Archive for the ‘Syndicated’ Category

Mardi Gras

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

I’m attending a community planning meeting this morning to help save programs at my child’s school. Then helping my parents move some stuff at the new house. Then? Then, Todd and I get to go to our friend Lucy’s Mardi Gras party. Lucy is a Mobile native and they have a party every year. This is our first chance to attend, so we are very excited. Anyone have a great Mardi Gras-themed appetizer or side dish recipe?

And in honor of Lucy’s Mobile Mardi Gras party, i thought I’d post a link to information on the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center’s website about Mardi Gras in Mobile.

I could seriously spend two weeks straight going through all the awesome stuff digitized at The Library of Congress’ site.

A Solstice Story

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

As i mentioned briefly in another post, I have been a little stressed out. A little anxious. Todd and I decided to go to the lake this weekend to blow off some steam and relax. And by relax, I mean relaxing in the time-honored Palmer way, which is to work your ass off to near-exhaustion performing manual labor.

We went down Saturday afternoon and got there in time to warm the place up. (It was 40-something degrees when we walked in.) Todd started some yard work, the kids ran around like wild animals (a good thing), and I started some John Maghetti for dinner. After it was on, the sun was setting, so I grabbed a couple of beers for Todd and I, and went outside to play with the kids, watch Rollie hit the tennis ball with Todd (no we don’t have a tennis court), and shoot some pictures and enjoy my favorite time of day at the lake.

We took photos and ran around, then went inside and ate dinner while watching Elf. You can’t beat John Maghetti, and the fire going, and belly-laughing at Elf with your husband and kids for stress relief. Honest to God, I just about bust a gut when Buddy says to Jovi, “It’s just nice to meet another human that shares my affinity for elf culture.” That is some good stuff. Just kills me. I also love that Rollie would laugh along with me and think it was hysterical just because we thought it was hysterical.

So, we got up yesterday and had breakfast and then Todd and I worked in the yard all day long, cutting shrubbery back to tame the wilds and pulling vines out of high pine trees, and tearing mistletoe from dogwood. And the kids played. Now, usually they play and then fight for a while, then play some more. This was almost pure playing. Almost zero fighting. Just running around, and rosy cheeks, and noses running and then wiping their snot on their sleeves, and yelling to hear their echoes across the lake, and tiller being the master of all the dogs in the area – Choco, and Josie, and Quint all a swirling mass of furriness following her around. They threw rocks and earned two dollars hauling clippings up to the burn pile. We were all cold when we started, and then warmed up with play and work.

I felt tired but good. We worked til we just about fell out and it started getting dark. We made two absolutely huge piles of limbs and vines and leaves to be burned. We had windburn on our cheeks and blisters on our feet, and scrapes and sappy fingers.

And I had no anxiety.

We cleaned up and took showers and had a couple of beers. We warmed by the fire. We went to town with the kids and had pizza and then to WalMart to let them spend their two dollars. We went home and tucked in two tired kids and Todd let me watch four episodes of Friday Night Lights.

And I had no anxiety.

Todd went to bed during the last episode of FNL. I guess he just couldn’t take the mental turmoil of Saracen and Riggins, and Coach and Tami, and the rigors of living the west Texas high school football life. Or maybe he was just tired. I was fifteen minutes from midnight. I had places to be.

I opened a last beer and made that “let’s go outside to pee” sound that I make to the dog at night. I think i got that one from my Daddy. Some of you know the sound. Quint struggled to his feet (he is old and has arthritis), while I put on a hat and a sweatshirt and my old wool plaid barn jacket that I leave at the lake because it is ugly, but I love it and still like to wear it.

I went down to the lake, and purposely left the lights out so that I could see the stars. I debated getting a ladder out and trying to disable the damn security light, but a) I had consumed at least six beers at that point, and I’d probably fall off the ladder and b) Dad would see the light was out and I’d end up back up the ladder fixing the damn thing within weeks.

It was clear. I thought to myself, “Which way is East?

Easy. I had seen so many sunrises over that side of the lake, mornings fishing with Pop and Dad, up before dark, Grandma making me a thermos of hot sugar and milk with a drop of coffee, that I knew it by heart. I sat down on the far side of the dock, back to the pontoon and the power plant, on the narrow walk. I sat cross-legged, Indian style, criss-cross applesauce. I tucked a hand in my wool plaid pocket. Occasionally, I switched off hands in the pocket and hands on the beer. Mostly, I gazed up at a clear winter sky, and looked for meteors.

Quint came to sit near me. He wouldn’t lie down. He stared at me. He wondered what the fuck we were doing out in the cold midnight, when we could be on the couch near the fire. I saw it in his eye and the attention and cock of his ears.

I shushed him and rubbed his cold ears. I looked out across a glass-like lake, not a ripple on it, with no wind in the trees. i heard the plant occasionally, and wished I couldn’t hear it. I imagined what it would have sounded like on a lake with no power, what it would be like with nothing but natural light, the light of stars and moons. I couldn’t. There were Christmas lights across the lakes. I heard geese, and nothing else. I saw a couple of planes, the only other sign of life in this strange December 20th night. One day before Winter Solstice, ushered in by the Ursids.

The lake was so calm that I could see the reflection of the brightest stars on its surface. And oh, the stars!

A blanket of stars in a swath across the eastern sky, for me and me only, reflected on my lake. It was five after midnight. No meteors yet. And then there was one. And then it was gone.

I sat for almost an hour, sipping my beer slowly, staring at the sky until my eyes grew tired. I would see a shooting star and it would be gone, and I felt that familiar star-gazing feeling of relief that I was really seeing something, and awe that I knew to look that night, that man has learned so much about something so boundless.

I wondered about the other folks who might be out looking up that same night, the night before the Winter Solstice. And yet I was so alone, just me and my dog. I could slip into the lake and no one would ever find me. I stood and walked back to land. I stood there at the edge of the lake shivering, Quint sitting patiently at my side, and told myself I would go in when I saw the next meteor.

I saw it, streaking across the sky, and then it was gone. I went inside and crawled into bed with my husband and I was happy and satisfied and feeling small and big all at the same time.

And I had no anxiety.

Clark Griswold, Robert Gibbs, Bartimaeus, and Jesus

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

No, this is not the beginning of a joke. It is the only title i could come up with for this post that covered it all. It started out that I was posting about Todd’s high school friends’ husband’s light display, and veered off into a discussion of my Mother-in-law’s failed dreams for Todd’s future, Todd’s 20th high school reunion, and a Houston minister’s sermon, inspired by one of my blog posts, wherein the Minister compares me to Bartimaeus and Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. (No laughing.)

You try and give this post a better title . . . .

Yes, I know Clark Griswold. Or, at least, we’ve met. He’s married to the girl Todd was supposed to marry. You know, if my mother-in-law had gotten her way. Her name is . . .well, we’ll call her “G.,” and she and Todd went to school and church together growing up in Auburn. Their parents are friends and Todd’s mom worked at the church, and his mom finally told me one day, not long after Todd and I married, that she always wished that Todd had dated G. G was sweet and Christian and smart and exactly what Peggy thought she wanted in a daughter-in-law. I think maybe she thought some of this goodness would rub off on Todd. She must have told me 30 million times that Todd used to get in trouble in school. (I think she still holds a grudge about the wringer she was put through due to Todd’s behavior, and now that I am a parent, i understand.) G would tell her that Todd always had the smartest answers in class, and my MIL was just baffled by his behavior. G could see the goodness in Todd! She was perfect. I believe my mother-in-law also secretly coveted an arranged marriage for Todd’s younger brother and G’s younger sister. None of this came to pass, of course, because I am a complete and total Maneater, and we don’t often practice arranged marriages here in the South, even in Alabama.

I never met G. in the many years Todd and I have been together. G’s parents came to my wedding and we would see them around town when visiting Auburn. I even met G’s little sister at one point. But no matter how often i heard about her, I never met G until Todd’s 20th reunion. You know the one. Robert Gibbs, Press Secretary for President Barack Obama was there? It was the one where I got bored and pretended to be one of Todd’s absent high school friends after his sex change. Yes, I am now probably on some kind of CIA/FBI list for impersonating Robert Gibbs’ high school classmate.

So, I finally met my competition, G., and her husband, Clark. And it turned out we hit it off, and now we are friends on Facebook, and she reads my blog. She even used something she read on my blog as inspiration for one of her sermons. (Certainly a first.) Yes, she is a preacher. Or minister. Or whatever she calls herself. I am not sure. We grew up calling the person who did the sermon ‘the preacher.” If you are so inclined, please listen to the whole sermon, as G. is really a great writer and speaker. My mention in the sermon comes in about the last fourth of the sermon. I must add that she did me great justice in the sermon, because I am certainly not as compassionate as she makes me out to be. It did make for a great sermon, though!

So, with all of this high drama, I barely had a chance to get to know her husband at the reunion. I wish I had. I really want to know the man that has the vision to create the following light display. No, I am not an Auburn fan. But I married into an Auburn family, and I do have an appreciation for the fanatical desire to stamp a team logo on one’s house in large, bright, multicolored, musically-coordinated lights to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.

And I just love G. all the more for being a Minister in Houston whose house looks like this during the Christmas season.

2009 Lights On Merrimac Ridge Animated Lights from Merrimac Ridge on Vimeo.

Peace and Joy and Stinky Polyester Santa Suits

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

One of the great things about being an adult at Christmas is seeing pictures like this one of my nephew. Pictures of babies bawling on Santa’s lap.  Nothing says, “Peace and Joy” like children terrified of creepy guys in smelly old polyester santa suits!??

What a crybaby!

What a crybaby!

I didn’t have time to fool around with resizing the photo (deadlines yo!), but it had to be larger to get the full effect of the terror. I know, shoddy.

(For those of you who are curious, this is the Lenox Mall Santa.)

Don’t Puppydog It

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I have been putting this off. Every day since Pop died, I have thought about the fact that I haven’t written about it, and I have put it off another day. It has kept me up at night. Some nights it has almost made me sick. I know that it is normal to have some kind of delayed reaction to grief, and for grief to come to me in phases is normal. But I don’t think that is the problem.

Don’t Puppydog It.

That’s what Pop used to say to me when I was learning to hammer nails. Don’t Puppydog It. It meant that you needed to aim true, hit the nail on the head, not miss and hit the wood around the nail, causing indentations where the hammer head hit. A few indentations around the nail gives the appearance of a dog’s footprint. Don’t Puppydog it means “take pride in your work.” You didn’t want to Puppy Dog it when Pop was watching. You didn’t want to hear, “You’re puppydoggin’ it!” in an exasperated voice.

And I think the reason that I haven’t wanted to write this is that I don’t want to PuppyDog it. But I also know that fear of failure is almost always worse than the doing of that thing. So here goes.

I’ve written quite a lot about Pop here on Dogwood Girl.

I wrote about him and Matilda and their bonding and his strange depression-era ways. I wrote about him reading a post I wrote on his 90th birthday. My Mom printed it out so he could read it, and he thought it was his obituary. I wrote about my heavy-hearted drive down to Warner Robins the day before Pop died. And on the day that died, this is all I could muster.

But there is more to say. I loved Pop, and as a child, I probably respected him more than my other Grandparents. I think I thought he was perfect back then. Of course, we grow up, and we learn that people are not perfect and that sometimes the people who seem perfect are the ones that are trying the hardest to cover up that they aren’t perfect. Pop wasn’t perfect. He was vain and stingy. He desperately wanted people to like him, I see now, but most people just thought he was the nicest old man they had ever met. But he could be hardest on those closest to him. He would sometimes share with friends and neighbors what he never would have shared with his own family. In later years, when I had children (and the new perspective that children bring to life), I still vacillated between anger at his disapproval, his inability to show pride and approval to my father, his tight-fistedness, and forgiveness for his ways; After all, he had never had a mother and father to teach him about right and wrong and trusting others, and to demonstrate love. He had an Uncle who beat him, and an Aunt who surely loved him, but had a son of her own and two other nephews to care for also, in a time when women were surely not able to speak up about things like unfairness to an orphaned child taken into the family.

Words of kindness from my Grandfather carried more weight with my family than those from other folks. As a child, when I left my Grandparents’ house, my Grandfather would stand rigid when I threw my arms around him for a hug. I would hug him. He would uncomfortably pat me on the back or head. He would say, “Stay off Dope” instead of “I love you.” I still remember the first time he wrote “Love, Pops,” instead of just “Pops,” on a card.

There were good things, though – he was not all cold and thrifty. He and Grandma gave us Hope Chests. I think that these used to be for a girl to keep things she made or was given, to take with her when she got married: Linens, china, silver, etc. I am not sure, because all I ever kept in mine was junk from childhood – Dead flowers from high school boys, my diploma and cap and gown, my Varsity letter, adoption dolls and Madame Alexander dolls, class photos, costume jewelry, and the blue and white blanket my grandmother crocheted for me. Very little of this would actually be useful in a marriage, and I am sure Todd thanks his lucky stars that I brought this trunk full of junk to our holy union; Every man needs a wife who keeps her baby Snoopy stuffed animal from second grade, her childhood diary, and every note ever written to her by stupid schoolgirls from 7th through 10th grade.

One year, Pop gave us a doll case. It was a handmade, wooden case, painted blue, with quilted material inside in a floral pattern. Tiller has it now and it still spills out the Barbies of my childhood. (My sister and I still want to ditch the kids one Friday night, open a bottle of wine, and play Barbies.) Another gift was a girly gilt mirrored tray, with matching brush and hand mirror. I did not keep mine, but kind of wish I had, despite the fact that I can imagine exactly what Todd’s face would look like if I brought it into my house today.

One Christmas in Alpharetta, my sister and I got a Barbie Dream House. I remember Pop and Daddy trying to put the damn thing together, and I was telling them how to do that. I did that a lot. One of their favorite stories is of me, at about age five, telling them how they should cut down the fallen pine trees on our house and porch, after the 1978 ice storm. I think of that every time one of my children tries to direct me or Todd in a task today. Kids are funny – they really do think they know how to do everything!

My other memories of Grandma and Pop were mostly of their house or the Lake. We would be at the lake for a weekend and after breakfast on a Saturday morning, Grandma would get dressed to “Go to town.” This involved putting together a well-matched ensemble of pantsuit, fancy polyester dress shirt of some sort, with corresponding matching jewelry: A necklace, “earbobs,” and a pin (she said it kind of like “peon”) which was a brooch. She would put on her lipstick and her powder and then we girls (her and Lisa and Me and sometimes Mom) would go to the Milledgeville or Houston Mall, where we would walk around and look at stuff, usually in Belk’s. By the time we got home, i would be rarin’ to go outside and hang out with Dad and Pop.

In my mind’s eye, it is cool, maybe Fall. I am wearing a navy windbreaker, with Garanimals, probably the pants are plaid, and a solid red or blue ribbed turtleneck. I am pony-tailed, and wearing Zips. I am tagging along with my dad and Pop. I am maybe six. I am the Gofer. “Mouse, fetch that bowsaw,” Dad would say. Or Phillips screwdiver. Or awl. Move that sawhorse. Get that level. Hold this piece of wood. One time, I was holding wood while Pop sawed it. The saw skipped and caught me across the finger. I was bleeding. Pop told me to hold the wood while he finished cutting and then we would go in and get Grandma to look at it. That’s how Pop was sometimes – Unsympathetic. Cold. When I catch myself being this way with my kids, telling them to “suck it up,” I try to remember that it’s okay to teach your kids to be tough, and to stick things out, but not to be unfeeling about it.

But I loved being a kid and hanging out with them, and learning to mix cement, or measure wood, or build stairs. And sometimes, after we worked, we fished, and I remember learning to clean fish with him and Dad. Or we would walk around the yard, surveying our day’s work, and Pop would point out little things for me to do, like trimming a shrub, or digging up a stump, or deadheading something, or digging up potatoes. Pop never sat still. Even when he did sit, I can remember him sitting in the middle of the grass, pulling weeds, using a pocket knife to get the stubborn ones. He would always have a pocket-knife in his pocket, for pulling weeds, or cutting electrical tape, or sharpening a pencil, or paring a pear, or cutting up meat for the dog, or cleaning dirt out from under his nails. I have his old Case pocket-knife now, and I used it a few weeks after he died to cut a piece of carpet, and then I cried. That’s the only time I’ve cried over Pop. I was like that when both Grandmas died, too. I cried over Grandma Smith when I found bottles of Early Times in her closet at Mom and Dad’s house.

I used to love to walk around the yard with Pop, him pointing out the names of plants and shrubs and trees. I owe my love of growing things to Pop. I think of him, wearing his pants and long sleeve shirts even in the dead of Summer, every time I walk around and look at the things growing in my yard. I think of being in the yard at the lake one weekend during college, wearing his old flannel work shirt, and a pair of cut-off jeans with tights and Doc Martens. He laughed in a kids-these-days way, and shook his head and told me, “We never cut up our dungarees like that.” He eyed my boots. “Those look like sturdy brogans.”

Pop started slowing down a lot in the last ten years. He didn’t go to the lake anymore. He stopped saving bread for the birds. (He still saved leftovers mom and dad brought for him in styrofoam takeout containers on the stove. There was a learning curve for Todd and the kids, where they had to learn that if pop offered you food, you probably shouldn’t take it unless it was pre-packaged. Fried chicken on the stove could have been there for a week or more.) He got to where he would only eat certain things. Canned baked beans (cold), Vienna sausages from the Dollar Store, a cereal bar, homemade pimento cheese, and some diet soda. (Generic store brand, of course, like Big K.) I am not kidding – he almost lived off this stuff for the last five years of his life.

He also got to where he would tell the same stories, over and over. Even todd could recite them: When forgetful, he would say that he “needed to download new software.” He thought it was funny when I yawned and made a loud yawning noise. He would say, “Well, you don’t have to holler!” after my yawn. He would tell a story about him telling Grandma that he was going to write a book one day when he got to be an old man. She would retort: “You’re an old man now!” He thought that was the funniest thing. He would say, “meer” instead of “come here” to the dog. He called Grandma “Ezlynn” instead of Evelyn sometimes. And she called him “The Goat Man.” “Ooooweeee! You look like the goat man, she’d say to us, when we came in muddy or dirty.” Pop and Aunt Lena Mae, his sister, and i were the three Goat men. We were the ones who always got the messiest, although sometimes Aunt Lessie was a goat man, too. Or my Daddy. I think people think Lisa and I are nuts when we use the term Goat man, but it is forever part of my vocabulary. I got my Goatmanishness from my Pop.

We knew Pop was dying. It was slow. He went from the hospital to the hospice. He was there a couple of weeks. They were about to send him home, because he wouldn’t eat, and he wouldn’t rouse, but he wouldn’t die either. Mom and Dad were freaking out about how they would care for him. And then he seemed to take a turn for the worse, almost as if he knew that going home would cost a pretty penny for his family, and he wasn’t going to waste that money on extra dying time!

On the 4th of July, Todd and I took the kids to fireworks at Chamblee. I remember looking up at them, looking over at the wonder on my children’s faces at the fireworks, remembering another time – one of my most precious memories of my Grandma Palmer – that I watched fireworks with her on Tybee, tears rolling down her cheeks. She had alzheimer’s by then, and I thought she was crying over the beauty of the fireworks. And she was, but when they were over, she turned to me, still crying tears of happiness, and said, “I haven’t ever seen fireworks before!” Of course, she had, but she didn’t remember that.

I sat on the blanket at Chamblee, and I realized tears were rolling down my own cheeks. Partly for the love of my children and their sense of wonder and the thought of their whole lives ahead of them. Partly knowing that an era in my life was gone, a whole generation was dying with the coming death of my grandfather. I was not long for the world as a girl with Grandparents. I was becoming more a mother, and a daughter, and a wife. In the big picture, the passing of my last grandparent signaled that the next generation was my own Mother and Father. It signaled that I was taking my parents’ place in the world. I was 37 years old, watching fireworks, and i was not a child myself, no matter how much i still felt like one.

I drove down that Sunday, July 5th. I went to Hospice in Perry, GA. My father, still recovering from heart surgery, could not stay. My sister and I spent the night with my grandfather, and we all thought that he would go that night. He didn’t. His breathing came shallow, but it marched on through the night.

In the morning, Lisa went home to mom and dad’s to take a shower. I stayed with Pop. I held his hand and read a book. I don’t know if he knew i was there.

Mom and Lisa came back late morning. Mom went outside and Lisa read aloud to Pop from the bible. She went outside with Mom

I was alone with Pop.

I had read in the literature that hospice gives to families that sometimes people who are dying will “hang on” out of some sort of obligation to their family, and that they need to be told it is okay to let go. It almost seemed that was what was going on with Pop. Or maybe, as we had joked a million times, he really didn’t want to leave his savings behind.

But to tell someone that it is okay to let go? He had been on this earth for 93 years. Almost a century. I had been here barely over a third of that time. Who was I to tell him how to die, if it was okay to let go? It just felt so . . . presumptuous. But I knew that it had to be said. Somehow I knew that was what he was waiting for. He was a complete control freak in life, and he needed to know that he could relinquish control.

I am a person who spends too much time thinking. Too much time typing and writing. I do not tend to voice my feelings aloud. I will tell you what I think of YOUR problem, or if I don’t like someone, i will say so. But I rarely say the big things, the heavy things, the things that will really hurt someone I care about. Spoken words have so much power for things that are so impermanent. You speak a word, and it disappears at once into the ether, but the echo of it carries on in your head after it is spoken. I have always struggled with voicing the difficult things aloud.

I sat in that room with my Grandfather, and I talked to him. I told him I loved him. I told him he had lived a good life and that he should be proud of all the things that he accomplished in his life. I told him that if his parents had lived to see him become a man, they would have been so proud of him. I told him that he was a good husband, and a good father. I told him he was a wonderful Grandfather and that I loved learning about plants and work from him, and that the moments I spent traipsing around the yard with him, getting dirty, were invaluable to me, and that one day i hoped to do the same with my own grandchildren, and that I would tell them all about him.

I told him that it was okay for him to go, that when he got to heaven, he would get to see Grandma again, and all of his siblings who passed before him, and that he would finally get to be with his parents again. I told him that Princess and Tiny, his dogs, would be there, too and would be so happy to see him, and Princess would run in wide circles around him like she did as a puppy.

I told him that we would meet him there some day, too. I don’t know if we will meet him there, but i said it anyway. Excepting possibly saying “I do” on my wedding day, or the first time I said my children’s names aloud while gazing into their brand new faces, these were the most important and heavy words that I have ever said to another person.

I sensed the peace that came over him, that came into the room. Or maybe it just came over me. I sat with him in silence after that, holding his hand, until mom, Dad, and Lisa came back in.

I left to go home and change, and get some lunch with Dad. Dad had left and “said goodbye” to Pop, and he did not want to go back to the hospital. We knew it would not be long, though, and I could tell that Dad was torn – part of him did not want to be with Pop when he died. Part of him felt he should be there. He grappled with it all during lunch. I finally told him that I was going back, and that I wanted to be there, and that everyone understood if he didn’t want to be there. He looked almost like a child as he struggled with whether or not he should go. I could tell that he wanted someone to tell him what to do, but I knew that I couldn’t tell him, and he had to decide himself.

I told him i was going and could drop him off at the house, or he could go back to Perry with me. He decided to go.

When we got there, it was apparent that Pop was letting go. We sat with him, watching his breathing, in and out, like a terrible ticking clock. Then, the nurses needed to check on Pop, and we all moved to the family waiting room, which is so nice, it’s like a parlor – Couches and a television, coffee tables with magazine and flowers, and clean bathrooms with brass fixtures.

The nurses came in and said that we better come back in. Dad went in, and he was near to losing it, I could tell, as if he was an animal trapped in a snare and he was starting to panic. In the end, he could not stay till the end. He had to leave. I thought of that scene in Steel Magnolias where the men just can’t take it and have to leave the room while Julia kicks it.

In the end, it was me, and lisa, each of us sitting with Pop. Mom was in the room, sitting on the couch, and leaving the hand-holding to us. I sat on his right, and held his right hand. Lisa stood on his left. We talked him out of this world, whispering that we loved him, stroking his head, holding his hands. It seemed that he was not in any pain when he went. He was peaceful. And somehow I felt at peace, too.

I kissed his forehead. I said goodbye.

Afterwards, we collected his things, things with an owner no more. A person can be dead and still have shoes, and you look at the shoes like they are out of place, and all the while, those shoes are screaming, “I am Walter’s shoes!” Lisa and mom got some papers and things, and i sat out on the picnic table and looked up at the sunny sky, a sky over a world with no more Pop in it.

That was back in June. I started writing this in July or August and just couldn’t quite finish it. I would work on it, and then get to missing Pop, and missing the feeling that I had a grandparent still with me, and I would put it away to finish later.

But I knew I had to finish it this year, that I owed it to Pop, and to myself, to get it all down, so that I would remember it all. Pop, I hope I got this right.

I hope I didn’t puppydog it.

And some photos of Pop’s life:

He never met him, but Pop’s grandfather, Hartwell Hamby Palmer served in the Civil War for North Carolina. What a strange link to what seems so far in the past.
HartwellHambyPalmer

And Pop’s mother’s father, John Thomas Knowles, served too, with Pop’s great-grandfather, Benager Birdsong Knowles. They served for Georgia. John Thomas Knowles is pictured below, with Pop’s grandmother, Sarah Patience Hood Knowles.
JohnThomasKnowles_SarahPatienceHoodKnowles
Sarah died when Pop was a teen, and I asked Pop if he remembered her, but his memory was gone by that time, and he couldn’t. If you still have grandparents around, ask them everything they can remember about the old folks who were around when they were children. I wish I had asked so many more questions of my grandparents!

This was Pop’s father, John Lewis Palmer.
JohnLewisPalmer01.jpg

And his mother, Ludie Margaret Knowles Palmer:
LudieKnowlesPalmer2.jpg

And Pop with his siblings at their home in Broxton, Coffee County, GA.
Palmer Children, About 1918
Pop is the baby. Not pictured is the youngest sibling, Carl, or their older half-siblings, Leta Estelle Palmer and Curtis Lee Palmer. This was not long before Pop’s parents died. A relative told Dad that someone bought this old house and is renovating it.

Pop, probably around the time of his high school graduation, Martha Berry School for Boys, Rome, Georgia. 1930s. Pop left the home of his Aunt and Uncle, Wiley Byrd, and Bettie Knowles Byrd, for Berry at age 11. He took the train from Jeff Davis County, Georgia, to Rome to go to school there and stayed until his graduation. He heard about the school from a traveling preacher who visited the farm in Jeff Davis.
1930s_berryschool_WalterPalmer

Pop and a friend, playing in the snow at North Georgia Military College, Dahlonega, Georgia. 1930s.
1930s_NrthGaMilCollege_Dahlonegha_unknownandWWPalmer

Pop, his brother Carl, and a friend, hopping a train. I doubt they were really riding the trains, but the picture makes me laugh at its playfulness. 1930s.
1930s_WalterWoodrowPalmer 002
Pop and Grandma on their honeymoon.
1940aprEvelyn_walthoneymoon

Pop and Dad. Savannah, Georgia, about 1943.
1943_cecil_walter_savannah

Pop and Grandma at Mom and Dad’s wedding. June 21, 1969.
1969_popgrandmawedding

My mom with her mom, Vivian Dunstan Smith, and Pop and Grandma. 1969, the year my parents married.

1969_December_Xmas_02

Pop, Grandma, and Grandma’s sister, Aunt Lessie (center), cleaning fish in FL. c. 1973
PopLessieEvelynFL1973

Pop, with beard. 1976. He grew it out as part of the Mason’s celebrating the Bicentennial.
Bicentennial Man, 1976

Pop with Me, Lisa, Dad, and Grandma. Christmas, 1980s.
1982_family
Don’t hate me because I had a pink E.T. shirt and you didn’t.

Me and Pop, sitting on the couch in Roswell. Christmas, some time in the early 90s. I didn’t just post this because it shows you that I used to be a waif, but also because you get a good glimpse of Pop giving me the “Kids these days” look. And I was a waif. Not sure what i was doing with my hair here. Must have gotten crazy and chopped it off and died it black.
college_0049

Pop with me and the kids. God, I forgot how cute Rollie was at this age! Pretty special to have so many pictures of them with their great-grandfather. I hope that they will remember him, but i doubt it.
Pop, Me, and the Kids

I think this was my longest post ever. Hope you don’t feel like you wasted your time if you got this far. Thanks for reading.

I still love you, Pops!

Tucker Tree Lighting

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I took a few photos on Tuesday when we attended the Tucker tree lighting. Todd was working late, so the kids and I hit Matthews Cafeteria. It was great and if you haven’t had it, you should check it out. Old school southern cooking, kid-friendly, and very time-warpy. We know I love a good time warp.

Todd met us and ate the kids leftover dinners (Too much excitement! Christmas Trees! Other kids from School! Santa! Can’t eat anything, but will suck down a lemonade like nobody’s business!) and then we headed up main street, across the railroad tracks, and into the roped off section of downtown Tucker. Kids were running around willy nilly in the glow of Christmas lights. Shop owners were giving out hot chocolate and coffee and candy canes, and the Tucker Lodge (Masons, i guess?) had a tent and fires set up for roasting marshmallows. The Tucker tree was beautiful and lit in colored lights.

The kids roasted their marshmallows and went back to have smores made, and then we ate them across the street on the curb and people-watched. I ran into the new consignment furniture store run by the Tucker Arts Guild, Regroup Furniture. Pretty good selection. I came back out and the kids were running in circles, chasing each other and generally looking wild-eyed, while Todd was talking to our old East Atlanta neighbor, Howard, who is a cop and his beat is our new neighborhood. We see him at least every couple of months, which is nice.

We sat and looked at the tree lights, and then Tiller had a meltdown and we headed back for home, skipping the Santa they had set up in the frame shop. The kids didn’t even notice, thank goodness, as we would never have gotten home.

It was fun to see my friends and neighbors, and for the kids to know people walking down the street. I love that small-town community feel that we get here. The whole thing reminded me very much of the Christmas Tree they had in downtown Alpharetta when I was a little girl, all magical to my little eyes.

I just wish that Tucker had some carolers and maybe, just maybe, a bar. Or at least a liquor license. Or a glass of wine with my din din. It’s like the worst of both worlds – No Christmas Carols, no nativity scene, no menorah, and no booze. Bah humbug, Tucker, but i love ya, anyway.

The Ghost Toys of Christmas Past

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

So, my online friend and fellow blogger, Melanie, wrote a really funny post about having to find a particular toy for her daughter for Christmas. Zhu Zhu pets?

I know that my mother is just waiting in the wings to laugh her butt off at me when I go through this v. same thing some Christmas soon. She is still bitter about the whole Cabbage Patch Kid shortage in the early 80s. Girls in Georgia, before Roberts sold out to Mattel or whomever, called these “Adoption Dolls.” They were sold in high-end toy shops, and they were ridiculously expensive. Never mind that my sister and I, living in GA, already had original, signed Xavier Roberts dolls. Two each, no less. That’s right, Annie Mouse and Sport Model were too good for just one $100 dollar craft doll each. Oh, no! We had to have the plastic ones too. Boy, those cabbage patch girls really didn’t smell very good. And I never loved the plastic mass-produced ones nearly as much. I know it is wrong to say that you love one of your children more than the others, and this is true in the adoption doll world, too. But I loved Minerva Vivian and Betsy Eunice, and even knock-off adoption doll, Stephanie Lynn (named her myself), much more than. . . hmm. . . what was her name again? Maybe Lisa will remember. Update: Just went and found her papers in my hope chest, along with all the girls. Ginger Minnie. That was her name.

Ginger Minnie, Cabbage Patch Kid

Ginger Minnie, Cabbage Patch Kid

Cecil, being Cecil, thought that he could get away with the knock-off Adoption Doll. And sure enough, I loved blond, green-eyed Stephanie.

Stephanie Lynn, the knock off

Stephanie Lynn, the knock off

Lisa’s blond, blue-eyed knockoff was Samantha. Minerva, a real Xavier Roberts, was big-boned, red-headed, freckled and green-eyed. Not the prettiest doll on the block, but my first real one, and I loved her.

My first real Xavier Roberts doll.

My first real Xavier Roberts doll.


Then there was Betsy Eunice – black-haired, green-eyed, and well-proportioned, just like Scarlett O’Hara in plush doll form!
My second, dark-haired beauty

My second, dark-haired beauty

And then there was Lisa’s Tiffany.

Oh, Tiffany. . . bless her heart.

I must dig Tiffany out of hiding. Lisa, where is Tiffany? We need to post a picture of Tiffany, particularly of Tiffany’s very strange legs. Preferably a picture of Tiffany naked. This is the most bow-legged adoption doll in creation. They also neglected, at Babyland General, to give Tiffany a waist. So, sad. All of the other adoption dolls, and their mothers, whispered about Tiffany behind their hands when she was carried into a room.

And then we made picket signs out of poster board, sticks from outside, and scotch tape, and proceeded to set up a “Mom and Dad, Please Quit Smoking” picket line in my parents’ bedroom, each adoption doll holding a sign. I can tell you that if that didn’t convince my parents to quit smoking, nothing will convince a parent to quit smoking except for their own decision to quit. We were quite the Carrie Nations. We also used to try to charge my Mom’s side of the family for cussing. Most four-letter words were ten cents. The big ones were a quarter. We loved it when my Uncle Charlie and Cousin Finley got together, because we were assured of a windfall when they came to town. I will never forget that one time, Finley came in and said, “Hell, Charlie, just give the damn kid a fuckin’ twenty!”

Anyway, as of this year, my kids want absolutely everything in sight, but they have not narrowed down their wants to one particular, hard-to-find item. Knock on wood. If you have kids, is there a particular must-have item this year? What special things are you getting your kids? And what special must-have items did you get as a kid? Do you have any funny stories of your parents or yourself staking out K-mart of Richway for that perfect toy?

Oh, and p.s.

You don't want to know what else I found in this hope chest i've had since middle school.

You don't want to know what else I found in this hope chest i've had since middle school.