The Stories Our Grandmothers Told Us


25 Jun 2011 03:50 am

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There’s always lots on the menu here at The Wide Awake Cafe. Here’s what’s on the grill today:

Lose a War Soup: A satisfying, filling, tasty, treat.

Cut and Run Soup: a large bowl filled with lots of factual, satisfying lumps of truth.

For those who have a taste for something really spicy try this.

Have some beer with this dish.

Obama Gaffe Flambee: A delicious and gutsy take on another goof of the President. Really could cause one to lose one’s appetite.

An odd tasting Yogurt which I myself would never eat but am compelled to serve.

It may be crying time but it’s not quitting time. Try it with some lasagna with lots of cheese.

Boehner Ragout Stew: Putting his foot down. With a side of crostini.

Served with a merlot.

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Never mind the cat on the table. If you choose to sup at The Wide Awake Cafe the sight of cats on the table will not result in any extra charge.

Eggs on faces of the lame stream media. (over easy, scrambled, or coddled)

Some of you may prefer fries but Michelle says you should eat your vegetables.

Vegetables are good for you and the media has been helpful to Obama, Michelle says. Eat some Beets.

We serve pizza here but today it is really snarky pizza. Be warned.

Arugula Salad with a drizzle of oil and vinegar.

Being always wakeful I offer the strongest coffee with cream.

This establishment serves good strong tea with lemon, milk, and hot toasted muffins.

Obama’s Government Chops: So good, you’ll want a shovel instead of a spoon.

White House Attack against Issa causes Acid Reflux. Have a chocolate chip cookie and milk.

For the unschooled palates: Try some jello with jelly beans.

More food for the kiddies. Macaroni and cheese to the Max.

We have lots of desserts on the menu: (if you don’t choose to desert the table)

First, the pies:

Pecan Pie, the kind made by your Southern grandmother, who shelled the pecans while sitting on the porch swing, telling you the story of the Tree of Life.

Lemon Meringue Pie, created lovingly with just the right amount of lemon and sugar, and topped with the best, lightest and highest meringue ever produced, almost high enough to reach Alaska, or, even - Russia.

Have a really big piece of Kentucky Derby Pie. A really big piece before time runs out. Time is running out, you know.

Peaches and cream.

A Feast for the eyes: accompanied by virtual chocolate.

A final toast to Peter Falk, a really good man. Peter starred in so many memorable films and of course there is his wonderful Columbo series but I will never forget him in his role as the Grandfather in The Princess Bride.

17 Jun 2009 12:23 pm

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This was a great oak tree.

It stood for ages above the graves of my great (2nd) grandparents, Polly Miranda Mabry and Joseph Lafayette Stiles and my great grandfather, William Chase Whitmarsh and his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth. Ada Elizabeth died on Christmas Day from diptheria, leaving her mother devastated and unwilling to ever celebrate Christmas again. This sad tale was related to me by my grandmother when I was young.

In the shadow of the tree my ancestors rested and I always knew where to find them because of the great and mighty Oak.

I remember going with my grandmother, Hazel Alabama Whitmarsh Webster to Oak Cemetery to visit the graves of my ancestors and my grandfather, Guy Smith Webster when I was young. She told me stories about her father, William Chase Whitmarsh, a native of New Hampshire and her little sister, Ada. Her grandparents, Polly Miranda Mabry and Joseph Lafayette Stiles and her late husband, Guy S. Webster were also very important stops in the cemetery.

I listened raptly as Mamaw told me about her proud, grandmother, Polly, whose real name was Mary. The nickname for Mary was “Polly” during this long ago generation. I never understood that. Polly Miranda Mabry was born on September 6th, 1836. I always felt a kinship with her because September 6th is also my birthday.

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This past Friday in our city there was a fierce thunderstorm (some say a possible funnel cloud) and the old Oak Tree met its demise. The tree fell to the ground, uprooted by a great wind. It shook the stable rest of three gravestones that marked the ground where four of my ancestors was buried. I was driving past Oak Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in our city this past Saturday. I was shocked to discover that the tree above the Whitmarsh/ Mabry and Stiles graves was uprooted.

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According to my grandmother, Polly Miranda Mabry was native American or at least was in part. This photo is of poor quality but it is obvious that Polly was a native American. Through my genealogical research I have discovered that Polly’s mother, Nancy Caroline Payne was the daughter of Mathew Payne and Amelia Cooper. Her father was Parham Poole Mabry, a son of colonists who originally settled in the Bermuda Hundred in Virginia. Somewhere along the way our English roots melded with our native American roots. Strange that my interest in family roots was in part inspired by my girlhood visits to the cemetery with my melancholy grandmother and now an oak tree has been actually uprooted above them.

But as a wise man said, my ancestors are not there. The souls of William, Polly, Ada Elizabeth and Joseph have flown beyond our lowly atmospheric grief. They are in a much better place.

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This gravestone for William Chase Whitmarsh and his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth is on the other side of the uprooted tree. There were older very simple gravestone/markers marking the graves but they were replaced by my great Aunt Ivy years ago.

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There are a lot of other graves in Oak Cemetery that were damaged by the felling of the oak but our ancestors’ graves were right under the tree and its roots. There were four graves that I know of that were affected. William Chase Whitmarsh was buried beside his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth. Polly Miranda Mabry Stiles and her husband Joseph Lafayette Stiles were right beside each other. They were all in a row.

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I fear that these gravestones will not be treated right when the tree is taken away and that Polly Miranda’s stone is destroyed. When I stopped by the cemetery this past Saturday I could not find her gravestone anywhere. There was a deep chasm directly under the roots of the tree. I tried to avoid looking in the pit, fearful that I might see something disturbing.

Our eyes avert from what we need not see.

Welcome Goodboys Nation readers.

10 May 2009 08:56 am

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Oh, motherhood. Here I am in the midst of it, holding my youngest daughter, Charlotte while my oldest daughter, Kate holds my cousin’s baby, Molly and I try to assist her. It’s obvious from the photo that Charlotte did not appreciate the idea of my giving any attention to the new baby. She wanted to be the baby.

Motherhood is the most wonderful role in the world but it is not for the faint-hearted. When you step on the rollercoaster, put on the seatbelt. The ride will be wild and it never will end as long as you live. But it’s the best ride in the Park of Life.

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Happy Mothers Day to my own, Mom who continues to be the dearest and most wonderful mother in the world.

Thank you Professor Reynolds for the Instalanche! A very nice Mothers Day gift that I highly recommend!

29 Mar 2009 02:09 am

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These are the Jeffries women. These were the original steel magnolias. They were women of fortitude. They were from Tennessee by way of North Carolina and Virginia. Obedient Wright Jeffries is the lady sitting in the middle on the front row holding the Holy Bible in her hands. She was born in Overton County, Tennessee in 1817, the daughter of Joshua Foster Wright and Sarah Lamar. She married the Rev. James Jasper Jeffries. She is my 3rd great grandmother.

Her daughter, my 2nd great grandmother, is the second woman to the left on the top row and her name is Rachel Elizabeth Jeffries Ford. The other women were sisters to Rachel and daughters of Obedient, who was called “Middie.”

Forgive these women their severe, homely looks. There was little time for primping back in those days. These women were strong, resilient females who brought up their children in the ways of the Lord. When they moved from Tennessee to Arkansas they had no moving vans. They traveled in covered wagons if they were lucky. They had to dodge Indians and outlaws and wild animals and unpredictable weather on the way across.

There were no modern conveniences of any sort along the way back in those days…. no refrigerators or Holiday Inns. No cell phones, no telegraphs, no way of communicating to someone faraway instantaneously. There were few roads but there were worn pathways and passes through the mountains. If the babies were sick there were no Nannies to take over, the women had only each other to help if they were in a group of families. They typically moved in family groups, providing safety and comfort in numbers.

There were no welcome wagons waiting for them at their destinations. Early settlers may have gone ahead to provide simple settlements but usually these families moving to Northwest Arkansas found a hardscrabble existence awaiting them. Apple farming was king in the latter years but when most of my ancestors were settling in to the little towns and villages around Bentonville, Arkansas most families kept large gardens to provide for their families’ needs. They kept livestock for the same reason. Sam Walton’s ancestors had moved west to Oklahoma. He wouldn’t wake up the prettiest corner of Arkansas for a century.

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This is Oscar and Avis Wilhelmina Drew Mackey, my second great grandparents, who moved from a small town near Buffalo, New York to Kansas, then to Oklahoma and finally to Bentonville, Arkansas in the years after the Civil War. Oscar James Mackey served in the Union Army during the Civil War and before that in New York he worked as a farmer, a tanner, and a cigar maker. In Oklahoma Avis and Oscar were owners of the Mackey Brothers Ranch in Woodward County, OK. In Bentonville, Oscar and Avis were the owners of the Mackey Cider Company. Eventually their land fell into Sam Walton’s hands and became his private home.

These women carried on when their husbands served with the Confederate Armies in the Civil War and they knew hard times unlike any we know today. I mean hard times, Britney. Not bad hair days. Not one of those days when you wake up and you just want to call in sick and stay in bed. None of that. No sir. These were H A R D times with an emphasis on the R.

These women had to keep home and hearth going when the men were gone to war and they had to load a gun and stand down the outlaws who tried to rob them of the remaining money or food that was left after the many months and years the war had left them with nothing. So many in the hills of Northwest Arkansas had been affected by the Civil War, there were battles and skirmishes all around, the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern or as the Yankees called it The Battle of Pea Ridge was nearly in the back yard of many of my ancestors.

Bentonville suffered terribly from the ravages of the Civil War. Southern sympathizers killed a soldier left behind by retreating Union forces in 1862. When federal troops heard of the death, they returned the next day and burned 36 buildings.”

Think of the terror this brought to the families. Bentonville is still a small town. To burn 36 buildings even today would be a disastrous event.

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My great grandmother, Kathryn Ozy Ford Mackey, the granddaughter of Obedient told me a story when I was a little girl about her mother having to hide her injured confederate soldier father in a cave to keep him safe from the bushwackers. If there wasn’t the fear of Yankees there was the fear of Bushwackers or other outlaws making mischief or worse.

Sometime during her life, Obedient Wright Jefferies moved with her family to Arkansas and lived a long life, giving birth to sixteen children. She died January 22, 1894 in Cash Hollow, Arkansas.

Obedient and her daughters were the bearers of the family history and it was uniquely American. The legacy handed down to us from Obedient Wright Jeffries was not only written in the obituary in the newspaper, it was written on the hearts of her children and her grandchildren and especially on the heart of her precious granddaughter, Kate Ford Mackey. I was lucky to know my dear great grandmother for nineteen years and I benefitted from all the stories she told me of her life long ago.

Grandma Morrison (as we called her) told me about what it was like to be a young woman growing up in the late 1890s. She and her fellow sisters and their mothers were no shrinking violets ordered around by men as sociologists and historians would have us think. They had just as much autonomy in the family unit as the men if not more. When my great grandfather, Frank O’Dell Mackey, Kate’s husband took a notion to move the family from Bentonville to British Columbia with his brother, Gilbert, she put a stop to that, saying, “I’m not taking my children up there.” They never did.

Obedient’s obituary was published in the paper, The Benton County Democrat. This was back when papers were vital to their communities and none of the publishers would ever think of taking a walk or a mule or a train to Washington D.C. with hat in hand to ask for a bailout.

On the evening of the 22nd day on Jan., 1894, a sainted mother in Israel, Mrs. Obedient Jeffries passed from sorrows and pain of this world to her reward in Heaven.

She had been confined to her bed ten weeks, but bore her afflictions with the fortitude and grace of a christian, patiently waiting the will of her Heavenly father, ever relying upon his blessed promises.

She was born in Overton Co., Tennessee, the daughter of Joshua Foster Wright and Sarah Lamar. She married James Jasper Jeffries of Overton Co., Tennessee. With a family of nine children they emigrated to this country after which seven more children were borne to them, making sixteen in all. Twelve of the 16 children, 44 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, a brother with a host of other relatives and friends are left to mourn her demise.

All of her children except two are christians and one of the two promised to meet her in Heaven. May the other one be one in that happy union beyond the river.

Can a mother’s love be supplied? Can a mother’s place be filled? No; a thousand times no. And true to nature, her eight girls and four sons feel that both their morning and evening star has passed out with her precious life.

Heaven imprinted in a christian mother’s face something that draws the minds of her children to the sweet beyond, something that claimed indeed the divine love.
Deeply has the divine wooing been imprinted on the hearts of these children and friends, by her peaceful, quiet, Christian faith which always sustained and comforted her under the shadows as well as the sunshine of her life.

Though she is gone from them they know where to find her, and we would beg them “to weep not, to miss her from earth’s weary shore; earth has an angel less, Heaven one more.”

She had been a member of the Methodist church for a long, long time and enjoyed her relationship with the church militant, but today she is enjoying the association of the church triumphant.

Her home was always with her youngest daughter, Mrs. J.B. Ford, who with her husband and little daughter, Bessie, are left alone, sad and heart broken.

All during her sickness her sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law gave her all the care and attention that loving hands could give, thus fully demonstrating that she was a mother indeed.

May their lives be like hers, their change as peaceful.

A precious one from us is gone
A voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant in her home
Which never can be filled.”
FANNIE RUTLEDGE, a friend

[Benton County Democrat 2/1/1894]

Obedient Wright was born in 1817, just 41 years after our nation declared its independence from Great Britain. She and other pioneer women like her settled our country with their husbands and families. These women were full-on helpmates; running the farms, keeping the stores, as well as instructing and caring for the children.

These women experienced natural childbirth at home, usually without the benefit of a family doctor. Obedient managed to do that sixteen times and successfully so.

People didn’t find that strange back then as they do today. When I imagine how much work that must have been for her it fills me with awe. She managed to make ends meet along with her husband and family. She didn’t turn to the government for help. That would have been seen as shameful back then as it should be seen today.

Women of fortitude lived during the century between our founding and our flourishing. They quietly provided the strong frameworks for those of us who still want to raise our families in the ways of the Lord and in freedom.

And yes, I left my lights on in memory of them.

28 Feb 2009 02:38 pm

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Charlotte on a wooden bowl

My maternal and paternal grandmothers played important roles in my life and I’m lucky my parents let me spend lots of time with both of them. Looking back there was never enough time. Something I heard last night touched me and got me thinking about roles that grandparents play in the lives of grandchildren.

I was talking to my fellow co-conspirator and friend, Myra who is also the grandmother on the maternal side of my grandson, Aidan. I am his paternal grandmother. Myra is his maternal grandmother. How lucky Aidan is to have her.

We had a good time last night spending the last (hopefully) Friday night watching Aidan being an only child, reminding him of that fact and watching carefully (and sometimes painfully) his poor mom who is in her last few days of ordered bed rest.

Our little girl’s room is all ready. Pray, God, that the doctor and the sonogram is right and she really is a girl because there is just too much pink, rose, rosebud-red and lovely sweet little girl items to return and it wouldn’t be fair to a newborn little boy.

Getting back to our little five year old boy, Aidan who told his grandmother, Myra a story the other day as she was taking him to school. He informed her that he remembered what it was like in Heaven before he was born and came to earth. Aidan said that he was in a series of rooms and they kept moving him from room to room. He said he met different people in these rooms. One person he remembers meeting was the first president. “The first president, you say,” Myra said. “Who was that?”

“Well, that was President George Washington!” Aidan said emphatically.

Sitting around with Myra and watching our grandson play is just the best. I wish she lived here but she’s a steel magnolia from Louisiana. She will stay for a month after the baby is born so I will be having more than my usual share of coffee for the next month with one of my very best of friends.

17 Dec 2008 02:01 am

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My brother, Bobby and I, visiting Santa when we were three and four years old.

I was never a practical little girl.

One Christmas Season when I was ten years old I was jittery with excitement because I was going to get to go Christmas shopping for the first time in my life, with money I had earned. I had saved the money and was going to spend it on my mother.

My mother was going to be the recipient of my hard earned money. I cannot remember how I earned it but I suspect it must have had something to do with my paternal grandmother. She was everyone’s fairy godmother in our family and, for that matter, everyone who lived within ten miles of her were beneficiaries of her kindness.

My grandmother was a one woman Salvation Army. She most likely put me to work separating buttons or safety pins from straight pins or something like that at her dry cleaners. I was always eager to work and earn some money.

So when I found out that we were going Christmas shopping, I decided to spend my Christmas money on my mother. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She told me that she wanted something practical for the kitchen. That suggestion went in one ear and out the other. I can’t even remember what that practical something was and I doubt I even remembered back then. I knew I had no plans to give my mother anything that even remotely resembled a small household appliance.

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Santa always came last.

We went downtown one evening for the annual Christmas parade and had plans to shop afterwards. Back then there were no malls, no big shopping centers, no K-Marts, no Wal-Marts, no Marts at all. Just the Kress Store, McCrorys, Woolworths and the elegant Boston Store where we would have our picture taken with Santa Claus.

The city merchants firmly believed in decorating their windows for Christmas. I was in awe of the lights and sounds as we walked down the main street of town. There were crowds of people but they were not unruly. Moms and Dads had their children firmly in hand. Families and kids walked down the sidewalks peering in the windows resplendent with merchandise of all kinds. Beautiful dolls, dollhouses, and elegant clothing were displayed in windows. I paused to look and almost found myself lost until I got a tug on my shoulder. My little brother always had to play the big brother with me.

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Christmas in 1957. My brother was five, I was six, and my doll loving, little sister was three years old.

On to another store. We went from window shopping to serious store shopping. This became much more serious. So much more serious for a very unpractical young lady with five dollars burning a hole in her handbag.

My mother kept steering us by the practical kitchen things and I kept wandering away from them. Potato peelers were boring. Collanders were boring. All of my hard earned money was not going to be spent for something so work-a-day.

I wanted to get my Mother something pretty.

My mother’s Aunt Ivy was very rich. When we went to visit her home she always had beautiful dishes set on her tables. On the rare occasions Aunt Ivy came to visit us my Mother was always in a full state of panic, urging us to clean our rooms and have everything in our tiny home perfect. I wanted to find one pretty platter that Mother could set on the table with pride. Surely McCrory’s would have something like that. I saw an eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. It had a price tag that was within my price range. I looked at it and turned and walked away.

I suppose I wanted to do some comparison shopping. I found myself in the doll aisle. McCrory’s didn’t carry Madame Alexander dolls, only The Boston Store carried that kind of elegant doll. I wanted a Jo doll more than anything. Jo was the practical sister in Louisia May Alcott’s Little Women series and since I had already read the book I was captivated by the main character, Jo.

I’d had a glimpse of Jo earlier in the week when we’d taken the bus downtown to visit my maternal grandparents at their business, The Rightway Cleaners. As always, Mamaw Webster took us to The Wide Awake Cafe for coffee and cream and then we went to the Boston Store.

My grandmother picked out some beautiful blue velvet fabric to make some pretty dresses for my sister and me. While there, we passed through the toy department and I saw the section full of the inimitable blue boxes. I hoped there were still some Jo dolls left. I didn’t care for Amy or Beth or Meg. They were fine of course being Alcott characters but Jo was the character that captured my imagination because she thought for herself and was a tomboy.

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The Fletcher Kids going to Church in 1957, my snaggletooth smile brought to you by my brother’s left hook

I was a tomboy too. I was the second fastest female runner in school. At that age I could outrun my brother. I’d put on boxing gloves and boxed my brother when I was seven years old. So what if he’d knocked out my front tooth and I’d swallowed it, missing the visit of the tooth fairy? I got him back a few years later when he didn’t want to go to football practice. I put on his football uniform, put my hair up under the helmet and went to his practice. I’d managed to fool the coach until I got tackled and the hair fell out of my helmet.

I also identified with Jo in Alcott’s depiction of the March sisters’ haughty, Aunt March. I’d thought of my Aunt Ivy when I first read about Jo’s wealthy aunt. Of course, all my silly notions were part and parcel of my vivid imagination. Except for Santa, I’d told no one that I wanted Jo for Christmas. Not even my sister, Lucy. I pretty much lived inside my head back in those days.

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Still, my mother always seemed to know everything. If I didn’t tell her about something that was worrying me she seemed to read my mind anyway because she was a quiet person who always had her eyes on her children and was always listening to us.

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The Fletcher Family in 1956, thanks to Kodacolor

In the Boston Store I passed by the boxes of dolls and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a Jo doll inside one of them. My brother tugged me on the arm and we walked back to the Rightway Cleaners where I found the little wooden box toy my Grandfather always had for me to play with. I thought about the doll a lot since that day and the pretty satin dress and blue and white striped pinafore she was wearing. She would be a perfect Christmas present. Why hadn’t I told my family about her anyway?

I wandered around the aisles of McCrory’s, looking at the china figurines. None of them would do. My mother really wouldn’t like them because they would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. I sensed that somehow. I knew that my Aunt Ivy would turn her nose up at them and sniff something about dime store pottery and how would that help my mother? Besides, my mother’s mashed potatoes were delicious the way they were. She really didn’t need a new potato masher or peeler, but that pretty milk white glass platter with the gold trim needed another look.

Looking back I was a natural at rationalization.

We can bake some delicious peppermint cookies, I thought, with white icing and sprinkles and then we’ll place them on the platter next Christmas and when Aunt Ivy and Uncle Roy come over they will see how delicious and pretty they look.

I walked back to the aisle and picked up the white platter and examined it again. It was made in Japan. There were platters just like it that were in boxes under the shelves so I picked up one of them and headed to the cash register. I made my purchase and looked for my brother. He was buying a gift for our Dad. I can’t remember what it was but it probably had something to do with sports.

We met up with our parents and little sister and went home. As I wrapped the present for my mother I imagined how happy she would be when she opened her gift. I tried to make the wrapping as pretty as I could. I painted a watercolor picture for a card.

Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. My brother and sister and I counted the days. We went outside at night to breathe the cold December air and look at the Christmas scene our Dad had created.

We looked up into the sky for the star of Bethlehem.

When Daddy came home with a new issue of Christmas Ideals we gathered around to see it. Later Mother would pull out an older issue which had the illustrated version of The Little Match Girl. That story had quickly become a tradition in our family. The line drawings illustrating the poor little girl in that particular issue still stay in my memory and spurred me on in my desire to be an artist.

When there was a newly wrapped gift under the tree we were worse than our dog, Cookie at sniffing around it. When our mother wasn’t looking we picked up the gift to examine it. One of the bolder siblings would shake the gift. A certain little sister would actually take the tape off the end of the box and with her skillful fingers would open up the paper to discover the treasure inside the box.

I preferred the element of surprise.

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On Christmas morning I woke up early, but not as early as my little brother. I crept into the living room and there he was, asleep under the tree. He did it every year. He woke up sometime during the night excited about Christmas and went into the living room to wait on everyone to wake up, then when we didn’t wake up, he would fall asleep under the tree.

So there was my brother under the tree.

And there was Jo.

Santa had listened. I knew he would. Even though kids at school had argued with me, telling me, I was stupid, I was a little kid, and I needed to grow up, I wouldn’t listen to them, I argued with them that there is a Santa Claus. I had more than one reason to believe you see. I was the oldest in our family. I had had my doubts and skepticisms but for the sake of my little brothers and my sister I chose to believe.

And that Christmas morning I had proof. There was my Jo, my Madame Alexander Doll. Yes, there were also some other sweet gifts too. A jewelry box, and a bride doll. (I’ve always loved bride dolls) And as always, the night before at our traditional Christmas Eve get together at my paternal grandparents’ house I had received a pair of knitted socks from my great grandmother, Kathryn Ford Mackey Morrison. Other things too but those knitted socks I could always depend upon.

I woke up my brother and we both went to wake up our sister, Lucy but we had to wait on our parents to awaken because we had a year old baby brother who was sleeping.

I couldn’t wait for my mother to open up her present from me. Meanwhile we could enjoy all the presents Santa had left for us because they were not wrapped. We three kids whispered oohs and ahhs until we got too loud and our bleary eyed parents came walking into the room with our little brother Guy.

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Now there were four of us

That Christmas morning was bliss. Mother made hot chocolate and biscuits. We opened our wrapped presents and laughed as Guy opened his presents. Daddy asked Lucy and me to sing some Christmas carols. We had discovered our ability to harmonize and we were regular wrens, singing all the time around the house.

Then the moment came. It was time for our parents to open their presents. I don’t remember what my father received from my brother. The only thing remembered from that Christmas is what I gave and what I received. I wish I could say that my mother beamed with joy when she saw the beautiful white platter with gold trim but I would be fibbing.

It wouldn’t be true. My Mother smiled at me, and gave me a hug and said thanks but later in the kitchen she reminded me that she had asked for something practical.

My heart sank.

I had failed my first big test of giving and the irony was that this was the Christmas that I had received my most favorite gift. I was heart sick that I had let my mother down. I hadn’t listened to her when she told me what she wanted for Christmas. She had explained to me that she wanted something practical because there was not enough money for her to spend anything on kitchen things so she wanted them as gifts. I had ignored that. My parents were always generous with us but not so with themselves. I remember wondering why my mother wore the same coat for five years in a row.

Now I knew.

So my Mother didn’t pretend to be overjoyed by the milk white round platter with gold trim. My mother was always honest with me. That is how our parents raised us.

Unpractical little girls can learn.

The next Christmas I listened when my mother mentioned in passing what she wanted for Christmas. I wrote her wishes down in my diary. I saved my money and I bought what she wanted and yes, it was a practical kitchen appliance. She was very happy with her gift. My mother was always a skillful and ambitious cook and the things she wanted for her kitchen made it easier for her to cook. And bake. And what a mighty baker was she! My mother’s pies are still in demand.

One day Aunt Ivy came over and as usual we scurried around to clean up the house before she arrived. I walked into the living room and there on the coffee table was the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. We weren’t given enough notice to make homemade cookies so we had to make do with Lemon sandwich cookies.

In recent years I’ve discovered that I am my Mother in more ways than one. I’ve caught myself being too frank and honest when I have received a gift from my children that wasn’t quite up to my hopes or standards. (although, I will admit, I never give them much guidance) That it is more blessed to give than to receive is so true. I admit I love to give to those I love. I have found joy in giving gifts to friends and family.

To this very day the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim has a place of honor on the center shelf of my Mother’s china cabinet. I noticed it a couple of years ago and it brought back the remembrance of my first Christmas shopping trip. I remain hopelessly impractical but I am thankful my Mother gave me the guidance, direction, advice and practicality I needed when I was growing up.

Christmas is about God coming down to earth from Heaven in the person of a tiny baby. Through Jesus Christ the world gained pure Love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to God through Him. In our little Fletcher Family we experienced all that joy every Christmas, no matter how much or how little we had and we continue to do so but that Christmas when I was ten, I began to awaken to the world, and to get a small glimpse of the worries and the sacrifices that Mothers and Fathers make for their children because of their great love for them.

That was the last year I asked Santa for a doll but it wasn’t the last year I asked Santa for a present. My doll, Jo wisely supervised my daughter’s dolls as they grew up and she sits in the pink room in our house, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our granddaughter this coming March.

Merry Christmas!

Welcome visitors from The Carnival of Christmas!

26 Nov 2008 06:25 pm

Taking a break from cleaning the house before the return of the Charlotte and her Thanksgiving guest, a fellow law school student who is a fascinating young woman, born in Paris on Bastille Day, the very day a year after her older brother had been born in Lebanon in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

The first birth was premature, brought on by the terror of the bombs in Lebanon, the second birth was also premature, brought on by the noise of the fireworks in Paris. The Christian Lebanese family eventually were able to move to the United States where they brought their children up in Alabama.

Anyway, the shopping is done, the cleaning is ongoing and I need a break.

Checking out the non-Turkey news I find this Instapundit link to Ed Driscoll who has a New Silicon Graffiti Video about anger in politics. I like the name “A Bee in the Mouth!”

Ouch!

Ed interviews Peter Wood, writer of the book, “A Bee in the Mouth!”, (hence the name of the video) and gives me a new book to add to my Christmas wish list. Peter examines the anger in politics which has been growing in the past four generations.

I plead guilty to being extremely angry at my fellow Americans when they bought what Bill Clinton was selling. I was appalled, shocked, saddened and yes, angry. But I didn’t take to the road with ugly bumper stickers on my car, nor did I join an outfit like Moveon.org which was started up after the impeachment of Clinton. I did use what opportunities I had as a citizen and wrote one letter to the editor of a newspaper during the 1996 Presidential election arguing against the reelection of Clinton but that was before the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Clinton had done enough in my book to be sent home to Arkansas but the American people didn’t see it my way. Did I experience some bitter moments after that? Yes indeedy. But I still didn’t become a hater because I wasn’t raised that way.

Ed Driscoll linked to this review of Peter Wood’s book by Stanley Kurtz that is very illuminating and has more indepth thoughts that capture what I have been thinking lately.

Peter Wood’s book is about political anger in America but not specifically in the past election and reading Stanley Kurtz’ thought’s about Wood’s book set me off on an inferential jaunt.

I’ve been thinking about why the American people have turned against the Republicans in this election year. It wasn’t a mandate for Obama because in some states in the South, McCain won over Obama with larger percentages than President Bush beat Kerry.

The South is still very traditional but the midwest and Northeast is just about gone in that respect. Midwesterners and the Northeast might be able to take tough winters but they don’t like mean talk. After all these years of polarizing political speech, they’ve had it with politics. Whoever yelled the loudest got their attention.

The Democrats have been yelling loudest with the help of the media. They got the attention. The message was repeated over and over. The Bush Derangement Syndrome of the extreme left of the Democrat Party went mainstream. People who one would think would have been resistant to such delusions bought into that message because there really wasn’t any pushback from the White House or Bush surrogates or heaven forbid, any Republicans in Congress.

The angry message stuck. The American people bought it. Obama arrived and did his Humphrey Bogart-best. The American people bought it. The media whispered that John McCain seemed angry. The American people bought that.

Ronald Reagan was never the angry type. President Bush, God Bless Him has never been the angry type. Barack Obama seems more angry than both of these men in reality but reality matters no more.

Everything is perception which is why the Peggy Noonans of the world are working hard to make Sarah Palin unelectable. She is not an angry person, just extremely successful as a governor.

Gotta go make a pie.

I’m back from the kitchen. My husband has been watching movies in the computer room while I was blogging so I was unaware of the terror attacks in India today. Horrible.

Oh yeah, I probably won’t get back here for a while, so Happy Thanksgiving. May God comfort all the civilians and the families of those killed and injured in the terror attacks.

21 Sep 2008 07:36 pm

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My Maternal Grandfather, Guy Smith Webster when he was twenty four years old.

My mother gave me a treasure last night when I was at my parents’ home visiting with them. Actually, I have to give the photo back but she let me take it home to scan it. Scanning helps to spread the wealth.

My grandfather was always a snappy dresser. I don’t remember ever seeing him without a hat and his favored tweed jackets with leather elbow patches. Papaw was a smoker so when he was around there was an aroma of Old Spice and Lucky Strikes. Two aromas that are not politically correct today but still are pleasing to me.

Guy Smith Webster, my maternal grandfather would have been about twenty four when the above photo was taken. Looking closely I can see my great-grandmother (we called her “Nanny”) looking out the door at her son. Nanny was a Nolen, born in Florence, Alabama to James Green Nolen and Eliza Isbell. When she was a baby her family moved in a covered wagon to Yell County, Arkansas then settled on Short Mountain near Paris, Arkansas. Leona Tamsie Nolen married Albert Webster, son of William Leonard Webster and Nancy Ann Pearson.

The Webster family settled in Paris, Arkansas and when William and Nancy’s children grew up each was given land and a house built by their father, William Leonard Webster. My grandmother, Hazel Alabama Whitmarsh married Guy Smith Webster when they were twenty three or twenty four years old.

By that time Guy had moved to Fort Smith to make his living. He chose not to settle on the Webster land. One reason why he left Paris my grandmother told me, was that he was bothered that there was so much intermarriage of cousins in his family.

That wasn’t the life Guy Smith Webster would choose to live.

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Guy started his own dry cleaning business on the main street of Fort Smith, Garrison Avenue. He called the cleaners, The Rightway Cleaners. Not long after, he met and married my grandmother and they went into business together.

He had been advised by the local pharmacist in Paris, Dr. Thompson that Fort Smith was the place to go to work. Interestingly, Dr. Thompson’s, two sons, Bob and James Thompson became doctors and after serving in World War ll settled in Fort Smith. Dr. Jim was my father-in-law, C.C.’s best friend. The two brothers were in practice together and Dr. Bob delivered our first child. Between the two brothers about ten thousand babies were delivered.

I wish I could say that much of the information that I know about my grandfather came from him, but that would not be true. He died at the age of sixty, when I was ten years old. I remember that melancholy day very well. On a Sunday morning in December when we ordinarily would be waking up to a big breakfast of pancakes we were instead whisked out of our beds and taken to our paternal grandparent’s house.

It was always fun to go to Mamaw and Papaw Fletcher’s house as Mamaw was the cheeriest person in the world. She made sure we were comfortable and I discovered that my most favorite movie was on the television, The Wizard of Oz. I remember watching the movie and finding some comfort in it because I knew something was wrong.

Meanwhile my Mother and Dad rushed over to my maternal grandparents’ home where they found an ambulance ready to transport my grandfather to the hospital. My mother rode in the ambulance along with my grandfather and he died on the way to the hospital.

A very sad day indeed.

I remember sitting in my grandparents’ house afterwards, my grandmother grieving, blaming herself because my grandfather had stumbled out of bed to help her after she had fallen down with a convulsion. My grandmother was an epileptic, an ailment she had suffered from her early twenties. My mother was an only child because the doctors advised my grandparents not to have any more children because her condition was not always controlled by medication.

That afternoon I understood the old time maxim, children should be seen and not heard. I sat and listened as all the adults spoke words of comfort to my grandmother and mother and was full of questions which went unanswered.

I remember going to bed unable to sleep that night and many nights following, thinking of my beloved grandfather and knowing I would never see him again. My pillow was wet with tears and I counted to one thousand, hoping that my mother would be asleep by the time I was at the end of the count. Our father was working the graveyard shift and I was frightened and upset.

I quietly made my way into my parent’s bedroom and slipped into bed by my mother. In the morning I discovered that my brother and sister had also done the same thing. My youngest brother was still in his baby bed or there would have been four children in my mother and dad’s double bed.

Most of the biographical information about my grandfather came from my grandmother. She talked about “Guy” a lot in the twenty four years she lived as a widow. She would look for our resemblance to him. I had his eyes Mamaw told me. But my youngest brother, who was only a year old when my grandfather died was his namesake. He became Little Guy to my grandmother.

Papaw was the man who took care of everyone, including his own widowed mother, his alcoholic brother, Mutt and Mutt’s children. My great Aunt Hetty also told me what it was like to grow up in the shadow of her treasured older brother. They were eighteen years apart and Aunt Hetty tells me that when she was born, my grandfather paid the doctor’s bill for her. Guy’s father, Albert worked in the coal mines near Paris, Arkansas and an explosion had taken away his hearing so he had also moved to Fort Smith to work as a night watchman at a local business. Aunt Hetty told me things that my grandfather had said to her when she was a young woman that actually helped me when I confronted troubled times.

I tried to remember Papaw’s voice after he died and for many years I did remember and to this day I sometimes hear a voice that will make me think of him. He had a deep, golden toned voice that always filled me with comfort.

I remember one particular day, riding in Papaw Webster’s two toned blue, 1954 Pontiac as he drove us to see his mother. Nanny was in a rest home (which is what we called it back then) and he made sure to take her things that she needed. It’s a slight memory now, I remember being in the backseat of the car, listening to my Mother talk to him in the front seat of the car. I remember it was a cold and clear day and we were crossing Garrison Avenue to an older part of town to a neighborhood where the nursing home was located. It was a very large home in what is now called the historic district of Fort Smith. I always looked to the end of Garrison Avenue to see the Catholic Church which anchored it. Immaculate Conception Church has always been beautiful but never more so than during the Christmas holidays when it lights surround the outline of the church. But when I was a kid that didn’t occur. It wouldn’t have mattered to me. It was still a breathtaking view.

It wasn’t everyday that our grandfather took us out in his car and I loved going with him.

The house had a nice breezy feel to it but had that nursing home smell. My great grandmother and I had a conversation about what it was like when she was growing up. I was always curious about what it was like when my Nanny was a young girl. I also wanted to know what we were. Was her family Irish or English? She told me that the Isbells were English but the Nolens were Irish. She said she thought there might be some French heritage somewhere. Meanwhile my grandfather was talking to the administrators of the nursing home. Apparently, he had discovered that some of the nursing staff were stealing my great grandmother’s belongings. She was a great reader and had been missing her books. My grandfather found a better nursing home for her.

Papaw loved Valentines Day. He always bought specially made petit fours and little cakes for us. He loved to give us jewelry and necklaces too. I still have all of it too. Every year he purchased new cowboy boots for all of his four grandchildren on our birthdays. The store next door to the Rightway Cleaners was called Tip Top Boots and was owned by the Miller family. They were good friends of my grandfather and always welcomed us into their store. The store smelled of leather and polish. I loved to go in there and pick out new boots and look at the saddles.

One is tempted to ask, what kind of grandfather was Guy Smith Webster? He was the best of the best. He gave us a donkey! That seemed normal back then but today I know the giving of a donkey might be outrageous in some quarters. But not in mine. We named our donkey Tarzan.

Two weeks before my grandfather’s death he had a premonition. He gave my Dad some money and asked him to be sure to buy my brother, Bobby some boots for his birthday. Papaw died on December 10th, 1961 a day before my brother’s birthday.

Today, Sunday, September 21st is his birthday.

24 Jun 2008 10:44 pm

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Babies, a photo found in my late great aunt’s albums.

We haven’t been able to identify the individual babies but they were members of my Dad’s grandmother’s family. Kathryn Ford Mackey had several sisters and brothers and they were very close-knit. Presumably, these children grew up in Bentonville in Northwest Arkansas during the turn of the century. If they lived to be adults, World War l, the Great Depression, Prohibition and World War ll would occur during their life spans.

These infants were born before abortion became legal. They were members of a family that believed in God and attended the Methodist Episcopal Church. From the appearance of the photo their mothers and fathers most likely doted on them.

This generation of babies were born before the media age. They very likely lived and died within the region where they were born. It’s possible that a few of these babies (when they grew up) were able to take a flight in an airplane. I know my great grandmother had that opportunity. Kathryn Ford Mackey saw the inventions of the automobile, the telephone, the radio and television, and the atomic bomb.

Since most children, male and female, until the age of three, were dressed alike during the early nineteen hundreds there is a possibility that one or more of the children in the photo were male. There is a possibility that one of the babies suffered from Downs Syndrome.

Unlike life today, these children were born at home. Back then there were no maternity wards. Females were skilled at that sort of thing. There was little understanding of mental and physical disabilities. But still, there were Annie Sullivans.

The parents of these children didn’t have a Toys R Us in their town to shop for toys. The mothers sewed their childrens’ clothing by hand, and made bed linens with the help of a spinning wheel and loom. I do know my great great grandfather, Thomas Weir Ford was a whittler and I suspect he may have been the grandfather of the babies in the photo. Most likely they were given handmade toys he made for them.

By 1889 Bentonville, Arkansas (hometown of the late Sam Walton of Walmart fame) was a well established small town. There was a candy store, a bank, a tobacco shop, a bakery, and grist and saw mills.

These children were sent to school but the school year only lasted three or four months my grandmother has told me. They had great literature to read, Dickens, Twain, Shakespeare and Swift. The city of Bentonville invested in a library early on.

Most of life revolved around the family, the church and the farm. Fruit farms were plentiful in Northwest, Arkansas. It was once called the “The apple orchard of America.” My great uncle Eddie recalled going to his grandparents’ apple cider farm and company and being given an apple by his grandfather.

Although Northwest Arkansas was and still is the strongest region in Arkansas for Republican politics it would be mere speculation to surmise that the offspring of the Ford family were indeed Republicans. Considering my great great grandfather, Thomas Weir Ford’s pride in going to Confederate Reunions it is doubtful that he would have voted the “Yankee way.” The family was known to be conservative in their views however.

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A happy family in Northwest Arkansas

The Americans who lived during the turn of the century did not have the advantages that their modern day counterparts do. The great advances in medicine comes to mind. Many children today have never heard of polio or diptheria but it was an ever present worry during the turn of the century.

We book a flight and fly across the globe at a moments notice. We have so much wealth that we outsource tedious and menial jobs. Our great grandparents weren’t able to use a cellphone to call for help if their buggy lost a wheel or their model T Ford ran out of gas. Life may have been simpler one hundred years ago but much more physical labor was required from both males and females.

The sweet babies in the top photo lived in a different America; there were less opportunities perhaps, but there was also much more gumption.

Some Americans in this generation grew up and stayed on the family farm, some left it to go to WWl, others simply raised up a new faithful generation which defended our country in WW ll.

One mighty generation beget another. The Greatest Generation didn’t grow on a tree of course. Little children like the ones in the photo became the parents of the GIs who stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day.

Perhaps in my speculation I’ve gone too far in imagining what the individual babys in the photo may have grown up and accomplished in their lives. For me it’s hard to look at a baby’s face without getting maternal in my emotions. Maybe Grandpa Ford looked at them and prayed they would never have to face war or battles like Shiloh.

One thing we do know for sure is that these children were Americans on the brink of life and would pass through amazing and perilous times.

When I look at my own grandchildren’s faces I wonder what they will see in their own lifetimes. Will they will continue to grow up in freedom?

I pray they will.

10 May 2008 11:35 pm

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I used to love to go downtown to see my grandparents at their drycleaners when I was a little girl. Papaw Webster was the best. I followed him around like a puppy. When he died of a massive coronary when I was only ten years old I cried myself to sleep for three months. I wrote an essay several years ago in remembrance of him and of the place I remember him the best: The Rightway Cleaners.

The Rightway Cleaners

The enormous carved oak door creaked and the leaded glass window shivered as I entered my grandfather’s shop. I always had to carefully close the door behind me, for it tended to keep right on going and slam into the outside wall. “The Rightway”, Papaw Webster’s cleaning shop had many years and I always suspected many secrets crammed into its every corner. Coming in off the cold damp avenue into the steamy warmth of the shop was comforting to me. I skipped past the white marble shoe shine stand, which seemed more like a royal throne to me, on past the glass and oak counter which held the blocked hats; around to the little niche where my grandmother sat, at her electric Singer. Thimbles on almost all her knotted fingers, pins pinched into her mouth, she crinkled her cornflower blue eyes, and said, “um hum” in her slow self possessed way.

I went on my way, back through the gloomy corridor where I was always warned never to pause for very long. For there was an old hand-pulled elevator, leading up to the second floor. There were loads of junk up there. Papaw called it trash but Mamaw would retort, “It’s old family treasures”. The junk didn’t interest me nearly as much as the elevator itself, and once, along with my brother, I had attempted to crank it up. But we were caught, and had to sit up front in those old lumpy mission oak chairs, that smelled of shoe polish, old cigars and alcohol. We were given no pennies for the gumball machine, and had to content ourselves with the button boxes.

I walked slowly through the dusky corridor, past the room with the day bed, where Papaw sometimes napped. The hiss of the press in the back room made me jump with fright. I paused, took a deep breath and planted my eyes upon the object of my fear. The boiler, a huge angry black pot was always growling and belching. I had overheard my grandparents discuss all the frightening incidents that other dryclearners had experienced with their boilers, and I held my breath again as I tiptoed past the hateful thing. Across the hall from it was the ancient wooden toilet that gave my bottom splinters. I wasn’t tall enough to pull the chain and always had to have help, to my chagrin.

Through the gloomy light I passed into the pressing room where Papaw reigned supreme. He seemed a giant to me, handling those machines that spit and screamed with firm movements. There was a barn like door, which let in the fresh crisp air. I drew a deep breath of this wet, heavenly air and hugged Papaw on his scratchy wool pants. He put his hand in his pocket and brought out my favorite gum, Doublemint. I tore off the wrapper and lodged the gum right where my two front teeth had been. I savored the flavor of the gum, only letting a little sugar spurt out at a time. This minty flavor mixed in deliciously with the smell of the cleaning solvent, which was stored in cans in the corner. The rich lung piercing odor of the cleaning solvent was so strong I could almost taste it. When the gum had lost its flavor and Papaw had warned me twice to quit sniffing so closely to the solvent, I gathered up my courage and sidled on past the boiler to make my way to the front to see Charlie, the shoe shine boy.

Charlie shined my boots, as I sat on the enamel red throne; and I gazed up at the wall murals, which depicted three seasons only, excluding summer. I was always perplexed about why my favorite season was left out. Charlie gave me a penny for gum, after first letting me catch a glimpse of his thick roll of cash.

A day at the “Rightway” always ended in a walk with my grandmother down to The Wide Awake Cafe. She drank her coffee black as a rule, but the apricot haired waitress always winked at me as she sat two thumb sized glasses of cream in front of me. I made quite a ceremony out of it until it was all gone. I examined the glasses for remaining drops, and would pretend that I was a giant drinking some poor little girl’s drink.

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