Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Home. It’s where we live. If we’re lucky, it’s where our family is and where our hearts truly are. It’s a place full of memories and, hopefully, full of love. I have and have had homes like that; places where I raised my sons and later saw them leave to begin their own lives and ultimately create their own homes.

But I have a secret to tell here. When I think of “home,” I most often think of the four-room apartment where I grew up in mid-town Memphis. There were five of us living in that apartment, but the rooms were huge and we never felt crowded. I lived there with my Mother, my brother, and my grandparents until I was almost thirteen years old. It’s where those solid, ingrained memories are, and it’s where I travel to so many nights in my dreams.
We lived on the second floor of a three-story apartment building on Madison Avenue. It was an unusual type of building with two sets of apartments located on each floor at the front of the building and two sets similarly located in the back of the building. Our apartment was in the back. The front set of apartments and the ones in the back were not connected except by the hallway on the first floor. Needless to say, that was one long hallway! I used to love to roller skate down it and even ride my bike, but that was amazingly often discouraged by the doctors and dentists who mostly made up those first floor suites. I really never understood that. It was my home, after all!

And home it was. My Mother had to move the three of us in with my grandmother (Babby) and my step-grandfather (Poppy) when we were very young. They never complained, and I think even enjoyed the fact that we were there. I know Babby did. She loved to cook and bake, so having more people around to eat her scrumptious food made her feel wanted and useful.

As I mentioned earlier, the rooms in this apartment were enormous. We had our own long hallway to connect the front rooms (living room and eat-in kitchen) with two enormous bedrooms in the back. The bathroom with its classic four legged bathtub was located half-way down the hall. The hall itself was wide enough that my brother and I could play ball, build forts and even put in the dollhouses which he would sometimes make for me out of cardboard boxes.

There were two special features of the apartment. One included a screened-in porch that was accessed through French doors leading from the living room and that also had a door leading into the kitchen. It was a great play area for us. In the winter, we used a special plastic covering to go over the screens that would allow us to play and be fairly warm. The porch itself was as big as the kitchen area, and our imaginations allowed us to create all sorts of wonderful places on that porch.
The other distinct addition to the apartment was the fire-escape landing that we shared with our neighbor across the hall. It was off of our ‘back door’ and was large enough to have seating if we wanted to, but we never did. We did, however, have a clothes line strung from one side of the building to the other and which we used each week. There were two; one was ours, the other our neighbor’s. My brother and I would often take bread crumbs out to that landing after meals to feed to the birds in the winter months. We never did that, of course, if there were clothes on the line!

One of the two large bedrooms had a fireplace in it. Unfortunately, it was unusable, but the mantel and the fireplace itself were still beautiful. My brother and I would hang our stockings on the mantel in that room every Christmas waiting for Santa to come, and we’d always worry how he was ever going to make it down our chimney, since it was blocked. He always managed to get there, however, and one night I even heard him! I actually woke up in the night hearing sleigh bells, but when I told everyone the next day, nobody believed me. I knew after I grew up and know even today that it couldn’t have possibly happened, but I will swear till my dying breath that I heard those bells. I can still hear them now if I close my eyes and think about that night.
I’m not sure how Mama did it, but every year we got almost all of the things we had asked for from Santa. Looking back, I think she must have saved up all year to do that. I never asked her about that as an adult, and I really wish I had. Nevertheless, she made sure that Christmas was exceptional for us. There was always a real Christmas tree that my Poppy had helped her carry down that great, long hallway and up the stairs into our apartment. This event would occur after we’d gone and chosen one at least a week before Christmas. There’s nothing like the smell and the look of a real tree. It had to be cared for very specially, and each of us took our turns so that it would still be beautiful even after Christmas day. The decoration of the tree was a special event, which involved everyone in the household and took time to complete. Mama always decorated the apartment herself, often with beautiful things she had made.

Every Christmas morning was a true time of wonderment for us. On that morning, I was always the first one to awake. (I still am!) Mama would wake up immediately afterwards and make us wait in our beds as she went to "prepare" the living room. She would turn on the tree lights and put on Christmas music to add to the atmosphere as we walked into that room to see our long-awaited gifts. A huge Christmas breakfast would be prepared by Babby, who would turn around almost immediately to begin the dinner preparations. She was such an outstanding cook, a quality that I really wish I had inherited.
I know that everyone has their own memories of Christmases past - some good and some possibly not. But the love that we five people shared in those "growing up years" in that apartment made each Christmas a very unique and amazing experience for me and for my brother.

“Still, I suppose we all see our youth as the Eden of perfect days…”¹  Perhaps my memories are a bit distorted by time, but that apartment is still and always will be my “home,” and I will always be certain that I heard those sleigh bells on that glorious Christmas Eve!

Yes, I’ll be home for Christmas. I’ll be here in the home I’ve created and where I’ve lived for almost thirty years. But I’ll also be in that heart-felt home of long ago – most certainly in my dreams. 

¹McCrumb, Sharyn, King’s Mountain: a Ballad Novel, St. Martin’s Press, NY. 2013. Page 63.

 @2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Friday, October 18, 2013

Changes

Autumn has always been a time for change. The weather changes, the leaves change, and I change...my arthritis sets in with a vengeance.  At least that last change isn't as bad as it actually is when Ol' Man Winter comes to visit, so there is something to be said for that. But the changes begin with the chill in the air. Even with that in mind, autumn is still (as I've said before) my favorite time of the year.

With the idea of change came the decision to re-work the title of this particular blog. I still had the words 'history and genealogy' as part of its description, and I really want this blog to be separate from my genealogical research and writing blog. I want to "just write" as the former title stated, but I know that I need to add just that little bit o' sass to my completely classy thoughts.

Yeah, yeah. I can hear you laughing. I've always loved to rhyme my words, and the particular phrase I'm using as my title has been floating around in my head for a while. I don't know where I first heard it - or if it just came to my superior witty mind out of the blue. I did do a Google search on the phrase and found a few mentions of it, but nothing that actually had this exact phrase as a title.  So, I'm claimin' it!

I intend to continue to write inane thoughts about my family and friends and in particular, life in general. Don't, however, expect tips on scrumptious southern cooking or anything of that nature. Domestic Goddess I am not.  Goddess, maybe...just not domestic.

Do expect more stories about my dysfunctional family and the thrills of life that come with our "two steps forward, three steps back" routine. It's hard to keep up with the delights of everything breaking down or going wrong at once, but I think that maybe if I just keep a sassy journal about it all, maybe the class will show itself somewhere. Ya think?

Ah, well. One can only hope.


@2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Autumn Leaves...

When I was a little girl, there was a beautiful song that was very popular. It's title was Autumn Leaves.  Every time I heard that haunting melody, I would think how wonderful it would be to have beautiful Autumn leaves drift by my window.

That really never happened much here in Memphis. We have Autumn (or Fall, as we call it), but the season is short and when the leaves fall, it seems to happen so fast that the leaves end up on the ground quicker than you can say, "Jack Rabbit!"  No drifting here. On the trees one day; on the ground the next. Every year I hope for a longer Autumn, and every year I hold out hope for the leaves to stay that beautiful color and not hit the ground so quickly. That rarely happens.

Nevertheless, Fall is my very favorite time of the year. The air is crisp and cool - not too hot and not too cold. I think I've always preferred it over Spring because of the fact that it meant that I would be going back to school. Yes, you heard me. I loved school. I guess that's why I became a teacher.

This year was the first year in sixty years that I didn't return to a school somewhere, either as a student or as a teacher. I didn't realize how much that would affect me. And in truth, it's only been since the weather here has turned a little cooler that I've actually thought about that and have become a bit melancholy. As long as it was hot and humid and didn't feel like those memories I have of returning to school in sweaters and new shoes, I was perfectly okay.

Not so much now. The high here in Memphis today was about 70, and the low tonight will be in the low 50s. I can hardly believe it. It's been beautiful, and all I can do is think of chalk boards, wooden floors, textbooks, and tons of friends. Did I say I loved school?

I think I need to go out and look for some leaves to rake.


@2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making Lemonade out of Lemons


The morning started out as a relatively normal day within our increasingly dysfunctional household. If I were to go into a litany of the ‘things’ that have gone wrong for us in our house lately, I’d be here for much longer than I want to right now. This is just a short ode to “Making Lemonade out of Lemons.”

Around 9:00 this morning, I made a brief run to the drugstore to pick up prescriptions and then went on to the library to drop my already-overdue books into the book slot. With those errands completed, I pulled back into my driveway with a happy heart and a whole list of chores in my mind that I was going to get done today. That was before I walked into the kitchen.

Water was pouring out from under the refrigerator. I yanked open the freezer door and saw that it was all coming from our icemaker. I closed the door, checked the temperature (which should have been under zero for the freezer) and was shocked to see the freezer numbers at 35! Not a good sign, for sure. The refrigerator had stopped working.

I called my husband on our phone intercom system and woke him from his sleep. He’s a late sleeper; I’m the early bird. He was not a happy person, but when I described what was happening, he hurried downstairs. (A few tears and frantic pleas for his help didn’t hurt either, I must admit!)

I started clearing off the top of our small side freezer in order to put as many of our frozen foods into it as possible.  That would have been nice if it hadn’t already been full. What do two people need with all of that food? I couldn’t get much into that freezer at all. I even drug out one of our larger coolers, emptied what ice that was left into it and put as much into the cooler as I could

And why do we keep everything in the world on top of the side freezer? Just clearing that off was a chore in itself. You might not do that, but we certainly do. Furthermore, it didn’t help any that we had already been to the store this week and our refrigerator freezer was completely full. All of that newly-bought food was thawing and melting, including the one frozen pizza that we had bought just for the heck of it. We haven’t bought a frozen pizza in years and had decided that we would try a margherita pizza, since we liked that type so much. The pizza wouldn't fit into either the cooler or the side freezer.

As we worked frantically to make sure that the refrigerator would come back on (my husband has done this before), we saw that pizza sitting there thawing and both of us had the same idea at practically the same time, “Pizza might taste good right about now!” Of course, the words we said were different, but the idea was the same.

So as my husband continued to work on the refrigerator (a light bulb broke, too, of course!), I turned on my ‘new’ oven.  Okay, it’s not new. It’s two years old – but I’ve never used it. That's right...I'm not a very good cook. My husband is the cook in our house, so the idea that I was going to cook anything, even a frozen pizza, was a bit daunting for me.  After all, this oven has digital numbers and all kinds of fancy things that I had no idea how to use.  But I persevered and managed to overcome that “new-fangled thang!” By golly, I cooked that darn pizza and it was darn good!

I only wish the refrigerator was. Not sure what’s going to happen with that, but I’m not going to let any negative thoughts into my mind. I’m going to dwell on how much fun my husband and I had taking a break, eating that pizza, and making lemonades out of lemons.

As to the rest of the ‘things’ that want to go wrong, I say, “Bring it on!”

Oh…wait. I really didn’t mean that. The refrigerator hasn’t come back on yet.  We need some good karma here.

 

 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fun and Fabulous February!

I'm excited that it's February - a truly fun and fabulous month. I love it. The second month of the year - already. It is, of course, the month of love, since Valentine's Day is on the 14th. That date helped make February National Heart Month. It's also Black History Month and International Friendship Month.

But I like it for a host of other reasons, too. First of all, it's short. I like that. When I was working, payday came sooner, and that's always a good thing.

Next, it's the birth month of my precious grandson, Nigel. (That should really be the first reason, but my 'progression-thinking' skills appear to have been shortened, probably by the shortness of the month. That sounds like a good reason, don't you think?)

Here are a few other truly great reasons to celebrate the month of February:
  1. Feb. 2nd - Groundhog's Day. (Now who doesn't just love to wait to see what that adorable little rodent is gonna say about the length of our winter?)
  2. Feb. 3rd - Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821.  She was the first female doctor in America.  (Oh, and there is something called the 'Super Bowl' going on this year, too. At least, I think I heard that!)
  3. Feb. 4th - Rosa Parks was born in 1913.  (Can you tell I was a history teacher?)
  4. Feb. 7th - Charles Dickens was born in 1812. (Yes, I know I skipped a few days, but I just cannot put them all down!)
  5. Feb. 10th - The ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967 establishing the procedure for Presidential Succession.  Also, this year it's the Chinese New Year: the Year of the Snake! (I will not dignify myself to make any kind of remark about those two being together on the same day, but it really is kinda funny.)
  6. Feb. 11th - Thomas Edison was born in 1847. (That's exactly 100 years before I was born.  Oops, did I say that?)
  7. Feb. 12th - Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809.  (This year it's Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - definitely the quintessential fun, fabulous, February day!)
  8. Feb. 14th - The afore-mentioned Valentine's Day.  (Expecting some flowers or chocolates? Skip those and go for something that lasts longer. Gold would be good - or diamonds!)
  9. Feb. 15th - Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820. (We've certainly come a long way, baby Sue!)
  10. Feb. 16th - King Tut's tomb was opened in 1923.  (What a 'Fabulous February' experience that must have been.  When asked if he could see anything as he made the first small opening in the tomb, Howard Carter could only utter, "Yes, wonderful things.")
  11. Feb. 18th - President's Day this year - a national holiday honoring all of our Presidents. (I think I've said enough about Presidents.)
  12. Feb. 20th - John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962.  (I remember that well. We all gathered in the school auditorium to watch it on a little bitty TV - as if we could actually see anything!)
  13. Feb. 21st - My beloved grandson's birthday! (Nothing else matters on that day.)
  14. Feb. 23rd - The U.S. flag was raised on Iwo Jima. (My Father was there with the 5th Marines and knew all six of the men in the famous photo.)
  15. Feb. 24th - Steve Jobs was born in 1955.  (Too short a life for one so talented.)
  16. Feb. 26th - William F. Cody was born in 1846. ('Buffalo Bill' himself!)
  17. Feb. 27th - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in 1807.  (My students had to memorize "Paul Revere's Ride," but "The Song of Hiawatha" was always my favorite.)
These are just a few of the important events and historic dates that occur in February. I got most of the information given here at a site for teachers: www.theteacherscorner.net.  However, I found one mistake on their calendar: they had William F. Cody born in 1864 instead of 1846. (And this is a teacher's site? Oh, well. I guess that makes me not responsible for any other errors.) The rest came from my own head which is just chock-full of knowledge and....well, we won't go there.

Enjoy this wonderful month, as I plan to. It certainly won't take us very long to get through it!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joy Comes in the Morning


It was a typical winter morning for Memphis.  December had been a month filled with days of extreme cold followed by days with highs in the low 70s; a kind a weather-mania which we Memphians have come to expect.  Nothing new.  I awoke at my usual ungodly pre-dawn hour hoping beyond hope that this would be one of those days that I could go back to sleep. Unfortunately, my thoughts didn’t take long to come into focus and deny me that option.
It was the Tuesday after the horrific massacre in Newton, Connecticut.  Part of America’s most precious commodity, indeed part of our soul, had been taken from us in a senseless act of depravity.  I, along with countless others throughout America and the world, had been shocked, shaken, and overwhelmingly saddened since learning of the irrational act that had occurred the previous Friday.  Inured as Americans seem to have become to deeds of this nature, this time was devastatingly different.  These were young and innocent children.  We had heard over and over during the days that followed the phrase that “our hearts are broken.”  And so they were.
I think I was surprised myself at how completely depressed and yes, heartbroken, I was personally at this vile act.  I almost couldn’t get it out of my mind.  I had gone to work the previous day at a school where I have worked for the past eleven years.  Even though our own children weren’t there that day (winter break had begun for them), those of us who were there went about our business, often expressing outwardly the sorrow and shock we felt.  I can remember the depression I felt as I sat at my computer and thought about those teachers and staff members in that school so far away in Connecticut.  I wondered how they would possibly be able to go back to their routine activities when they did have to return to school.  Nothing could ever be routine or normal for them again.
Those were my thoughts as I arose that Tuesday morning.  Then something wonderful and incredible happened.  I drug myself out of bed knowing that sleep had escaped me, went into the kitchen to get my first cup of coffee, and I heard birds singing outside of my kitchen window.  Morning had come, the birds were singing, and life would go on.  Life as we know it may have been changed, but the birds had announced a new day and a new beginning.
I cannot begin to explain to you how much the sound of those birds singing meant to me. The very fact that their singing was unseasonable and completely unexpected brought a sense of peace and joy to me.  We had experienced a few days of what we call a 'cold snap' here in the south, but the birds knew that day would bring higher temperatures and had come out in force.
Very early mornings and the sound of birds singing have been a source of comfort to me throughout my entire life.  After each personal heartbreak, including the overwhelming loss of my grandparents, my parents, and four years ago, my brother, I would always listen for the sound of birds in those first hours of the morning to reassure myself that the essence of life still prevailed.  Sometimes I would have to wait for days and even weeks to hear that sound, but invariably when it did come, an enormous sense of consolation would come to me.
I’ve always associated that glorious sound with one of my favorite verses in the Bible, which is found in the book of Psalms, chapter 30, verse 5: “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (King James Version)
No matter what heartaches, trials, losses, or sorrows we may endure, birds will sing with the dawn of each new morning….and joy will come.
Amen and amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Borrowers

The Borrowers are living in my house.  I think they’ve been here for years, and I just didn’t realize it.  I’m sure that all of you readers know who the Borrowers are.  They’re the wee, tiny people who live in secret areas of certain people’s houses and ‘borrow’ things from those people whenever they need something.  They are supposed to be fictional – just made up by somebody for a book.  Well, I can assure you that they’re no fantasy; no way; no how; no sir-ee.  They’re here in my house right now. 
For years the joke around our house has been that “if Mama put it up, it’s lost.”  I never thought that was funny, but I did have to face reality.  Nine times out of ten, if I put something up, it would always be hard to find – that is if it was ever found. That never seemed to happen to my husband, who (with his 160 + I.Q) never forgets anything.
The fact that he never forgets anything is why I’m convinced that the Borrowers are living here.  A few months ago, our hot water heater went out and had to be replaced.  It’s located in the back part of a closet in our main hallway. In order to get to the hot water heater, we had to take everything out of that closet and put those things somewhere.  I had no hand in that….just to make everything clear here.
Well, when I say everything was taken out of that closet, I forgot to mention the fact that everything was in that closet!  Do you have a closet in your house that you’re afraid to open for fear of what might fall out and hit you?  Well, we do – and that’s the one. So, it was difficult to find places to store all of that ‘stuff’ as we worked on putting in the new hot water heater.
After the job was completed, the vision of this wonderfully empty and organized closet was pure delight. We’ve been so pleased with the fact that the closet is now clean and empty that we’ve been procrastinating in our efforts to put things back.  We’ve actually thrown out many things, given stuff to the Goodwill, recycled some things, and really tried to get better organized before putting things back.  However, as we’ve begun to put things back in the closet, we’ve realized that some things appear to be missing. 
How can that be?
I realized the true depth of this dilemma a couple of weeks ago, when I started looking for my small table-top ironing board that I needed to iron a new blouse that I had just washed.  I can’t find it.  So I started looking for the ironing pad that you can use on a table or bed…can’t find that either!  But here’s the best part; I spent days looking for those two things and finally decided to bite the bullet and set up my big ironing board (I do know where that is), but I can’t find my iron!
The Borrowers must have taken my ironing pad, my small ironing board, and my iron!  And to top that off, they took a small Limoges plate that I had taken out of my china cabinet to put with some things that I plan to sell at auction. That’s missing, too, and it wasn't even in that closet. I clearly remember taking that plate out of the china cabinet and thought I remembered where I put it. I even told my husband about it. It’s not there.  Furthermore, nobody has been in our house over this time period that could or would take any of those things.
Now, emphasizing once again how smart my husband is, he doesn’t remember where any of those things are either. He vaguely remembers my telling him about the plate, and he also remembers taking those things out of the closet.  It goes blank for him at that point, so that’s why I’m convinced that the Borrowers did it.  My husband could never forget anything. Right?  So…point made.
I’m afraid to even imagine how many things might be missing that we forgot we put in that closet, but I’m pretty sure that those irritating little Borrowers have been the ones who’ve taken all those socks over the years and the myriad of other missing objects.  Had to be them…
I guess the little people needed to iron some things, too, but if I find out where they’ve been hiding out, they’d better beware!  Of course, I’d never do any harm to them.  I’d just kick them out on their rumps.
But before I do that, please give me my iron back!