The first time I watched this short film it was late at night. My son had just left for college and in my room sat a leftover box. I kept waiting for eyes to peek… More
Today it began.
This is the day I begin the greatest adventure so far in my life. I declare myself incapable of failure … for in the end, I will be my own hero.
Currently I live in a noisy suburb of Atlanta. Behind my house an endless stream of cars whiz along the once quiet road, now a short-cut to avoid interstate traffic. Airplanes landing and taking off at Atlanta airport fly almost directly over the house a dozen times a day. By now I’m immune to the sound. Airplanes have been a part of almost half my life in some way or another, but I know they are there. Like the squirrels that live in the attic, I know they are there, they just don’t annoy me any more.
It’s how things are here. However ….
There is, three hours north of where I currently live, a quiet piece of mountain side property with a noisy creek that runs along the foot of it. Rue Anemone grows along the forest floor alongside fiddle head fern. Herds of deer cross the old logging trail that crosses my land, and high above my head a hawk makes home in the tallest hemlock.
The first time I saw it, it was covered in a half a foot of snow, but it took my breath away. I knew from the moment I saw it that it was my destiny. After all, I’d asked God for a sign and God GAVE me one. Okay, so it was a Berkshire Hathaway “For Sale” sign … but it was a sign none-the-less. Four months later I owned a piece of Serenity Mountain in Waynesville, NC.
That was the easy part.
The hard part is giving up my life here in Georgia where I have lived my entire life. Here, I’m close to friends and family … my veterinarian … my doctors … my hair stylist … the hot tamale place … my favorite deli … the places I hike … and everything else I’ve come to depend on.
My father, who in my opinion was the smartest man I ever knew, once told me that if I want to get from point A to point B smoothly, I may want to consider all the space between them. In that space lies an infinite number of choices all mine “ripe for the making”.
“Pick your way well,” he said.
That’s what I’m about to do.
MY A to B TO-DO LIST …. starting with “A” ….
- Spend as much time with friends and family as possible
- Purge the house of everything I don’t need/want/haven’t laid eyes on in five years
- Hike at least once a week
- Bake something and deliver it as a “thank you”
- Get the house ready to sell
- Pack and Move
- Become a feature writer for The Mountaineer in Waynesville, NC
- Build the new house on Serenity Mountain
- Keep up with this blog! Be faithful and write at least once a week!
- Keep my SH** together!!!
So I just realized while I was putting this blog together how “ungirly” of a little girl I was. My most memorable Christmas gifts, except for maybe one of them, are not the average “little girl gifts”! Maybe it’s because as a child I was mostly surrounded by boys … rough neck, frog-in-the-pocket boys, who were pretty much my only choice of play-mates in the neighborhood!
I had a few girly friends, but I’d much rather be playing in the ditches and building forts in the woods with the boys instead of sitting in the front yard brushing the hair of some bug-eyed baby doll. There were, I mean, only so many sub-plots you could play before the “Mommy and Daddy” game, got utterly boring. Kimberly whatever-her-last-name-was, took her Baby Alive and went home when I suggested we see who could throw our dolls further up on the roof of the house.
I never saw Kimberly again and that stupid Baby Alive was still on the roof when we moved away.
Never in a hundred years would I have suggested throwing my all time favorite Christmas gift EVER on the roof …
#1 GREEN TONKA TOY TRUCK WITH WHITE WALL TIRES
I got this for my fifth Christmas and I remember circling it in the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog like it happened yesterday! I’ve no idea where I originally saw it … if it was on TV or if someone in the neighborhood had one, but I made SURE Mom and Dad knew I wanted it. Don’t ask me what else I got that Christmas because I can’t remember a single other thing … but that Tonka truck … I LOVED that toy! And yes, I slept with it! It went everywhere with me and even as a teenager, it sat on my dresser and held lip-gloss and necklaces. Today it’s wrapped in newspapers and in my basement. Not even my son was allowed to play with it. Once I’m in Waynesville I want to have a special place for it so I can show it off! To this day, that Tonka Truck is one of my most prized possessions.
#2 THE EASY BAKE OVEN
So most little girls played with their Easy Bake ovens until either their cake mixes ran out or the bulbs burned out. Not me. I loved mine so much that my Mom would mix up little sandwich bags of cake mixes for me to bake! But that isn’t all! I remember taking left-over pre-cooked spaghetti, some sauce and cheese and baking tiny casseroles! I made tiny little biscuits … tiny cookies … and my favorite – a hot open faced Oreo with a tiny scoop of ice cream. I was wildly inventive and my Dad, ever the guinea pig of the Easy Bake Chef, always smacked his lips and would say “delicious” … even though it probably wasn’t so great. After all, there’s only so much you can to do to food with two 100 watt light bulbs.
#3 THE TWISTER GAME
As an only child, this game was incredibly boring for me until my Dad figured out that the three of us (me, Mom and Daddy) could play together if one of us held the spinner in our mouth and we all took turns spinning. It was actually more fun doing it that way than having someone sit on the side calling out the moves, because it always required someone to spin the spinner with whatever appendage was available and the spinner was passed along to the next person …. teeth to teeth. Yeah yeah … germs were shared, but the laughter was ferocious and some of the best times with my Mom and Dad was spent watching my Dad lift his toe up to my Moms face and them working together to try and spin the spinner!
#4 MY SPIROGRAPH and GREEN PEN
Of all my toys, this one both fascinate and frustrated me the most. Actually, my Dad enjoyed this toy more than I did, but we would have “doodling” contests to see who could “doodle” the longest before our wheel jumped the track. I think every Spirographer ran out of green ink first because it was such an unusual pen color at the time and boy did I covet my green pen!
But alas, I got caught by Mrs Wall “doodling” in class with my green Spirograph pen and a couple of gears and wheels, and my green pen was confiscated. Spirographing was never the same after that.
#5 MY LIONEL TRAIN SET ♥ …. AND THE YEAR SANTA WAS ‘OUTED’
If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never EVER forget the year I got my Lionel Train set, because that was the year I found out the truth about Santa.
It was 1967 and we lived on East Court Street in Hinesville, Georgia in an Antebellum home with beautiful beveled glass doors between the hallway and living room. My Aunt Lila and Grandma Hamilton were spending Christmas with us that year They were sleeping in my room and I was sleeping on the roll-away bed in Mom and Daddys room. We had all had a traditional cup of hot cocoa before bed Christmas Eve, but since Aunt Lila was there, she made mine “special” and put a peppermint stick in it (and more than likely a hefty dose of Peppermint Schnapps as well so I would fall asleep quickly).
I’ve no idea what time it was when I woke up and heard muffled talking in the living room. I timidly crept down the hall to the closed glass doors of the living room, where I saw Dad and Aunt Lila on the floor playing with a train set and Mom putting a T-Set out.
My cousin, Mike, was right. My parents WERE Santa.
I was mortified! So I did what any kid in their right mind would do …. I kept my mouth shut and crept back to bed just in case they took it all back once they knew “I KNEW”.
Christmas morning when they came in and “woke me up” … yeah, right … I’d lay there all night wondering what else was fake … would my ears really fall off if I didn’t wash behind them? … would my nose REALLY grow if I told a lie? …. were there REALLY Mommy spies everywhere I went who would tell her everything I did when she wasn’t around? These were things I was doubting now. And the Tooth Fairy … and Easter Bunny … and the “President of the United States” …. was HE even real?
Anyway, I played it cool, and my Daddy and I ended up playing with that train set all day. Aunt Lila crocheted an afghan, Grandma snoozed in the easy chair, and Mom folded up all the used wrapping paper into neat smooth squares. As for me, I just suspiciously watched them all for the first time in my life.
I don’t suppose I need to go into a long dissertation on how very proud of my son I am … how many times I looked at him yesterday and went “Wow …. that was my little boy!” I sat and wiped tears through the entire thing … happiness, sadness, pride, but most of all relief for him. He did it.
Both my kids went to school full time and put in over forty hours a week at work. They already know what their careers are like, and I believe they’ve both found the perfect place.
But back to Alex, he loved every moment … looking back every couple of minutes and smiling. I could see the happiness all over him!
Your bit of not-sure-you-should-laugh-or-cry moment of Zen for the day. The Herning Boys Choir eats a Ghost Chili Gummy Bear together and finishes “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”.
Well I’ve seen everything now.
My poor kids. Both grown and off on their own, each with their own particular style – but both simple, clean, artsy and bright.
For a couple of years now they have been avoiding the subject of who will INHERIT what … usually it’s in the form of “Alex can just have that” or “Just will that to Aly”. I’m thinking there’s a motive behind all this generosity. Neither want to be the one to be stuck with the stuff that I, myself, inherited. And I inherited a LOT!
You probably already know I inherited a ton of rocks which will be used in some way or another when I build the house on Serenity Mountain in Waynesville, NC. But I was also left stacks of vintage books from my parents, two Aunts and a cousin, a cloth clown that my mother made (its locked in my china cabinet – BTW, I’m TERRIFIED of clowns!), china from a Great Grandmother by marriage, and a blue stuffed spaceman from my husband,
Both kids want the Spaceman. The SPACEMAN!
Some things were easy to will away. My cousin LaWanda wants my mothers buffet, Granny Morris’ sewing machine cabinet, and if I’m ever found mangled from falling off a cliff, the china cabinet will go to her as well … along with my lifeless body stuffed inside (unless the kids change their minds).
Many of the things we’ve acquired over our 32 year marriage will have to be re-homed and upgraded … so my beautiful bedroom suit that will be MUCH too big for the Waynesville house, the dining room suit, living room suit, bonus room furniture and the rest of the occasional chairs will go to a local organization that helps displaced family’s in need.
My parents beautiful cherry wood bedroom suit will become a guest bedroom suit, the mahogany birthing/mansion bed I inherited from Grandma Hamilton will go in my study, and the china cabinet will be placed on it’s own wall in the country kitchen! A friend of mine, Mary Leslie, is painting a big guinea fowl to hang on the dining area wall. It will quickly become one of my new most prized possessions. The mirrored bowl and pitcher stand (or commode table that once held a slop jar) will go in the entry-way.
All of these things will someday need a home along with my parents journals, my own journals, photo albums, Bibles that belonged everyone in my family all the way back to Grandma Hamilton, movie films, and all of my Fathers memorabilia from his time in WWII. Who would want all this stuff? If I were the kids at their age and just starting life, I’m not sure I would be willing to take it on either.
They may not realize it, but I certainly don’t want to guilt them into taking on stuff they don’t have any desire to have. As a Mother, it’s one of the worst things you can heap upon your kids conscience. So, every so often I suppose I’ll be parting ways with something that means a great deal to me … but has the potential to mean at least a little something to someone else.
Maybe I’ll start with the clown. *shiver*
Louis Armstrongs version of Moon River is the very best! What is it about his husky voice that combines with the dreaminess of the song and makes it seem tremendously perfect?
And the very words …
“HUCKLEBERRY FRIEND” …
I had to look up the definition of a Huckleberry Friend.
Urban Dictionary describes a “Huckleberry Friend” as:
Evokes someone with whom one has a carefree, innocent, hopeful, gentle friendship. Bucolic wanderers and dreamy wonderers. Those with which to share a sun-drenched youth.
Yep … I’ve had a couple of those.
I came by it naturally … my obsession with rocks, shells , acorns, buttons from shirts, and so forth. My mother had the obsession is well. Everywhere we would go, she would pick up small rocks as a memento that we had been there – sort of like prehistoric Polaroids.
When I was just a little kid, we would be driving down a country road when Mom would suddenly holler for Dad to “Stop the car Cecil”, so we could all get out and haul a rather gigantic rock into the trunk. Sometimes it took all three of us to move the occasional boulder, but Dad was always so good natured about it. He loved Mom enough to let her bring home any rock she desired because she loved them so.
I don’t know how genetics work, but somehow, I too, am famously obsessed with them. All around the house stuff like seashells, rocks, acorns and old handkerchiefs have a special place. I even have a small box of buttons. But rocks … those have become my true hearts desire. Some are on display …. some are tucked away.
These days, when people go on vacation, they ask me what they can bring me back as a souvenir. My answer is always the same … “Just go find me a rock!”
Rocks are one of the things I truly enjoy the most in life! I love feeling of the rocks and sometimes I’ll actually smell them to see if they carry a bit of their homeland with them … like Pakistan or Germany! Both of those had a unique t scent. And while I won’t readily admit to it, a few people have accused me of sticking my tongue to a couple. But what I enjoy most about the “getting part” … is the story that’s always attached to it: how they got it, where they got it, sometimes there are photos .. but the “rocks story” is always lovely to hear.
My friend’s know me well and they tell me they actually enjoy going out and searching for the most perfect rock for me! One friend and his family searched the shoreline of Iceland for hours until they found one of the most interesting ones in my collection. All five of them were picking up rock after rock on the beach and his kids were arguing about who had found the best rock. It was getting late and suddenly there was a bright flash on the shoreline that got everyones attention. The Northern Lights were lighting up the evening sky! One small rock at at the waters edge caught the eye of his four year old grandson as it reflected the glow of the glistening Aurora Borealis! THAT was the rock they brought me back. Dan said his grandson held it in his hand all the back from Reykjavik!
I’ve been mailed rocks from some of the most beautiful places in the world! Friends send the rock and later post photos on their social page of the rock on the ground, a photo of them picking it up, and usually a photo of them with the rock standing in the beautiful scene! It’s become a “THING”! Friends online will pick a rock up from their yard and send it to me and do the same thing! Then there are those who include me in their incredible travel adventures and bring rocks back from places I dream of traveling …. like the Holy Land, the pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge, the Vatican, the high mountains of Peru, the deep caves of Mexico, and the peaks of the tallest mountains in the world! (I have rocks from 8 of the top ten peaks … and yes, Everest is one of them!)
So do you understand why I love rocks yet?
I have a THEORY about my rocks. Each rock that is being picked up and given to me has more than likely stayed in that general spot for millions of years … but in my theory, it has a destiny. It, by destiny, is selected out of all the other rocks and picked up just for me. The fingers that touched it and handed off to me, may be the only figures in history to ever have touched it. Some of my rocks are from the other side of the Earth but yet they end up here with me and placed in a very loved collection with other rocks from all over the world. That part I know. The “destiny theory” … well, I’m still mulling that one over.
As for the acorns, I place them in soil and watch them grow. Oak trees from the Middle East and Russia grow side by side in my yard, yet no one would ever know at a glance. But I know … and the people who gave them to me know.
On my property in Waynesville, I’ve buried over two dozen oak acorns from all over the world. I can hardly wait till spring when they wake up and poke their tops up through the soil!
In my basement I have a lot of my mother’s things.
Among those things is a ream size paper box and four metal coffee cans filled with thousands of small adorable rocks. A friend of mine suggested I go to a specialty mill and have a large sheet of Plexiglas poured and put part of my collection in it, that way I could see it them from both sides. She said it would make an incredible looking room divider or shower doors and frames.
I’ve also thought about doing one of the many rock designs you see on Pinterest. For now though, I take comfort in the fact that I’m simply obsessed with them. Each one, MILLIONS and MILLIONS of years in the making …. and I and only a tiny part of its story.
From 2011 … Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass. . An amazing trip! Landed in driving snow in Boston … I was on the last flight in before the airport closed. Then got the last rental car before the rental place closed down! From there, it was just drive with the storm towards Maine …. a two day trip turned into six – with stops in Salem and Rockport … and watching the snow get deeper and deeper. I pulled off the road as I was coming BACK through Concord. A romp through the snow awarded me this shot of the hillside I had never imagined!
The things I do.
This incredible Coconut Cake Recipe was passed along to me by my cousin and dearest friend, LaWanda Morris Floyd. Her Gran Gran used to make this cake and I couldn’t get enough of it! It vanishes at socials and because it’s made with Tropical Isle coconut and sour cream, it isn’t terribly sweet, just absolutely like taking a bite of heaven!
2 – 8 oz Containers Sour Cream
2 Cups Sugar
2 – 8oz Containers Cool Whip
1 – 12 oz Tropical Isle Frozen Coconut – divide in half
Your Favorite Yellow Cake Mix – enough for two 8 inch pans
Bake a Yellow Cake according to the package directions Two 8″ pans works perfectly.
Let the cake cool and cut the layers in half so you have four round layers
(For Coconut Frosting)
Mix Sugar and Sour Cream until sugar is dissolved.
Add the Cool Whip and only half the coconut … mix well and stick the bowl in your freezer for about ten minutes to thicken up a bit.
Once it’s chilled, heavily frost the top of each layer and stack them as you go.
Then heavily frost the sides of the entire cake and sprinkle the remaining 8 oz’s of coconut on the top and to the sides.
Let your Coconut Cake sit in the refrigerator for a few days before serving. SO worth the wait!!!
YOU MAY NOT USE ALL THE FROSTING. THAT’S OKAY … I FREEZE IT IN A CONTAINER AND USE IT AS PUDDING OR JELLO TOPPINGS.
In my basement there is a cardboard box filled to the brim with Blue Willow china. Place settings for ALMOST sixteen are wrapped in newspapers dated September 13, 1995 … almost two weeks to the day after Mom passed away.
Now before you stop reading, thinking “here comes a depressing piece, written by a down-in-the-dumps writer”, I need to tell you that this is anything BUT a depressing piece, and I am anything BUT down in the dumps.
This little tale begins around fifty years ago in 1966 when I was a mere six years old.
We, meaning my Mom, my Dad, and myself, were wrapping that Blue Willow china for our move from Macon to Savannah, Georgia. Dad was unpacking the china cabinet and handing the beautiful blue plates to me and mother, and we would wrap them in newspaper and stack them in a cardboard box. At the time, there were sixteen place settings along with assorted matching bowls, pitchers, and tea-sets. Mom was desperately proud of that Blue Willow set, because she had saved up Octagon Soap coupons and ordered the entire set through the mail.
I know this because every time we used that china, Mom would regale us in how she purchased that Octagon Soap for everyone she knew, just so she could earn enough coupons for the set. In other words, if you had a birthday coming up, more than likely you would get a bar of soap … well, a bar of soap along with a half of a pound cake or maybe a coconut cake.
Mom would tell this story with a lot of pride, and when she got to the part where she sent off the “bulging packet of Octagon Soap coupons“, she would ALWAYS be laughing at the idea that she bought soap every week for nearly two years, just to get that set of Blue Willow china. My Aunt Ruth would chime in, “The people at that grocery store must have thought you lived with the filthiest bunch of people!”
It was was her favorite “hard times” story to tell, and truthfully, I loved hearing it even though I didn’t have a CLUE what Octagon Soap was.
So anyway, there we were … wrapping her china, when Dad suggested that he and Mom have a cup of coffee. They vanished into the kitchen and I was left at the dining room table wrapping plates.
Don’t ask me how it happened … what strange event happened to cause the Earth to shift and yank the plate from my hand … I haven’t a clue.
But whatever it was that happened in that split second turned me from a cherub into an outlaw.
When I looked down and realized that the plate was broken almost perfectly in half, my heart plummeted like an elevator down to my toes. Since Mom and Dad were in the kitchen, I did what any normal six year old would do … I wrapped both pieces in a piece of newspaper, smuggled it down the hall to my bedroom and stuffed it between the mattress and the boxed springs.
Fast forward five more moves and it’s the late 70’s. I’m nineteen years old and Mom was unpacking her Blue Willow dishes and the one she had JUST unwrapped magically fell perfectly into two pieces in her hand. She looked at the plate as if she were wondering what strange event had caused the earth to shift and break one of her plates perfectly in half.
It was then that I spilled my guts, and since it was years and years later (and Mom hadn’t even missed the stupid plate), we both shared a good laugh until we had tears streaming down our cheeks.
So where, you might ask, had the Blue Willow plate been all that time?
Well, after unsuccessfully gluing it back together with school paste, I decided to bury the thing in the back yard once we were moved into our new house in Savannah. However, the ground was so hard, I could barely dig a hole big enough to bury a pecan, much less two broken halves of a Blue Willow plate. So, I hid it in the garage in a box of my toys I no longer played with.
During the NEXT move (when talk of a yard sale put the fear of God in me), I decided to try once again to hide the evidence by burying it in the only soft spot in our back yard. Almost a dozen months later a torrential rainstorm washed the dirt from around the buried plate (I was the only kid alive who routinely watched rain in a terrified horror), so I had to bring it back in and hide it once again. It stayed hidden in my Barbie Doll case until 1976.
I was sixteen and a glorious invention called Super Glue saved my life.
Late one night I covertly glued the plate back together and let it dry in the back of my closet. Several days later, at long last, it was slipped back into the china cabinet when no one was looking.
For thirteen long years that stupid broken plate had followed me around. It had been buried, hidden, smuggled, glued, and stuffed into a Barbie doll case. It had made my life a living nightmare at every dinner Mom decided to use the “good china”. I held my breath during every move, and once when the box of china slipped out of Dads hands and hit the corner of the table, I PRAYED for a few broken pieces! I surmised that maybe I could somehow slip that stupid broken plate into the box before anyone “outed” the missing one. No such luck. Everything survived.
I was bound for hell.
So, today the box of Blue Willow china is in the basement. On the very top of the stack of plates is a wrapped plate that is very clearly broken exactly in half. On the back, there is a tell-tale line of dirt mixed with school glue from one of my many attempts at repairing the plate … a plate that no longer “haunts” me, but rather comes along for the ride as I tell MY kids the story of that plate …
… that stupid blue willow plate that Mom got with Octagon Soap coupons.
ONE. I’m ONE measly DEGREE over the normal temperature. Incredible. One degree … yet I can feel the skin on my cheeks twinkling like Christmas lights. It’s currently snowing here in Atlanta, at least I think it’s snowing. In my state it could very well be ping-pong balls raining from heaven, but I’m pretty sure it’s snow. Or just ping-pong balls.
It’s the bronchitis season for me and thanks to my doctor, I’m armed with antibiotics and a miracle prescription drug I’ve heard some people refer to as “purple drank”. Even at only a quarter of the prescribed dose, not only does it do wonders for a cough, but it has caused me to grow an enormous pair of berries I suddenly became acutely aware of the very second I hit the “SEND” button on my GMail.
I was aghast. What had I done? I could never go back to my pharmacist again.
The thank you note I had just “carefully” composed and sent her was peppered with phrases like “my cough is fuzzy memory” and “flying the purple haze”. Is there an international watch list for people sending email when they have a fever? … I’m bound to be on it by now.
Three o’clock. Time for another dose. Which reminds me … I need to write the in-laws …