Flashback Friday ~ School Daze

Brace yourself folks, I am actually doing the Flashback Friday on time this week!

Flashback Friday is brought to us by Linda of Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!

Did your family have any back-to-school traditions when you were growing up? Were you generally eager or reluctant to start school? Was buying school supplies a big deal or did you order them through the school? Were there any school supplies you particularly loved? Did you take your lunch or buy it at school? Brown bag or lunch box/thermos? Does the first day of school from any grade stand out? Did you ride the bus, walk, or go by car to school? Do you remember how early or late school began/dismissed each day? Did you go to kindergarten? Half-day or whole day?

I always started the first day of school in a brand new pair of shoes. Always. When I got to college I had to talk myself out of buying new shoes at the start of every school year (I no longer had only one pair of “good” shoes, and I could manage to make them last a whole lot longer when they no longer had to work the playground.)

I loved starting school.  I loved my brand new school supplies.  I especially loved sharpening pencils for the first time (still do) and reams and reams of college ruled notebook paper.  Even empty, it is full of promise.

From 1st to 5th grade, I lived across the street from the school and I went home for lunch.  I had an entire hour.  I ate whatever lunch Gram prepared, then sat on the couch and read or colored while Gram watched The Mike Douglass Show.  Come 6th grade my school was across town.  I rode the bus and carried a sack lunch — no lunch pail.  Only babies carried lunch pails.   I was in high school before school lunch was an option, and by then we generally chose to go hungry or carry our own sandwiches anyway.  It wasn’t cool to be seen in the cafeteria.

I think my most memorable first day of school had to be 8th grade.  Gram made Lorii K. and I skirts from the same fabric.  They were peachy frothes of chiffon and we loved them.  Lorii’s shirt just touched her knees (her mother’s orders) had a kicky little flair at the bottom.  My skirt was a full circle pattern a couple of inches shorter. We both wore ribbed, white long sleeved turtle necks.  I had a wide black belt with a huge gold buckle (70’s) and Lorii had an almost identical white belt.  Lorii was wearing dress flats.  I was in my first ever pair of high heels, and we were both wearing nylons (no pantyhose yet) and make up for the very first time (in public with permission).  Lorii’s hair was long and blond.  She wore it down and hanging free.  My hair was shorter.  I’d gotten a perm and I had lots of bouncy waves.

We stepped off the bus and walked toward the school together. Heads were turning.  We looked sharp.  That’s when things went really wrong.  I saw the boy I had a crush on and I just had to make certain he noticed me.  He disappeared through the school doors.  I followed after him at less than a lady-like pace.

Now it is time to stop the story and give you a bit of background info — you know how I am always saying the grown ups wanted us dead?  Well, here is further proof: the front doors of our school opened onto a very shallow landing.  On the right was a set of stairs going immediately up, on the left was a set of stairs going immediately down.

Back to the story:  I ran up the stairs, launched myself bodily through the doors in a effort to see which direction Heartthrob went, but I immediately lost interest in him because my slick-soled wonderful new patent leather high heels slid across that freshly waxed foyer like I was on ice, and catapulted me down the stairs.

The heel of one of my shoes caught on the safety tread at the edge of the first step.  The rest of me stretched all the way to the bottom. I landed head down and butt up.  My backpack spilled all of my new school supplies from one end of the hall to the other.  It was horrifically embarrassing and I was blushing furiously, but luckily nobody knew it because my skirt hid my face.

Oh yeah, good times.  Thanks ever so much for reminding me Linda. I’ll get even some day.

If you all want to share your most embarrassing moments with the world, sign up for Linda’s Flashback Friday and play along.  She’ll get around to asking you the right — or wrong — question one of these days.

Flashback Friday ~ The Saturday Late Edition

I have been running a day and a half  behind since we returned home from Hawaii.  I just can’t seem to catch up.  Maybe Sunday worship will help me reset my messed up internal clock.  In the mean time, Flashback Friday is a day late. Flashback Friday is brought to us by Linda of Mocha With Linda.  This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!

Take This Job & Blog It!

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why did you want to be that, and did you do it? Did you consistently plan to be whatever it was, or did you change your mind often? Did you do anything like volunteering or interning to give you a taste of your future occupation/role? Were you as happy/satisfied with what you became as you thought you would be? What surprised you? Would you choose it again? Do you still want to be something else – either in addition to or instead of?

My two consistent goals from childhood through adulthood were to be a published author and to NOT be a teacher. All through my childhood and teen years, people would comment (seemingly to me) right out of the blue, “Oh you are going to make an excellent teacher!” They wouldn’t ask me what I was going to be. Instead they would say things like, “You have to be a teacher!” And every time they did I was more determined to choose a different career.

Funny thing is, when I finally around to going to college at age 31, I ended up in the teaching program. It wasn’t my first choice. My first choice was writing, but I reasoned with myself that I have been writing for years while doing odd jobs (house keeping, maintenance, cook, dishwasher, etc.) to support myself and hadn’t gotten anywhere with it, so I’d better try for a real job. I randomly picked librarian since it was a book/reading/writing related career. And then my aptitude test said I should be a teacher and my guidance counselor insisted I take the intro to teaching course. I took it reluctantly, but as it turned out, I loved it.

So I poured all my heart and energy into becoming the best darn teacher I could be, buuuut the very last semester, as a reward for working so hard, I took a creative writing class. I wrote a piece my instructor loved and she insisted I enter it in a state-wide writing competition — and I won.

In just a few short weeks I would graduate from college as an elementary teacher, but that wasn’t my first dream. I perched on the edge of the campus fountain with my best-friend, Robin. I held the award certificate in one hand and the publication check in the other. “Robin,” I said. “This is real. This is my dream. I could actually do this.”

Robin agreed with me and she said she was proud of me. I told her I was dropping out of student teaching and switching my major to creative writing. Robin said she completely understood why I would want to do that. Then she stood up, clasped my face in her hands and yelled up my nose, “Get a grip! Teachers can write, but writers don’t eat! This whole thing was about supporting yourself and paying the bills, remember?”

She was right. I could always write but that one, one-hundred dollar check wasn’t going to go far in the rent and groceries department. I finished my student teaching, graduated, and took a job teaching elementary school in Las Vegas, Nevada. I loved my job. It pretty much consumed me — and I didn’t write.

Now my dream of writing is wiggling around in me again, but I don’t know how to grasp it and make it behave. I am not quite certain what genre to focus on or how to began, which is silly because it seems I would know just to begin by putting words on paper, but when I try no story comes.

Flashback Friday Meets Emergency

It is time once again for Flashback Friday with Linda of Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time. In Linda’s own words:

This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!.

Participating in this meme and reading everyone’s answers is one of my weekly highlights. Grab the button and the link and come play along. Linda’s theme this week is:

Were you prone to accidents and injuries when you were growing up? Did you ever break a bone? Knock out any teeth? Get stitches? Have you ever ridden in the back of an ambulance? Did you ever have surgery or spend any time in a hospital? How did your folks treat injuries and illnesses? With lots of TLC or by telling you to get a stiff upper lip? Was there a particular home remedy that your mom (or dad or whoever!) used or any “traditions” involving injuries or illnesses? What’s the worst injury (or illness) you had when you were growing up?

Linda asks too many questions. It will take me a week of posts to answer them all. I’m going to tell you this one: How did your folks treat injuries and illnesses? Specifically, I am going to tell you about an incident at Aunt Flo’s.

After my mom died my Aunt Flo (technically not my Aunt, but my mother’s best-friend) would have us kids come and stay with her for two or three weeks every Summer to give my Grandmother a break.  Aunt Flo was a single mom long before it was fashionable. She had 4 kids of her own, and she always picked up a dozen or so kids from the neighborhood.

One particular Summer when I went to Aunt Flo’sher three boys, Jimmy, Tommy and Scotty, all teens, were buidling a tree house.  Ruthy and I wanted to help them but we were labeled “babies” and ordered to stay on the patio.

That sets the scene — now for some back ground.  Aunt Flo was always surrounded by kids and she had no time for tattling.  If you said something to Aunt Flo like, “Tommy hit me!”  Aunt Flor would respond, “Go hit him back!”  And there begins my tale  — finally!

Ruthie and I were watching the boys.  They really looked like they were having fun and we wanted to join them.  Tommy picked up a 2×4 and turned around to hand it to Jimmy.  Scott had bent down to pick something up and he stood up at just the wrong time.  Tommy hit him in the back of the head with the 2×4.

Ruthie and I immediately ran to the back door and yelled for Aunt Flo.  She came to the screen and said, “What?!  Stop shreiking before you scare the neighbors!”

Ruthie yelled, “Tommy hit Scotty with a board!”

Aunt Flo said, “Tell Scotty to hit him back.”

I said, “He can’t. He’s hurt.”

Aunt Flo said, “Is he bleeding? Is anything broken?

Ruthy and I looked at each other and shrugged. “Well, no.” we said.

Aunt Flo said, “Well then go play and don’t worry about it.”  She started to turn away and then she stopped. “Wait a minute, ” she said.  “Why didn’t Scotty come tell me himself?”

And I said, “Because we can’t wake him up!”

~*~

Okay, that story isn’t about me, but it may clarify for some of my readers why I nonchalantly write about things like falling out my second story window, riding my bike off cliffs, and catapulting out of trees.  It might also explain why I had four tetanus shots in one Summer  (four different accidents while in the care of 4 different adults).  I wasn’t accident prone.  I was an accident waiting for a place to happen.

Morning Excitement

Amoeba just flew off to Seattle on a seaplane. I have lots of pictures in my camera but no time to share them now. So I waved at Amoeba, took the snapshots and then made my way from the marina docks to the car — and it was locked. Even before I put my hand in my pocket I knew where the car keys were — in Amoeba’s pocket on their way to Seattle.

Of course, I have my own set of car keys. They were at home in my purse — as was my cell phone. I had a choice, have the car unlocked, take the garage door opener and walk home, or call a locksmith to open the house. Thanks to my insurance, having the car unlocked is free — but they said they had to send someone from Anacortes and it would be several hours before my car was unlocked. Within a half an hour my car would be ticketed. An hour after that it would be towed away.

Another choice! I walked to the bank where our landlady works — only to be told that she is off island on vacation. One of the other ladies at the bank called her son. He was out on a job site and an answering machine was collecting his calls. At that point I was only 25 minutes away from collecting a parking ticket.

I called a locksmith and started walking. Did I mention I had worn my heeled sandals? They were the only slip-ons I had handy and I was only (supposedly) leaving the house for a few minutes. I carried them in my hands. Luckily Friday Harbor has nice, clean, paved sidewalks and walking wasn’t too hard on my bare feet. My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t get home before the locksmith got here and he’d leave. Blessedly, as I walked by the church the pastor was outside and in a chatty mood. I told him my tale in ten words or less (hard to imagine, I know) and he got the church secretary to bring me home. I arrived barely 30 seconds before the locksmith.

We have the best locks on our house that money can buy. It took the locksmith about 15 minutes to unlock the deadbolt on the front door, and that was after he’d tried unsuccessfully to unlock the door knob on our back door. It seems doorknobs are often more difficult to pick then deadbolts, but doorknobs can just be ripped off the door. However, he didn’t have to break anything. He got me inside, I grabbed my keys and he took me down to the car. End of drama.

Way Back in the Country Garden by Kay Moore

My Thoughts:
If you enjoy going through people’s photo albums and looking through old country cookbooks, you will love, Way Back in the Country Garden, by Kay Wheeler Moore. The stories were funny, sweet, charming and/or heart twisting. Each of them highlighted some aspect of country life and the self-sufficiency of family.

All of the recipes call for fresh ingredients, most of which can be found in your own orchard or garden — or your local farmer’s market. I have a couple of these recipes earmarked for when my garden is ready to harvest, but Amoeba and I already had the Stuffed Green Peppers (p. 190) for dinner the other night. They were a big hit.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Way Back in the Country Garden

Hannibal Books (May 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Author Kay Wheeler Moore has written and spoken widely on the subject of relationships and family life. She is the author of Way Back in the Country; When the Heart Soars Free, a book of Christian fiction; and Gathering the Missing Pieces in an Adopted Life, based on her Houston Chronicle newspaper series that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She has also been a newspaper city editor and a reporter for United Press International.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (May 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749710
ISBN-13: 978-1934749715

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1: “We Were Rich”

The screen door to the farmhouse creaked open and then quickly slapped shut.

Without glancing up from her ironing board Grandma Harris knew the next sound would be that of feet pit-patting from the front porch into the living room and halting abruptly at her dining table.

Those feet, Grandma knew, could belong to any of several of her grandchildren, whose stopovers at her house were part of their regular home-from-school itinerary.

“Oh, yum, she’s got a fresh bowl full,” Grandma heard a high-pitched squeak emerge. That would be Mable, the youngest of Grandma’s daughter, Mattie, who lived across the pasture with her family.

“I was here first, Mable,” a slightly older voice cajoled. Frances, Grandma’s namesake, got irritated easily with her smaller sibling. “Don’t hog the crackers so I can have the first dip.”

“We’ve all gotta be quick before the others get here,” the oldest one, Bonnie, warned her younger two sisters. They glanced over their shoulders to see whether any of their cousins were hungrily making their way onto Grandma’s porch.

“Girls, I got plenty of tomato preserves fer ever’one—for you and yer cousins,” Grandma gently chided. She stepped from the kitchen to hug her granddaughters, who competed for the first taste of the thick, sweet treat that awaited them as an afternoon snack. “Take turns, now, so I won’t have t’ tell yer mama ya didn’t share politely.”

Grandma Harris had put out the new batch of tomato preserves earlier that day after Grandpa fetched several jars from the storm cellar which had housed them since the summer’s canning. Grandma’s long, hot days of putting up delightful red tomatoes from their garden had yielded a treasure trove of preserves Grandma could share throughout the fall and winter.

In mid-afternoon Grandma had opened the first jar and ladled its contents into a wide-rimmed, cutglass compote that stood on a gleaming, glass-stemmed pedestal in the center of her dining table. The cutglass glistened like diamonds as it reflected the sun’s light filtering through the room. Into a separate dish Grandma had set out some saltine crackers. On this particular afternoon her red-haired granddaughters—Bonnie, Frances, and Mable Miller—were the first snack-seekers.

No doubt they’d soon be followed by some of the youngsters of her other sons and daughters whose homes were also nearby.

Ultimately Grandma Harris would go on to begat 52 grandchildren in all, but she never ran out of treats for them or resourceful ways to prepare the many vegetables that she and Grandpa Harris grew in their everlastingly prolific garden. Every Sunday Grandma prepared an enormous, after-church dinner for all of her 11 children and their families who could attend.

Because their farmhouse was closest to Grandma’s, the “Three Red-Haired Miller Girls”, as many in their community of Brushy Mound knew them, hardly ever missed a Sunday—or an after-school afternoon—at Grandma’s house, where her good cooking always abounded.

* * * * * * * * * *

A century later the Harris farmhouse built on the rich, black soil of Delta County, TX, has long ago crumbled down. Grandma’s abundant garden has been plowed under with only a few derelict weeds to mark the spot where those sweet-ascandy tomatoes grew so bountifully. For more than 65 years grass has grown unbidden around the tombstone marked “Frances E. Harris”—the Miller girls’ beloved “Grandma”.

But down all the decades, the memory of Grandma’s delectable tomato preserves served in the sparkling, pedestaled compote would remain fresh in the mind of her namesake—little Frances, who was still recounting the tomato preserves story well into her 103rd year on this earth.

“We were rich,” Frances recalled to us nieces and nephews, who discreetly pumped her for just one more of her “olden-days” country tales before night would fall on her memory forever. This font of family lore was the last surviving member of that generation of our kin. At 102 years and 1 month of age Frances could still describe picking melons the size of basketballs, okra rows that were city blocks-long, and cornstalks that seemed to stand tall as skyscrapers.

Although farm families such as hers usually lacked financial means, the garden insured that no one would go hungry. Just before supper each night Mama faithfully sent Frances and her sisters out to see what was ready to be plucked from the vine and cooked up for that night’s meal.

“We had no idea we were poor,” Frances mused from her wheelchair, “because we always had food from the garden.”

* * * * * * * *

At the time Frances related her last tomato preserves story before her passing in May 2009, people everywhere were turning to backyard patches of earth again for the same reason the Miller girls and their mama and grandma did in the early part of the last century.

Economic woes in the United States and around the world have caused family incomes to plummet. Home-gardening has become a passionate new interest for people who have never planted a seed or worked a hoe. Even the wife of the U.S. President at the time, as an example for others, grew vegetables in her own White House garden. Heads of households can gaze on small stretches of garden dirt and comfort themselves in the same way Frances’ family did. After all, the Great Depression, which clouded the Miller Girls’ youth in rural northeast Texas, did not sting as much to those who could till the soil and cultivate its yield. With food from the garden, they could always feed their families and feel “rich”, no matter how lean the times or how thin the pocketbook.

My earlier cookbook, Way Back in the Country, emphasized that food, the recipes for how to prepare it, and the stories of people who cooked them are all interwoven into the fabric of family life. Way Back in the Country encouraged families to preserve not just their legendary recipes but the lore of the loved ones—such as the indomitable Grandma Harris—who made them popular. Through tales of the Red-Haired Miller Girls—my mother, Mable, and her two sisters, Frances and Bonnie—and six generations of their farm kin and the recipes that have been regulars at family gatherings for decades, Way Back in the Country inspired others to get their tape-recorders out and investigate why “Great-Aunt Gertie” always brought lemon pound cake whenever their extended families dined.

With gardening surging in popularity once more, the time seems right to revisit the Miller-Harris legends and recipe chests—this time to celebrate the role that food from one’s own soil has always played in American homes and how, in the Tight Times of this Great Recession, it makes us feel “rich” with hope and comfort afresh. Way Back in the Country Garden again will intertwine six generations of my family’s anecdotes with cooking instructions that will probably remind you of some of your own family favorites.

So prepare to laugh, cry, and traipse down memory lane once again with the Red-Haired Miller Girls and their progeny—through yarns my family told—yarns that I didn’t always witness firsthand but can try to recreate as I can envision them happening in my mind’s eye. May you soon be preserving some country gardening tales of your own and savoring the memories and tastes of yesterday.

Copyright © 2010

All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without the express written consent of the publisher.