway was half Indian (her mother was either full-blooded Creek or Choctaw) and she must have learned Indian ways. (Sidney was fascinated that, while she was working outdoors or in her garden, Granny would often pee while standing straight up and without removing any underwear. I have read that this was an Indian practice. Apparently she was wearing no underwear that required removal.) It may be that her joy in raising birds was one of her Indian ways. Her recipe for feeding them was simple:

Boil one small potato in its skin and cut it up fine. Hard boil one (or more) egg and mash it up very fine. Mix the egg with the potato. Feed the mixture to the birds with a pair of tweezers as often as they clamor for food (just stick it down their throats). Occasionally give them a drop or two of water from a clean eye dropper.

Keep the birds in a cardboard box with newspaper lining the bottom. Add small strips of newspaper to serve as nesting material. Change the papers often. When the birds become active and seem ready to leave the box, move the box outdoors but away from cats. Continue feeding them as needed until they fly away.

By the way, we don’t recommend caging wild birds.

***

Thanks, Ma, for the story and the recipe and for raising all of us and the baby birds. I know we’ve all flown away but it’s nice to know we can all fly back again when we need to be bed.

I love you and hope you’ve had a lovely Mother’s Day.