Welcome to My Crazy Quilt! Enjoy the Story Scroll. . . .

To my readers, longtime and new, welcome!

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024Blogging is a shared experience. On a personal level, my blog delves into self-discovery and stitches together a story in time. It is my verbal crazy quilt. With you, it is my joy of connecting.

No crazy quilt is the same. Textile artists toss aside perfection for small, unpredictably shaped patterns. My grandmother, in the tradition of mountain mothers before, created free-flowing art that warmed her family on winter nights.

She patched together scraps of twill, denim, corduroy, children’s outgrown clothes, men’s shirttails, worn-out dresses, and cotton sacking into the “memory gems” of life. There is a story for every patch.

cropped ptg Hen Party 10-31-04_peKeep scrolling or check out the category buttons: Characters, Creatives, Musings, Places, and The Good Stuff on the sidebar. Or for a quick read, visit my portfolio.

Earth Day & Diaper Daze

My mom and sister swore by cloth diapers. I call that true grit.

My mom and sister swore by cloth diapers. True grit.

No new mom leads a pampered life. However, a new day dawned with disposable diapers. They dispatched the cotton-diaper E-yew toilet-dunking moment to limbo, despite a few environmental holdouts.

Although Procter & Gamble debuted disposable diapers in 1961—just in time for my sister Peggy’s arrival—my mother spurned this new-fangled notion. In the brave new world of synthetics and plastics, Mom worshiped cotton. She was into “all natural.” Formula was verboten. Miss Bunny breastfed all her babies. After all, Dr. Leon made a reasonable argument for mother’s milk: 1) it’s healthier for baby; 2) reinforces bonding; 3) fits a fledgling family budget; and 4) “comes in cute containers.”

My oldest sister, a flower child of Earth Day 1970, stayed true to the cause. She used cotton diapers, much to my chagrin when I arrived for my nanny stint in the long, hot Mississippi summer of 1980.  Pardon my French, but I didn’t know Jacques-sh- –  about babies, much less their digestive tracts. Martha’s Little Missy was the first next-generation offspring.

My grandmother obsessed about schedules in the presence of newborns. I appreciated her fanaticism only when I discovered cable TV at my sister’s house. After a four-year boob-tube drought in college, my TV fix was due. My obsession was building that kid’s schedule around cable.

Sunrise:  black-and-white heaven—unending re-runs of “Andy Griffith” and “I Love Lucy”

Ten o’clock: the western roundup of John Wayne blockbusters

Noon: the news junkie’s whirl-around-the world with CNN from noon until 2:00

(Back in the day, CNN reporters reported a few facts, talked in complete sentences, voiced nary a Valley Gal upend lilt, and eschewed the dreaded “between you and I” preposition malfunction. The Big Gray Hair was Daniel Schorr, not  Anderson Cooper, today’s king of emo-journalism.)

Two o’clock: idle surfing of current flicks and schlock

(When I first tuned in to televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and their powder-blue set, I thought it was a “Saturday Night Live” skit. These moral-empty vessels collected North Carolina blue-hair mee-maws’ cash and family silver, schlepped clear across the state to bankroll Tammy Faye’s next mascara run. )

Changing The Little Missy’s diaper was convenient. She had the courtesy to be slightly pigeon-toed, which required tiny casts on her lower legs and feet. A bar connected the casts. Even in a temper tantrum, resistance was futile. No kicking possible! I lifted the bar, hence her legs, to snatch off the dirty diaper and then slide a clean one beneath her.

Dirty diaper duty was another matter. Oxygen deprivation was a hazard; I held my breath during diaper dunking and diaper pail patrol. How could one speck of humanity keep the washer churning on a tilt until it walked and the dryer spinning until it wheezed? Unfolded diapers piled up on beds, tables, chairs, and the sofa. After galloping from the baby bed to the baby pen to the changing table to an appliance to the baby chair to the commode to another appliance and back again, I somehow never stopped to fold a shred of cotton.

Then The Big Day dawned: a quadruple feature of the Duke at 10:00 a.m. I was in cable heaven: Stagecoach, The Searchers, The Quiet Man, and Fort Apache. I put The Little Missy down for a nap, rifled through the pantry for buttery-buttery microwave popcorn, and tuned in all TVs and turned up the volume. Even if motherly duties boomeranged me from one end of the house to the other, I could catch sight and sound on the run.

It was the longest day of my life. The Little Missy started squalling just before the Stagecoach Kid faced down three scoundrels. I grabbed her and trotted around in desperate circles, begging, “Puh-le-e-e-e-ze, be quiet.”Puh-le-e-e-e-ze, be quiet. “I jiggled, did the walk-and-dip, gently swayed, and rocked while the Little Missy howled through The Searchers.  She settled down after a bottle—long enough for me to dump another load of soiled garments in the washer, throw clean ones in the dryer, and amp up the air conditioner.

Ah! I was set for slow melt-in-the-mouth popcorn and the afternoon height of affairs: the blowin’ in the wind FIRST KISS-and-SLAP between Maureen O’Hara/Mary Kate and Mr. Wayne/Thornton in The Quiet Man:

Mary Kate: It’s a bold one you are! Who gave you leave to be kissing’ me?

Thornton: So you can talk!

Mary Kate: Yes, I can, I will, and I do! And it’s more than talk you’ll be gettin’ if you step a step closer to me!—

POP! The microwave blew up in mid-kernel flowering, and the entire house hit full-circuit overload. I snatched The Little Missy out of heated harm’s way. We cooled down in my car. The great discovery on this voyage of the damned? Circling the block beats any Benadryl bliss: that kid fell into blessed sleep, and I headed to K-Mart for Huggies. She was a major stink bomb.

(Somewhere out there, that set of diapers will biodegrade in 485 years.)

Suddenly, I respected my mother. The woman was pregnant for nine years. She never shut off her washer and dryer, even when she took a timeout to give birth. I couldn’t handle one child and a comparatively simple laundry detail. Yes, my cotton-lovin’ mama had true grit.


Diapers courtesy of C.K. Close

The Baby Gear Lab rates biodegradable disposable diapers: “when you consider that your little peanut is going to blow through roughly 6,000 diapers before mastering their toilet skills, we encourage you to think carefully about what you buy, where you buy it, and the environmental impact you’ll leave in your wake.”

The Duke’s greatest lines:

I Am Stronger than Most Men

Catherine Hamrick:

Brenda Keesal introduces a new project–beautiful writing worth the follow! “‘I am Stronger than Most Men’ is Part 2 of SENIOR HIGH – a series I am developing about some awesome seniors and the people who love them. I hope you fall in love and tell your friends.”

Originally posted on burns the fire:

In the once la-di-da dining room of a still pricey home for old Jews, at our polyester-swathed table, Lou is sing sing singing out loud, to the Hebrew songs in his head. His meal-time gal pal Ethel signals for him to keep it down, but Lou’s on a roll and frankly doesn’t give a damn, so he lets it rip and she turns to me, this elegant, fierce, old femme, and lets me know, in no uncertain terms, that during the war, she saw her mother and three younger sisters murdered in their family home. Lou hits a high note, Ethel unfurls her arthritic fingers and drops the other bomb: there was no money for funerals, so she got down on her knees, ripped into the earth and buried their dead bodies with her hands.

Ethel is the oldest child, with the bigest smile. Her father was told they were all dead. Ethel is the oldest child, with the biggest smile. Her father was told they were all dead.

A wail ricochets off…

View original 405 more words

Rite of Passage: The Kitchen Shower

As a young woman, I resisted ritual. I didn’t care which university won which rivalry. Secular sin! I tramped around Europe instead of stepping out at a debutante ball. Disgrace! I teased my mother about her sewing club’s monthly excuse for a neighborhood gabfest. Disrespect!

But in my earlier years, I could not rebel against a sacred life event: the kitchen shower.

“But, Mom, it’s Saturday,” I protested minutes before my sister Martha’s shower.

“Pipe down and dress up,” she replied.

Well, shut my mouth—nobody crossed the mother of the bride, especially at 15.

After enthroning the bride on an overstuffed wing chair, the hostesses invited the guests to pay court in a lopsided circle.

After enthroning the bride on an overstuffed wing chair, the hostesses invited the guests to pay court in a lopsided circle.

The gathering was a curious experience, a crash course on conduct becoming. I absorbed the nuances of gracious sitting, chorused compliments, and chitchat.

Chair decorum—legs pressed together with ankles primly crossed—made quite an impression. It was fascinating that so many women could assume the pose for two hours. Even the arthritis-plagued held fast. However, as one of the youngest guests, I never had a chance at chair manners. Every time I plopped down on a comfy loveseat, my mother pushed me out of it. Floor duty was the fate of females under 21 who had not given birth. In my lowly position, I gamely attempted the required posture, which froze one leg in a prickly snooze.

The bride ripped into her booty, a host of kitchen mysteries such as trifle bowls, ramekins, a mixer with dough hooks, relish trays, kitchen gadgets galore, and all sorts of knives. If Martha could not identify a gift, the appointed interpreter (my mother) would cry, “Oh, look, a paring knife!” The bride echoed, “Oh, look, a paring knife!”

Then everybody affected enthusiasm in sequence, rather like singing in rounds: “Oh-h-h-h! M-m-m-m!  Ah-h-h-h!” Heads bobbed all the while. They reserved unabashed shrieks for handcrafted works.

The women again admired each offering as they shoved it from one lap to the other for inspection. An oft-repeated phrase rang in my ears: “I have one just like it, and it’s a wonder, simply a wonder.”

Martha behaved remarkably, beaming and getting rather hoarse. Her cheerleader experience finally paid off: peppiness on demand.

The true challenge lay in balancing a loaded plate on my lap and discussing flowerbeds with strangers while sipping pink punch and not spotting the rug or watering down my lip-gloss.

I observed that honesty takes a backseat to diplomacy at such events. My mother raved about the chicken tetrazzini, though it tasted rubbery. The bride declared every ubiquitous casserole dish and crystal bowl as absolute necessities, though recently acquired triplicates were stacked on my mother’s dining room table.

Only once did I witness a forthright outburst.

On opening one of her packages, the bride exclaimed, “Molds! Molds for making congealed salad!  Grea-a-a-t!  Thank you-u-u-!”

But the horror-stricken junior bridesmaid, my younger sister Peggy, said, “MOLDED salad! Who wants to eat rotten MOLDED salad? Blue cheese is gross, but this is grosser.”

“MOLDED salad is for grown-ups, dear,” my mother hissed before dispatching the reluctant gourmet to the kitchen to help a hostess scrape plates.

Nannie on the matter of husbands: "Let your husband think he’s ruling the roost, but never let him know YOU are the one running the show. I had two husbands, and they never got out of line.”

Nannie on the matter of husbands: “Let your husband think he’s ruling the roost, but never let him know YOU are the one running the show. I had two husbands, and they never got out of line.”

Then came the moment of revelation. Half the women lingered for a second helping of lemon squares and coffee and dispensed their wisdom on how to maintain a happy husband.

“Take a little; give a little.”

“Don’t go to bed angry.”

“Don’t wake up angry.”

“Don’t visit his folks when you’re angry.”

“Don’t cook when you’re having a spat—it spoils the sauce.”

(Newlyweds argued a lot, I concluded.)

“Give-and-take, marriage is about give-and-take.”

“Don’t start a family for a least a year.”

“Oh, my, yes. My cousin got pregnant with triplets on her honeymoon, and she’s been tired ever since.”

(For the sewing club, procreation was a hotter topic than the latest bodice-ripper paperback.)

“A joint checking account—now that’s the true test of trust.”

“You can never be overinsured.”

“Compromise is the key. A little give-and-take goes a long way.”

“Try my recipe for Husband’s Delight; he’ll go for it every time.”

(Husband’s Delight—a gloppy casserole of Manwich sauce, hamburger, canned corn and onion topped on spaghetti—made my father grumpy the first and last time he sampled it.)

All that chatter gave me cold feet about marriage. Even Martha’s smile froze until my grandmother proclaimed:

“Let yoh hu-u-uzband thi-unhk hee’s thuh one rulin’ the roost, but nevah let hee-uhm know YEW ah the one runnin’ thuh show. Ah had two hu-u-uzbands, and theyuh nevah got out of lah-yuhn.” Translation: “Let your husband think he’s ruling the roost, but never let him know YOU are the one running the show. I had two husbands, and they never got out of line.”

That comment did wonders for my outlook. Today, I can coo, offer wisdom, and exclaim—handy talents now that my friends’ daughters are getting married. Best of all, my nieces are doing floor duty.


MOB’s: Do You Remember That Heap of Thank-You Notes?

Written in loving exaggeration . . . and dedicated to southern Mothers of the Brides (MOB’s)

What’s the tracking system for wedding gifts and thank-you notes?

I suppose the brainiacs have installed Excel sheets or Gantt charts. I still have flashbacks of the recipe filing box. . . .

352px-Ambrosius_Bosschaert_(I)_-_Bouquet_in_an_Arched_Window_-_WGA02654The presents rolled in, first at a trickle and then a swift flow on the day of the 30-day countdown. I feared overlooking one gift and offending the giver. All my life, I heard all sorts of whispers about brides who didn’t acknowledge the generosity of others.

“These working girls [unaware that this is the preferred term for sex workers] turn up their noses at proper etiquette. One year to write a thank-you note?” The conniption fit was on.

“She wrote her mother-in-law six months later—without a how-do-you-do before that.”

“She mixed up all her cards and thanked everybody for the wrong thing. Casserole dish, my eye! I bought that child a silver gallery tray. I would be on the phone pronto if I didn’t adore her mother so.”

“Time’s up for this bride. Buffy, would you subtly ask Teeny to ask her daughter whether she received my Steuben candlesticks? That’s the only gift I haven’t checked off my wedding-present log.”

“A two-sentence scrawl! A two-sentence scrawl! That’s what she wrote—a two-sentence scrawl! And she didn’t even name the gift. ‘Thank you for the present. We enjoyed our honeymoon. Love Betsy.'”

297px-Demi-tasse_Cup_and_Saucer_with_Sea-urchin_Foam_LACMA_AC1998.265.19.1-.2“Tardy, tardy. She got pregnant on her honeymoon and had the audacity to thank me for the antique demi-tasse set 11 months later—after she already had thanked me for a pierced-handle baby porringer. I have half a mind to steal it back.” Fool me once, fool me twice . . .

“Our educational system is going to rack-and-ruin because a young lady can’t string together five complete sentences. No salutation. No date. ‘Great cocktail thingies.  Fabulous shower! Fun to see you at the reception. Much love!’ Thingies? They were sterling silver shrimp forks. Ye gods above!” (People in my mother’s generation always appealed to Mount Olympus in dire situations.)

My mother attempted early thank-you note training. The policy: write the thank-you note within 48 hours or face permanent room detention with bread and water.

My mother attempted early thank-you note training. The policy: write the thank-you note within 48 hours or face permanent room detention with bread and water.

I mapped out a grand strategy to knock off this project in weeks. That meant writing five to seven notes per day with different emotional themes and pitches.

Theme 1: family. “Mr. Z and I certainly appreciate the lovely towel sets! It means so much that members of our family are sharing this special occasion with our families. . . .” Minimum: 6 sentences (3 declaratives, 2 compounds, 1 compound-complex). Underlining looked giddy, and Meemaws thrilled to exclamation points. I reserved ultimate fervor for relatives.

Theme 2: Mom’s nearest and dearest. “I was thrilled when you and the sewing club gave that unforgettable kitchen shower. It is such an honor to be part of the neighborhood tradition. I think fondly of all the brides who have had lovely parties and brunches in your homes, and I. . . .” Minimum: 6 sentences citing time, place, tradition, and memories (no skimpy declaratives permitted). These ladies were very sentimental, sharing one another’s joys and sorrows—especially the state of their “old maid” daughters. Who needs underlining? I wrote straight from the heart, knowing I was dead meat if I delayed or forgot one note.

cropped 435px-Nutcrackers_peTheme 3: my parents’ friends from days of yore, not mine. “How kind of you to remember Mr. Z and me! We certainly appreciate such an original gift. I cannot wait to perch the nutcracker on my mantel at Christmas. How I love that ballet. Mom and Dad speak of you often—it’s as if you are next-door neighbors. . . .” Minimum: 5 sentences. A purple candy dish received 4 declaratives plus 1 fragment. Actually, Theme 3 was rather easy-breezy—a sort of fiction I made up on the spot and easily exceeded the word count. Nonfiction is tough; one must be precise and true.  Fiction? I could let loose all day long with 7 sentences. I didn’t know who these people were, and they didn’t know we were living dirt-poor in a 1930s hippie-fringe duplex sans mantel or other decorative flourishes. I couldn’t wait to trot that kooky nutcracker back to Russia.

Theme 4: my in-laws’ friends. “Thank you for the exquisite crystal dish. Mr. Z. and I will enjoy using it for many years to come. I cannot wait to visit your town again. Mr. Z has told me so much about it. I look forward to exploring Mr. Z’s childhood haunts. . . .” Minimum: Facing alien territory, I wrote 7 sentences and mentioned Mr. Z’s name frequently. In addition, I took the time to make each note original because somebody once told me that residents of small towns in LA (lower Alabama) compared notes. Footnote: I caused an uproar because I retained my “maiden” name (10-year professional byline)—apparently shaming in-law ancestors vying to strike me with thunderbolts from on high. Mr. Z and I amicably parted ways years ago. I kept the Waterford, china, and sterling silver—and bequeathed him silverplate.

Theme 5: burnout—draft 3 sentences . . . and finish 3 more sentences plus 1 fragment and sign-off tomorrow. “Mr. Z and I deeply appreciate the relish tray. You are so thoughtful to remember us. We look forward to seeing you soon. . . .”


I once contemplated a career as a freelance thank-you note writer. Alas, my calling cards disappeared after 10 moves. I am too cheap to renew embossed stationery. My cursive writing is worse than an old-school doc’s script.

To all our moms and their friends—who made us feel pretty, smart, fun, and loved—thank you for being a friend.

Bouquet in an Arched Window by Ambrosius Bosscharet

Demi-tasse, Coalport Porcelain Works (England, Shropshire, circa 1796-1926)

Woman Writing a Letter by Gerard Terborch

Traditional western calligraphy with a gothic flavor by Denis Brown, http://www.quillskill.com

Nutcracker courtesy of Raul654




bleeding camellias

320px-Spiraea_japonica_Alba1UME_pe_pemarch flurries storm—

spiraea cluster

in tight-white fistfuls;

Lonicera_fragrantissima0_pelemon wafts

from sweet breath-of-spring,

cool drips of honeysuckle.



iris reticula!—

purple-tread carpet,

my low-lying lent;

narcissus_pejonquils and daffodils trumpet

white-peach-orange tones;

but I yield to conical shade

where a deep-blush camellia


and a companion

downturns bell-like,

ruffled by golden rot;


winter’s bleeding bed—

weed-fringed and

pine-straw punctured.


Spiraea courtesy of Epibas

Sweet-breath-of spring courtesy of Kurt Stuber, http://caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/mavica/index.html

Jonquil courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacepleb/399821516/

Iris and camellias by Catherine Hamrick

#EncourageEveryoneIn4Words: “Do the Right Thing”

Published continuously from 1732 to 1758, Poor Richard's Almanack hit record press runs of up to 10,000 copies per year.

Published continuously from 1732 to 1758, Poor Richard’s Almanack hit record press runs of up to 10,000 copies per year.

Success. I could watch LinkedIn’s Pulse stream all day and witness a zillion interpretations of how to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (I chopped off “early to bed, early to rise” because we live a 24/7 day and “multitask” in fast-paced environments.) For the record, Benjamin Franklin lifted that line from somebody else who had borrowed it from somebody else. A persona created by Franklin uttered the words in Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Something else popped into my mind after I saw this hashtag trending earlier this month: #EncourageEveryoneIn4Words. Funny thing—the hashtag is five words. Twenty-five years ago, Spike Lee transformed a simple phrase into the seminal movie Do the Right Thing.

Sarah Larson (Culture Desk/The New Yorker) wrote a piece about its 25th anniversary screening last summer. She grabbed some memorable remarks, including those of actor Luis Ramos:

“. . . You’re forced to grow up with each other in New York City. And learn. . . You got your Puerto Ricans, your Koreans, and blacks, and Italians, and we’re all in this together—until we’re not. And that’s the legacy of ‘Do the Right Thing.’”

The world went wildly global years after the release of the movie. I will qualify Mr. Ramos’s remarks:  Today there seems little room to escape one another. (I acknowledge that some people with good sense turn off technology while on vacation.)

This past January, Simon Kemp of the global social media agency We Are Social summarized their Digital, Social, and Mobile in 2015  report.  The content is bold. It packs staggering statistics from more than 240 countries and profiles of the world’s top 30 economies.

The core milestones for 2014 state: 1) worldwide social media users exceeded 2 billion; 2) worldwide penetration of mobile phones passed 50%; 3) the number of global internet users rose to 3 billion; and 4) the number of active mobile connections surpassed the total world population.

The report suggests that this growth shows no signs of slowing.

A global economy and technology have opened the door to entrepreneurship, cultural exchange, sharing of information (it’s wise to vet it), and access to family, friends, and colleagues in far-flung lands. However, it also has spawned a non-objective 24-hour obsession—on the part of many “media” outlets and their followers—to promote brutality; greed; polarized communities; political imbalance; prejudice; unreasoned debate; world leaders who do not lead but squabble (preferring to pander to their base); uncivil remarks (“snarky”); “switchtasking”; red carpet moments; and Kim Kardashian’s next Instagram exposure. On both counts, one can add more to the lists.

First edition of Brave New World (fair use)

First edition of the ongoing best seller Brave New World (fair use)

Do individual acts of kindness based on a moral code go unnoticed? Are they random?

I ponder the meaning of it all, stuck in my oscillation between the title of a famous novel and a quotation that has not died.

1) Aldous Huxley underpinned the dark Brave New World with this ironic twist on one of Shakespeare’s characters, naïve Miranda in The Tempest, who cries:

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in’t!

(Shakespeare seemed to be onto his own ironic twist.)

2) “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end and that peace & tranquility will return once again.”—Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Since 1947, the book has sold over 30 million copies translated into 67 languages.)


In addition, I ponder a fascinating question once posed in an interview: “How will your epitaph read?”

Since I prefer cremation, my epitaph will go up in smoke. Will it show up for a moment on a Twitter feed? It certainly will not be “the best #entrepreneur ever.” I applaud many successful entrepreneurs who run exciting businesses while following a moral code. I happen to be a worker bee. There is room for everyone.

Will  my epitaph matter in a nano-flash?

Will my epitaph matter in a nano-flash?

Just for fun, let’s give it a go:

“She tried to ‘do the right thing’ for faith, family, friends, communities despite her imperfect humanity. #EncourageEveryoneIn4Words”


Monument  in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery at the University of North Carolina (Catherine Hamrick)

The Garden of Perfect Moments

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

That was Leonard Nimoy’s last message. It resonated. Just in time.

Until then, I lamented my slow arrival as a writer. Why had I not produced anything seminal? Where was my worth? What would I leave behind?

Now I ask . . . does it matter?

Three decades ago, I would have spurned Mr. Nimoy’s comment about “perfect moments.” I was in thrall to the existential belief that perfect moments do not exist.

The_Sun_in_extreme_autobrightenAs humans, we constantly rewrite history. Our lens changes as we witness birth, life, death. My father’s death last September brought me to a garden of perfect moments. And so began my family stories, not the artful fiction I desired. I am but a small speck.

Perhaps I now see the world as I once did as a child. Memory calls up a moment in time.

My sister Mary and I sat in a window seat in Mama Hattie’s rambling house. Was there really a window seat? It does not matter. What matters is the morning light making a big square on the floor, inches from our bare feet. We slid our toes into the warmth. The floor creaked. Tiny particles seemed to swarm in the sunlight, like thin layers of stirring gold dust. Our fingers chased each other in and out of the rays, whirling them into scattered sparkles.

I squinted into that light. The chairs and table receded and became shadowy as I focused on a photograph of Mama Hattie. She stood strong, slender, and young behind the smudged glass, her hair long and black. The baby boy on her hip held the dark tresses while she smiled gently.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. To my way of thinking, Mama Hattie always had gray hair. Only her eyes were black.

But some time she was not old. There were the stories she told after we had bathed, put on our airy nightgowns, climbed on her heavy oak bed, and bounced on the mattress.

We sat on either side of Mama Hattie while she told of school days, cotton picking, and corn shucking. Her stories wandered around and never really ended; they just ran into each other. She paused frequently, and her voice was whispery, like the velveteen dresses that Mom sewed every Christmas.

After a while, I would lay my head against her shoulder and feel her jaw moving as her voice rolled and slurred and drifted into the past.


“Well, we’d go to this country school part of the year, but they’d turn out for the students to help their parents on the farm, if they needed hit. When we was in school, teacher called roll, and we had to answer with a little memory gem. I still recollect those memory gems.

“Let me see. . . .

“Be kind and gentle to those who are old; kindness is better and dearer than gold. . . .

“And, um, hit’s a-comin’ to me. . . . If you’ve work to do, do hit with a will. Those who stands at the bottom never climbs the hill. . . .

“Them cotton pickin’s?  Now those was a sight. Long about the end of pickin’ time, the bolls wouldn’t open real wide. Hit’d be so cold and bad weather that we’d just run and pick the bolls and then pick the cotton inside the house. . . .

“Then we’d have a candy pullin’! Boys and girls would gather ’round, and we’d pull that candy made from syrup. Hit would turn plum white we’d pull it so. . . .

“They’d have big corn shuckin’s, too! And the gal and boy that was a-settin’ next to each other, if they come to a red ear, he got to kiss her. . . .

“Nope, I never did have to kiss a single fellah. . . .”320px-Vegetable.garden_pe

Her shoulders shook, and we drowsily joined in her laughter. . . .

That world already had disappeared. But she spun those memories into perfect moments.

Will anyone know or care in a generation or two? It does not matter. That golden time is enough for the present.