Archive for January, 2014

Memories of Pearl Harbor
January 31, 2014

USS_Arizona_Memorial

(USS Arizona Memorial in Oahu, Hawaii)

Everybody knows about Pearl Harbor. The thing that really fascinated me is that through this tragedy there was this amazing American heroism. ~ Michael Bay

I graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in Lynchburg, VA. In my younger adult years, I was active on the board of the Alumnae Association (alumnae is the feminine plural of the usually written word, alumni, which covers both all male or co-ed graduates).

There were board meetings three times a year, if I recall, and I’d fly up to Lynchburg and stay either at a hotel (during the school year) or on campus (during breaks). I loved serving, and I loved meeting and getting to know fellow alumnae from classes dating back to the 1930’s. What great stories they had to share!

What prompted this memory of Pearl Harbor was Fannie Flagg’s new book, “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion”, which my sister gave me for my birthday. I am loving it! It spans eight decades, weaving the story between the 1930’s Wisconsin to modern day Alabama.

Flagg imagines what happened on December 7, 1941 in Pulaski, Wisconsin. I’m sure it was an exact description of what happened all over America on that sad day. Here is a sample:

“Poppa was sitting at the table with his ear to the radio and kept shaking his head in disbelief as he listened to the same report repeated over and over. After a moment, he looked at his wife with a stricken expression on his face. ‘Oh, Linka, we can’t lose America. If we lose America…’ Then his voice cracked and the big strong man, who had always been their tower of strength, put his head down on the table and sobbed. All the girls quickly gathered around their father and hugged him, while his wife stood by, helpless and unable to do anything. She knew he was right. If America was lost, then there was no hope- not only for them, but also for the world.”

(the family were Polish immigrants who had built a successful automotive business in Pulaski, i.e. a gas station)

Connie was my R-MWC friend from those Alumnae Board days in the 1980’s, and it is her story that I am about to share with you. She was from Ohio, and she was a student at R-MWC in the fall of 1941. On that fateful Sunday morning of December 7, the students were preparing for final exams, when Dr. Jack (then the president of R-MWC) called an assembly to share news of the attack. He then canceled all classes and exams and told everyone to GO HOME.

He knew that all trains and other transportation options would soon be monopolized by the military for their purposes, and he wanted his students to get home safely.

So Connie and a fellow Ohioan scrambled to get on an overnight train back home. They had to share a berth (a bed meant for one), but they managed to settle in and sleep head to foot.

Except that Connie had to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night. She carefully exited the berth, so as not to awaken her friend, and likewise, carefully entered it when she returned.

The next morning, Connie awakened to discover that she had gotten into the wrong berth, and she was in bed with a strange man! She shrieked and fled, and was absolutely mortified! Later, she said she saw him in the dining car, but couldn’t even raise her eyes to look at him.

I can’t even imagine her shock, but it’s a hilarious story, in retrospect, and the only thing that would have made it better is if they had fallen love and gotten married and lived happily ever after! But no such luck.

My intention of sharing this amusing story is not to make light of this very sad and uncertain time. But rather, I think that sharing the personal stories from this generation is a very important way to weave the tapestry of history and appreciate it and all the brave and patriotic citizens who lived through it.

Postscript: If you have not experienced the USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center in Oahu, put it on your bucket list. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more moving experience. On the day we were there, the family of a Pearl Harbor survivor was interring his ashes there; he wanted to be with his shipmates who had died in the attack. Seriously, tears were running down my face…

January = Birthdays
January 23, 2014

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You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake. It’s like, ‘See if you can blow this out.’ ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Joel and I were both born in the month of January. Let’s not mention which year. My birthday is on the 13th and his is the 31st. So 1/13 and 1/31. The dates dovetail nicely, don’t you think?

Except that he teases me that I am older than he is (by all of 18 days). After 34 years of marriage, he should know better than that; you do NOT tease your wife! I’m not quite sure why I am so unreceptive to teasing; was it because of my (five) siblings? Or because of my dad’s teasing? Who knows?

But here’s what I always retort when he says I am older than he is: I was actually due on Valentine’s Day! But I arrived a month early. It was quite a surprise to my mom and dad, especially because she had planned a luncheon event for that Wednesday, January 13 of that unnamed year.

So the way I look at it, Joel is actually OLDER than I am, but I just made an appearance before he did.

Here’s what my mom wrote on January 7: “I would like to get the girls’ curtains done next week, but the days are kind of getting full- Tuesday is bridge club, Wednesday (the 13th) is the EB luncheon and game party at Felix (wouldn’t miss it for the world – all that wonderful food!). Thursday, we’re going to River Oaks CC buffet supper with Peggy and Bob Jarmon, Friday morning I’m having a coffee for Phyllis – we’ve been wanting to have the wives from Ray’s office to see the house – so I’m just killing two birds with one stone.”

Oops! Surprise! As they say, when you make plans, God laughs!

From family lore, I learned that when the wives came over for that coffee on Friday, Mom’s mother (Memaw) hosted it, and when everyone asked where Mom was, they learned that she was over at St. Joseph’s Hospital with me! So the whole party went over there.

(of course, this was in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no e-mail, Facebook or texting of the latest news)

An aside: in that same letter of Jan. 7, she wrote about how my sister Camille had been dry for three days and graduated to “pants” (i.e. big girl panties in our modern vernacular). Who knew that six days later she would have another one in diapers, and we are talking cloth diapers! In five years, I was her fourth baby. She must have dealt with diapers that whole time. I can’t even imagine what a chore that must have been.

I weighed 9-1/2 pounds at birth. You are probably doing the math and thinking there is no way I was a month early. But one of my siblings weighed 11-1/2 lbs, another 11 lbs, and yet another 10-1/2 lbs. Then a few years after me, my younger brother weighed 12-1/2 lbs, setting a hospital record. So I believe that it is true; I was a nice, big premature baby and that I am not older than my husband by earthly standards. I just entered the world before he did!

So there, honey!

The Way Things Are
January 16, 2014

New-Technology

Any new technology tends to go through a 25-year adoption cycle~ Marc Andreessen

I know I’m a dinosaur who is very old fashioned in many ways, but ever so slowly, I am being drawn, kicking and screaming, into the modern world of “the way things are”.

I predict that soon banks will start to charge a fee when you write a check (as opposed to doing business online) and as well, if you deposit a paper check, instead of using their photo app to deposit it. I also predict that cash as we know it will disappear, and that all transactions will be done via smart phones and/or bank cards.

So I’d best get with the program.

But honestly, when wondering where to purchase a particular item, it is still not my first reaction to think about Google. My daughter does, and when I puzzle over something, she immediately suggests that I look on line.

So ever so slowly, I have been doing so. But it makes me feel a little bad for the local economy, because I still prefer to support local small businesses if I know I can get what I want/need there.

While Christmas shopping last month, I needed a specific item. I could have gone to the mall and hoped they had it, but instead I just ordered it on line. It was very easy. And tempting. And delivered right to my door.

Then my camera failed. It was over 10 years old, and quite an antique, compared to today’s cameras. But I knew how to use it, and was comfortable with it. So reluctantly, I asked Santa for a new one (of course, he ordered it on line). It had to be done.

Surprisingly, the new camera is very simple to use, for which I am grateful. I am so pleased! Although I still have much to learn about all the various settings and options, I have been delighted with the photos I’ve taken with it so far.

My next tech challenge will be my computer, which is over five years old and so passé, it’s ridiculous. A desktop. No one buys desktops anymore. This one has recently displayed the blue screen of death on more than one occasion, so I feel like it’s about time. But we keep limping along, and I am dreading the thought of having to learn a whole new system, likely on a laptop.

But I will, because I have no choice. And just about the time I get comfortable with it, then it will be time to get a new phone, with more new things to learn and get used to.

I guess my journey into the modern world will continue as long as I live! It appears that I’ll have to get with the program until death parts us. Might as well embrace the challenge!

(psst, Shannon, would you help me change my settings?)

Musical Memories
January 9, 2014

 

pink cadillac

You know you make me wanna (Shout!) ~ Isley Brothers

Recently hearing a recording of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” took me back to Gregory Jr. High School in New Orleans, 1967. Back then, New Orleans public schools had been integrated, much to the chagrin of many of the established Anglo families. But my mom and dad didn’t shy away from the concept, and I am still eternally grateful for their attitude of acceptance. It was certainly a bold choice. We kids were clueless about the whole controversy. Well, at least I was.

Hynes Elementary School out on the lakefront didn’t have any black students, but Gregory did. All of us lakefront kids rode the public bus, and even had to transfer to another bus at Beauregard and Robert E. Lee. But I had my sister, Camille to watch out for me, just as she had our sister Kathryn watch out for her, and brother Ray watch out for her, each in turn.

In these day of carpool lines and moms driving their kids everywhere, that would be unheard of. But back then, our family just had one car, so we were on our own for the most part.

otis

I had no idea who Otis Redding was on that day in December 1967. But I distinctly remember hearing a wailing and sobbing on the part of many of the black girls in the hall. I was bewildered and admittedly, a bit taken aback. Certainly now I know who he was, and can understand their sadness to a degree, even though my Anglo self doesn’t outwardly emote like the girls I witnessed that day.

How about Elvis Presley, who passed away ten years later on August 16, 1977? I had just moved to Dallas after graduating from college and had no TV, only a radio. I read about it in the paper the next day.

Talk about mass hysteria! Once again, I was utterly bewildered that people can and do passionately mourn someone who is just a pop idol, no relation, literally a stranger to them.

What brought these memories to my mind was a trip to the Pink Cadillac Diner southwest of Lexington, VA where we ate lunch prior to our heading back to Houston last month after our Christmas visit.

The Pink Cadillac Diner is all about Elvis; he is plastered on just about every wall. The sound track is the Sirius 50’s radio station, which is where I heard “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”, thus prompting this musing about musical memories.

But then along came a song I had never heard before. “Pineapple Princess” by Annette Funicello. We were all howling at how ridiculous it was!

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Annette was one of the first Disney princesses ever back in the 1950’s. How she would cringe at the latest crop! She passed away just this past April. There were no overwrought fans who gnashed their teeth and wailed about her passing, likely because she had been out of the limelight for years.

Any Annette fans still out there? Do you remember this song? Here are some of the lyrics that cracked all of us up:

“Pineapple Princess, I love you, you’re the sweetest girl I’ve seen
Someday we’re gonna marry and you’ll be my Pineapple Queen

We’ll settle down in a bamboo hut
And he will be my own little coconut
Then we’ll be beachcombin’ royalty
On wicky-wicky wacky Waikiki”

Ah yes, those were the days…

Happy New Year!
January 3, 2014

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Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’… ~ Alfred Tennyson

The year 2013 began with high hopes, as all new years always do.

But 2013 turned out to be an anxious one in many respects, mostly because both of our mothers had serious health issues. Thank goodness they took turns being hospitalized, and also thank goodness for siblings who have supported them along with us.

We have a grand-dog named Lucas, a Great Pyrenees, who has a tail that is very expressive of his emotions. When he’s happy, his tail is curled up over his back. When he isn’t, his tail sadly droops. He’s pretty pathetic looking when his tail droops.

lucas

Lucas’ tail has been a metaphor of our 2013 experience. Smooth sailing, then a crisis. Then a breakthrough, then a crisis. Then hope, and then a crisis. This year has truly been an emotional roller coaster. Tail up! Tail down. Tail up! Tail down.

In addition to both our moms’ health woes, our dear friend Larry (same age, same school, same neighborhood) had a big time health scare last summer. It was enough to make us all sit up and take notice!

We are all mortal. We are also of the age that “stuff” sometimes happens. Because of this past year’s wake up call, I am so grateful for every ordinary day of good health. Seriously, it can all be snatched away in an instant. If you can breathe, move, walk, run, see, hear, speak, sing, taste, smell and touch (and my husband would add ‘go fishing’)… well, then, my friend, you are richly blessed!

Tail up, there was much to celebrate in 2013, that included our son in law’s successful summer law clerk experience here in Houston that landed him a job offer for a permanent position in 2014. It was fun to have him and Lucas (of the emotional tail) here with us this summer.

Our daughter landed a full time position in Lexington with a non-profit (ODK). I loved spending a week with her in June, just the two of us.

Joel, Shannon, Kat and I all enjoyed a trip to San Francisco for an ABA TIPS meeting in August, and for the first time ever, we traveled at Christmas, to the Homestead in Hot Springs, VA to celebrate the holiday with Shannon and Kat. It was quite a different Christmas for us, who have never been away from our families for Christmas, but it was very much fun!

I do not know what 2014 holds for us, but our hopes are high, as all new years’ hopes are. I wish you all the blessings for a most excellent new year!