Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mimi's Mannequin: Photographic Evidence

Those of you who have not been formally introduced to my mom's lady mannequin, might want to refer back to my blogpost "The Closet."

As I was thumbing through old pictures a few days ago, I found her!  So with out further ado, I present to you, The Mannequin.
"I'll be your special friend, Helen."

She was fully caucasian, but there is a strong possibility that she had been frequently sneaking out for forays to Tanfastic.

She is holding a green party dress which adds so much depth to the tableau that Mimi must have been trying to create - Rita Moreno (see picture below...there's a distinct likeness) ready for her beauty sleep after dancing the night away on some apartment building rooftop. ("I like to be in A-mare-E-KUH!  No place for me like A-mare-E-KUH!")

My mom danced many a night away in the dress during the 50's.  Cinched down the back with diaper pins with plastic duck clasps, it became my living room pageant dress during the 60's.  I thought that it set off my olive green eyes and dishwater blonde hair quite nicely.  It was the perfect dress for the talent portion of the pageant when I belted out "Whatever Lola Wants."

The dress was resurrected during the late 70's for a Chi Omega pledge dance.  Pledge Lackey and I went as characters from the movie Animal House.  When I opened the front door, all I could see were his legs and a ladder.  (See ladder in photo background.)  He was reenacting the "peeping Tom" scene from the movie.  Not bad for an accounting major.

The Mannequin was a bit too "big boned" to fit into the emerald green dance dress.  She was more suited for modeling flowing items of lingerie.  And, Baylor t-shirts.

I've always wondered where The Mannequin ended up.  And, if she's still terrifying small children and grown men.

Seriously, don't you think that The Mannequin bears a striking resemblance to Rita Moreno?  Alan?  He was most certainly a Donnie Osmond look alike.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 7, 1985

Earlier today I was at Body Works chugging away on the elliptical machine in sync with my Couch to 5K ipod app.  I'm on Week 1-Day 3.   My "walking" song is, "bumbum..BUMP bumbum..BUMP bumbum..BUMP  bumbum..BUMP WE-WILL WE-WILL ROCK YOU!"  I walked.  I ran.  I walked.  I ran.  Then, came the cool down stroll with my cool down song.  As the melody slipped from my iphone through the cords of my earbuds and into my brain, I was taken back to the exact time and place that I first heard the song.  The memory was so sweet, that I closed my eyes and went there.

It was Thursday morning.  March 7, 1985.  I was wearing a new preppy blue dress with tiny white pinstripes and a starchy white collar.  The morning felt giddy with promise because I knew that the song was coming.  The weeks leading up to the release of it were filled with "teasers."  The ever swelling hype was equivalent to the mounting curiosity in the weeks leading up to July 29, 1981 when at last, Lady Diana stepped from her royal carriage giving the world it's first glimpse of her silk taffeta wedding dress.  As I drove to school that morning, Ron Chapman began the radio countdown, "OK, folks!  Only ten more minutes until you hear this song for the first time on KAAAAY VEEEE EYYYYYYE ELLLLLL!"  The chorus followed in three part harmony, "KAAAAAAY VEEEEE EYYYYYYE ELLLLLL!  STARE-E-OH ONE-OH-THREEEeeeeeee!"  

As I pulled into the parking lot of Bradfield Elementary, I glanced at the clock on the dashboard of my blue Nissan Sentra feeling a twinge of running-behind-lateness even though it was only 7:50 in the AM.  A creature of habit, I liked to be sitting at my desk lining up my pencils at 7:45.   Fidgeting, I weighed the pros and cons.  Stay and hear the song or feeling off kilter all morning?  What to do?  What to do?  Ron continued to draw me into his world, "You will always remember where you were the first time heard the song that's coming up in......six short minutes!  Suzie, how's the traffic looking today!?"  

Convinced that hearing the song for the first time on the way home from school would be totally anticlimactic and just plain wrong, I began to organize my things - purse, sack lunch, graded papers - in my lap so that I could make a dash to the building the minute the song was over.  I waited.  And waited.  And, then it began.  Softy...light tinkling of bells...a deep subtle "gonnnnnnnnng."  Enter the brass and piano.  Then, as soothing as a thick, velvety blanket, Lionel Richie began, "There comes a time...when we heed a certain call..."  Enter Stevie Wonder, "When the world...must come together as one."  

I closed my eyes and fell headlong into the moment as I began to recognize some familiar voices.  I heard the tender gravel of Kenny Rogers who was followed by...uh...that guy...then, the sultry  rasp of Tina Turner, "We are all part of...God's great big family!"  I begin to sway side to side in my bucket seat.  Then, the big moment.  Michael Jackson softly - almost timidly - premiered the chorus that would be on the lips of millions by nightfall, "We are the world...  We are the children..."  By now, I had forgotten that the morning school bell would soon ring at Bradfield Elementary on Planet Earth and twenty two 5th graders would begin tumbling into my unmanned classroom.  I was "in" for the duration.  I was a teacher.  I was all about children.  Sing on!

The beautiful and talented Diana Ross gracefully entered, "There's a choice we're ma-a-kin'...we're savin' our own lives!"  Michael Jackson joined her, "It's true we'll make a better day...just you and me!"  The song was passed from American Idol to American Idol as it swelled in intensity.  Willie Nelson brought it down home as only Willie could with his wiggly twang, "As God has shown us, by turning stone to bread..."  (His parole officer was probably standing by the door of the studio.)   Then, the big crescendo as The Boss' rugged voice commanded the mike, "WE AH THUH WORL...WE AH THUH CHILDRIN!"  The drums began to build up the beat!  I held up my Bic lighter and continued to sway.  Oh, yeah.  Smooth it out, Kenny Loggins!  Oh, yeah.  "When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all," Michael Jackson sang out leading the pack over the bridge.  Huey Lewis ground it in with a little " But if you just believe...there's no way we can fall!"  Then...wait for it...wait for it...  Cyndi Lauper screams out, "Well...Well...WELL.....LET US re-uh-lize that a CHAY-AYNGE can only come..." Then it's Lauper and Kim Carnes and Huey Lewis on the  big build up, "WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER AS WUUUU-UUUUUN!"

As the choir of icons lifted its voice to sing the chorus, tears welled up in my eyes.  I sat there in my Sentra in the parking lot of Bradfield Elementary at 8:00AM on a Thursday with tears slowly rolling down my cheeks singing along with Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and company.  As the choir softened, the chorus was punctuated by Bob Dylan's halting wail, "Thez a choice we're maakin'.  We-ah savin' OUR own lives.  It's true.  We'll make a betta day.  Jus you.  An me."  Then, the song swirled into the key change as the whole group joined in!  Four minutes into the seven minute song, I was swaying, singing, waving my Bic, and crying softly.

Yes.  I had my moment in the car that day.  The minute the song ended, I missed it.  I longed to hear it over and over until I could sing along - mimicking all the distinct voices which swam together in the vast sea of the thing.  Instead, I quickly checked my eye makeup in my visor mirror before stepping out of my music studio into the light of day.  Children were bouncing towards the school building as if nothing profoundly great had just happened. La-le-la-le-la.  I went through my day of spelling words, divisors and longitudes feeling distracted.  I remembered the feeling I had as a little girl in my jammies all fresh from my bath sitting in front of our big black and white TV waiting for the Ed Sullivan to introduce the Beatles.  There was an electricity that came through the airwaves and made my wet hair stand on end.  That's what it was.  It was a Beatles moment.  It was a tiny piece of history that I witnessed and thoroughly, completely enjoyed.

Thanks, Quincy.  Thanks, Michael.

You didn't think I would just leave you there hanging, did you?

Soloists (in order of appearance)
Stevie Wonder, a middle-aged African American man with his hair tied in a ponytail, dark sunglasses and stubble on his face. He wears a plain white tee-shirt and a grey jacket.
Stevie Wonder was a featured soloist on "We Are the World".

Bob Geldof, a Caucasian man in his mid-thirties, is on stage, singing into a microphone and playing a left-handed acoustic guitar. He wears a white shirt and a dark green jacket.
Bob Geldof sang as part of the chorus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chicks and Ducks and Geese Better Scurry

The Easter Parade
I'm the princess on the front seat.  My brother, Kirk, is the driver.

Ahhh, the surrey. The Easter Bunny graciously left it on our sidewalk when I was about 4 years old.  I think it was the Easter Bunny.  It might have been a St. Patrick's Day leprechaun.  What I do remember is that we rode it until the wheels fell off.  

The surrey was an extremely versatile "ride."  We staged East Neal Street parades waving to the mimosa trees that saluted us with their lacy fronds.  "Kirk, I'll be Miss Panola County, and you be the guy that drives the car!"  Sometimes we would pretend to be clowns in a clown car.    Dramatically slamming on the "brakes," we would fall like silly monkeys onto the street and then run around performing clownlike antics.  My favorite part was the smiling and waving at the pretend crowds of cheering admirers.  I've always loved a good parade.  

With a piece of manilla paper and a box of crayons, we created "Lemonade for Sale" signs that we taped to the front of the surrey's canopy with masking tape.  I sat on the front seat balancing a pitcher of lemon Koolaide and a stack of Dixe cups on my lap.  Kirk's job was to pedal and shout "Lemonaaaaaaaaaade for Saaaaaaaale!"  As we decorated the surrey and stirred the cup of sugar into the Koolaide, we dreamed about all that we would buy at the Dime Store with our earnings.  Half of 35 cents wouldn't buy my Barbie a tennis dress or a new nightgown.  So, I tucked my share of our meager portion away in my little oval rubber squeeze coin purse to wait until our next entrepreneurial venture.  Barbie would just have to wait.  

We sailed the Seven Seas in that good old surrey.  The waves would crash into us, but the surrey held tight.  Pirates chased us up and down East Neal Street.  Toothy sharks swam alongside us nipping at our bare toes while we screamed in horror.  "Oh no!!!  More sharks!  They're going to eat us!  Pedal faster!"  Sometimes we would sit and drift in the open ocean casting out our imaginary fishing lines hoping to catch Charlie the Tuna for our dinner.  Peter Pan and Wendy stopped by to see us from time to time.  We were a jolly crew on a the Good Ship Surrey.

My heartfelt thanks go out to the Easter Bunny or leprechaun for his or her generosity.  That surrey was more than a toy.  It was a vessel filled with adventures.  Those adventures created lifelong memories that give me pleasure to this day. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Art of Mail

Mail art is a worldwide cultural movement that began in the early 1960s and involves sending visual art (but also music, sound art, poetry, etc.) through the international postal system.  Mail Art is also known as Postal Art or Correspondence Art. The term networking is often used to describe Mail Art activities, based on the principles of barter and 
equal one-to-one collaboration.

I've happened upon a new hobby via a fellow blogger whom I've never met.  He's a young artist in Chicago named Dean.  I love to follow blogs of young artists and designers.  Their ideas are fresh and creative.  Chicago Dean loves to send and receive mail art.  The idea of sending bits of art through the mail by way of ordinary envelopes fascinated me.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.  Also, I love the thought of resurrecting the tradition of letter writing.  Sending a handwritten letter is an art within itself.

There is a lovely 85 year old gentleman named Leonard who lives at Raider Ranch.  We have become friends with Leonard over the months that my mother has lived there.  Leonard buys 100 stamps a month.  He writes 3 or 4 letters a day to friends and loved ones.  We have received several notes and cards from him from Birthday greetings to a Get Well card for Alan when he broke his nose.  I love that Leonard is a letter writer.  There is something good and mannerly and time-honored about the handwritten word.

Above is an example of my very rudimentary attempts at creating mail art.    I have a passion for paisleys that I attribute to the amazing art teacher I had in Robinson, Texas, my 9th grade year.  She introduced us to designing paisleys.  It has become my favorite shape to doodle over the years.  I have church bulletins and notepads filled with them.  Start preaching to me or put me on hold on the phone, and I'll start doodling away.  So, I've been adorning the fronts of the envelopes with paisleys.  I love creating some sort of collage on the back.

I'd love to send you some mail art!  The hidden agenda is that the gift of mail art implies reciprocation (see above:  "equal one-to-one collaboration").  As you can see, any sort of doodling will pass for mail art.  It can be as simple as a collage of news from your town.  I would love to add yours to my collection.  Simply contact me via facebook or email (, and give me your address!  I'll get something in the mail to you asap!

So here's to Dean and Leonard...and the United States Postal Service!  Long live mail art!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Sweet Saturday

Although I do not work outside the home, I am quite busy every day taking care of the household, volunteering, and being a good wife-mother-daughter-friend.  I cherish Saturday and Sunday.  I consider them to be my "days off."  As I've mentioned before, Alan makes his timed Saturday Lists.  He wastes not a minute even on sweet, sweet Saturday.  About an hour ago, he came into our room where I was camped out on a cozy chair putting my makeup on while watching A Woman Scorned:  The Betty Broderick Story on Lifetime, Television for Women.  "What is on your list today," he asked me knowing that Saturday lists do not exist on Planet Carolyn.  Stretching, I lazily replied, "Wellllll.  I think I'm going to go ahead and finish putting mascara on my lower lashes until the commercial break.  Then, I'm going to mozy into the bathroom to blow-dry my hair.  When the movie comes back on, I'm thinking I might make the bed."  "Wow.  You've got a busy day ahead," he teased as he marched out of the bedroom towards his beloved goals for the day.

My Beloved, Mr. Saturday List
Betty is now in prison for killing her husband and his new bride.  I knew that she would be.  I've seen A Woman Scorned:  The Betty Broderick Story before.  A couple of times.  [May I say that Meredith Baxter Birney does a lovely job of portraying the overweight, angry, vicious Betty Broderick?]  After I finished making the bed, I sat on it and googled Betty Broderick.  She was up for parole in 2010.  It was denied.  With a sigh of relief, I turned off the TV as the credits rolled.  Thankful to be A Woman Adored, I shuffled into the kitchen where Alan was camped at the kitchen table hovering over his Saturday List which was actually his Saturday-Sunday list.  It spanned 2 pages of notebook paper.  As I wandered around the kitchen randomly straightening this and that, he checked off a couple of items.  I considered telling him that I needed to add "put up the salt and pepper" and "fold and stack the newspaper" to my list.

What do I want to accomplish today?  Nothing.  It's a grey, overcast morning.  Thunder has rumbled, no, taunted in the sky a couple of times.  It won't rain.  Not today.  The much needed Spring moisture will hover overhead putting West Texans in the mood for cuddling up with a good book or napping in front of Lifetime, Television for Women movies.  But, it will not spill down to earth satisfying our longing for a snuggly rainy day.  And, yet.  I will do my part.  I have parked myself in front of my computer.  I have lolly-gagged on facebook clicking on pictures and watching funny youtube videos.  Now, I am partaking in my favorite pastime, blogging.

"My darling, let's skip Sunday
School AND church!  Let's just
cuddle up on the couch in our
 matching jammies, sip hot chocolate,
and read the funnies all day!"
As a girl, one of my favorite show tunes which I performed from time to time in the living room Miss Panola County Pageants with Kristi and Penny was from Flower Drum Song.  It had fun lyrics with a playful lilt that welcomed my coy facial expressions and dramatic gestures.  Singing in my warbling, operatic pageant voice I pranced up and down in front of the invisible audience on the couch.  "Sunday, SWEET Sunday!  With NOTHING to DOOOOOOOOO!  Lazy AND lovely!  My ONE day with YOOOOOOOOOU!"  I punctuated "YOOOOOOOOOU" with a broad sweep of my arm with upturned palm inviting the audience into my sleepy Sunday world with a wink.  It was a pageant trick of old.

The lyrics wound their way around my head like silky, pink smoke and snaked themselves back into my ears deep into the folds of my brain.  I daydreamed about the Sunday afternoons that my husband, Ricky Nelson, and I would spend cuddling on the couch of our Barbie Dream House.  It was during those Flower Drum Song days that I began to long for Sundays.  Sweet Sundays.  With nothing to do.

I hear the lawn mower cranking up.  It's the first mow of spring.  Time for me to curl up with a book from my new stack of must-reads, a cup of Earl Grey and, perhaps, a cat or two.  My beloved will scurry about the place repairing, sorting, weeding and edging.  Just a minute ago, he came in with the glass lantern from the table on our patio.  He is determined to dislodge last summer's candle which over the cold winter with all it's might adhered itself to the lantern's candle cup.  He asked me, "How should I get the candle out of there?"  My advice was to put the whole kit and caboodle in the freezer for a few minutes.  A few minutes later, he came to show me how he had unscrewed the metal cup from the lantern.   He's in the kitchen "talking" to it as I type.  "Are you blogging about me?!" he's asking.  Yes, Mr. Busy.  It's a lazy Saturday afternoon.  What in the world else would I have to do on a deliciously sweet Saturday afternoon?  You have the dreaded stuck candle under control.

Sunday (from Flower Drum Song)
Now that we're going to be married,
I keep imagining things,
Things that can happen to people,
When they are wearing gold rings:

Being together each morning,
Sharing our coffee and toast.
That's only one of the pictures.
Here's what I picture most.

Sunday, sweet Sunday,
With nothing to do,
Lazy and lovely,
My one day with you.

Hazy and happy, 
We'll drift through the day,
Dreaming the hours away.

While all the funny papers lie or fly around the place
I will try my kisses on your funny face.

Dozing, then waking, 
On Sunday you'll see... me!

Sunday, sweet Sunday,
On Sunday you'll see... me!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dream

From Mimi's garden at 2709 Rockview in Waco.

Ps 19:1  "The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

The sky is a soft robin's egg blue.  The sun is sparkling above.  The air is fresh and clean this morning.  Wake up, pear trees!  Wake up, daffodils!  It's Spring!

My sister, Kathy, slipped away to Heaven on a brisk January morning.  Just after Christmas,  the villainous leukemia cells snuck back into her marrow with an unexplained vendetta and began doubling, tripling, and quadrupling by the minute.  The medical protocol quickly changed from fighting the cancer to fighting the pain.  We heard those dreaded words, "Keep her comfortable."  She drifted into a drug-induced coma for a couple of weeks.  On January 19th, she woke up early.  In Heaven.  

Her passing was quickly followed by flowers, singing, and one hundred thousand-ish hugs.  From her funeral, we sped down I-35 to be with my Aunt Wanda and cousin, Sherry, as they buried beloved Uncle Billy whose death of a heart attack was quick and unexpected.  After all of the hubbub and hoo-da that surrounds death and funerals, I returned with my little family to Lubbock and tucked myself away for a long, intentional hibernation.  I turned away from the world in search of Peace and Joy with a stubborn certainty that that they no longer existed.  For weeks on end, I did not find them.  While the boys were busy at school, I sat alone in my living room.  In total silence.  

I "wallered" in my emptiness and in my pantry.  "Oh, I wish I could have one more glimpse of Kathy and Uncle Billy," I wailed digging my hand into a bag of Wavy Lays.  "If I could just talk to Kathy for one more minute!  Just ONE minute!" I moaned shoveling Cocoa Krispies into my mouth.  I tried my best to fill my emptiness with comfort food.  Thirty pounds later, I was still empty, and I was fat.  Fat and empty.  Run down.  Colorless.  Boring.  Worthless.  Not fun.  Not fun at all.  The Cheetos had failed me.  The buttered toast dripping with orange marmalade had flat out lied to my face.

I sullenly realized that I hadn't even passed Kathy in the world of my dreams.  Before she left me, she was often a character in the shenanigans of my nocturnal adventures.  We laughed, we ran, we played tricks on our mother.  Now, even in the bliss of my sleep - she was nowhere to be found.  "God, show her to me!  You have the power to open the door of Heaven!  You can totally let her peek out from behind a cloud to call out a quick 'Hey!'"  "Hey!" was her phone greeting.  "Hey, it's me!"  

Then, one morning, I woke up as Alan was getting ready to head to the bank.  (I'm not a late sleeper.  He's an EARLY riser.)  "Allie, listen!  If something happens to me today, I need for you to know that I had a sign!  Kathy talked to me in my dream!"  The look on his face shouted, "She's finally done it.  She has gone wall-eyed crazy."  "Listen to me!  I need to tell you about my dream!"  "Oooookay," he replied sitting on the edge of the bed.

We were at a huge family gathering at my Aunt Florence's house.  There were two odd things about this gathering at that house.  I don't have a huge extended family, so apparently, somewhere along the way in my dreams aunts, uncles, and cousins popped up from nowhere.  It's unlikely that we would have had this gathering at Aunt Florence's.  I won't say that she was a hoarder, but she didn't waste a thing.  If she kept something long enough, it would end up serving some sort of purpose.  I guess that she was "green" before being green was cool.

The house was crowded with people and stacked up newspapers, magazines, and shoeboxes.  We milled around shoulder to shoulder balancing sweaty glasses of iced sweet tea in one hand and plates loaded with baked ham, potato salad and some sort of red, congealed, canned-fruity something in the other.  The mood in the house was happy and relaxed.  We had settled in for hours of visiting and reminiscing when there was a knock on the front door.  Actually, it wasn't the door-door.  It was the screen door.

A message was passed from aunt to uncle to cousin until it reached me.  "Carolyn, someone is here to see you!"  Wiggling through the crowd, I made my way to the door.  A man who was a stranger to me stood there motioning for me to join him on the porch.  He talked.  I listened.  "Kathy is here to see you.  She can only see you for a few minutes,' he said pointing to a tall hedgerow that bordered the side of Aunt Florence's white clapboard house.  Without a word, I walked toward the hedge.  My heart was racing.  Why would this man single me out for such a malicious prank?  Why would he put me through the agony of seeing nothing?  And yet, I continued.  

The air was fresh and the sun was shining.  And, there Kathy was standing before me.  "Hey!" she grinned.  She was white light and delicate.  We laughed and hugged.  I scooped her up in my arms and began to carry her.  She weighed less than nothing.  "Tell me about Heaven!  What is it like?!" I asked with tears streaming down my face.  "Ooooooh, Heaven!  It is hard to express in words the glory of Heaven!!" she began.  As I carried her around Aunt Florence's back yard which was filled with a hedgerow maze, she told me of the streets of gold and the glassy sea and the brilliant light that never darkened.  "When you get there, God pairs you with a guide!  The guide shows you all around and introduces you to all of the 'biggies,' Moses, Abraham, and, of course, Jesus!"  She glowed with a deep happiness and peace which passes all understanding.  

After a few minutes, she told me that she had to get back to Heaven.  "God chose me!  I get to be a guide today!  I can't wait to see who he will partner me with!  It could be Billy Graham or ANYBODY!"  Her joy was complete.  "What about Uncle Billy?!  How is he?!" I asked knowing that Aunt Wanda would appreciate news of her life's love.  "He's awesome!  He's playing his saxophone and having a blast!  We see each other all the time!" she assured me.  Then, she told me it was time to go.  She had a partner to welcome into Heaven.  You'd have thought that she was bidding me goodbye before stepping onto a luxury cruise liner embarking on an around the world tour.  Her eyes were bright with excitement.  We kissed and hugged.  Tears were streaming down my face as I set her back on her feet.  Slowly she and the man drifted away and were soon out of my sight.

"Alan, I may be Kathy's partner in Heaven!  If it's not me, then it's probably going to be Billy Graham!  But, I think it might be me!  If I die today, please tell this dream at my funeral between 'Blessed Assurance' and 'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing!" I commanded.  "Ooookay," he replied, "But, Pinkie, I don't think that you're going to die today."  "Well, I'm just sayin' case!"  "Okay.  If you up and die today, I'll make sure that someone tells the dream," he said trying to pacify me back to sleep.

Kissing me goodbye, he headed out the door, briefcase and cup of coffee in hand.  I laid back on my pillows and began to take inventory of my vitals.  I was breathing effortlessly.  My heart didn't feel the least bit "attacky."  I didn't have a terrible, unexplained headache.  Hmm.  This could get interesting...or violent!!!  Then, I began to dread the pain that I might feel when the robber stabbed me with my favorite Wusthof chef's knife.  I had to laugh envisioning myself looking over my shoulder all day and looking both ways 10 times before driving through intersections with green lights.  What a day was spread before me!

Much to my surprise, I didn't die that day.  Or, the day after.  Or, the day after that.  But, my senses were heightened by the thought of "last time" experiences.  I hugged the boys tightly and showered them with motherlove before driving them to school.  I stood in the backyard and praised the tiny blades of new, green grass that were pushing up from underneath the dry, brown blades of winter.  I breathed in the clean, cool Spring air and swished it around in my lungs like I was tasting a fine wine.  Life was good.  It was worth living.  Even if I had only a few minutes left before the robber popped out of my closet door with that big, sharp knife.

The sky was a soft robin's egg blue.  The sun was sparkling above.  The air was fresh and clean that morning.  There was no intruder to be found in any of the closets of my quiet home.  Believe me.  I checked.  Wake up, pear trees!  Wake up, daffodils!  It's Spring!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I love Loyce Deloney

My mother made my "picture day" dress.
I didn't like it because the fabric "smelled funny."

Mrs. Loyce Deloney was my third grade teacher.  With every fiber of my being, I adored her. Her hair was silky white with soft waves that gleamed under the industrial schoolhouse lights in Room 15 on the 3rd grade wing of Libby Elementary.  She spoke in a soft, soprano voice and was generous with loving smiles.  As she walked up and down the rows of desks checking to see if we had all "carried the ones," a cloud of Heaven Scent was left in her wake.  She wore silky shirtwaist dresses and pointy-toed high heels. On chilly days a simple cardigan hung from her shoulders.  As our matriarch, she sat at the head of our lunch table and made sure that our napkins were in our laps.  After lunch when the big buzz fans droned like helicopters landing in our classroom, she traded her heels for golden Genie house slippers that revealed the darkened heels of her nylons.  Those slippers represented the cosiness and peace that we felt as members of the Libby Elementary Deloney family.

Mrs. Deloney read to us every day after lunch.  As we rested our heads on our desks, she became Laura Ingalls Wilder telling the adventures of her life in the Big Woods.  Our mouths watered for pulled taffy and smoked ham.  We dreamed of dancing in the firelight as twinkly-eyed Pa played jigs on his fiddle.  In great detail, Mrs. Deloney drew pictures of butter churns and plows on the blackboard in white chalk to help us understand the world of the Wilders.  At the end of a chapter, she would close the book only to hear us quietly protest, "Awwwwww!"  We wanted more of Laura's stories.  We wanted more of our teacher's soothing voice.  "Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!" she would always promise.  Turning to page 82 in our geography books, we would settle down for an afternoon nap as one of our fellow students began to read orally from where we had left off the day before, "The main crops of Tennessee are corn, cotton, soybeans and tobacco..."

Mrs. Deloney made learning fun.  In November, we made Indian headbands from brown construction paper.  Then, we carefully traced feathers on orange, red, green and yellow paper which we meticulously cut out with our safety scissors - our tongues jutting just out of our mouths as we concentrated on scoring each feather's edges.  These feathers were stored in our desks for special occasions like 100's on spelling tests or multiplication table tests.  With pride, we pasted each earned feather onto our headbands.  Once the headbands were filled, she let us ceremoniously add a strip of brown construction paper that trailed down the back of the band creating a chief's headdress.  Adding that strip of construction paper was tantamount to gaining membership into an elite educational society filled with gifted spellers and multiplication table savants. 
Over the years, I have amassed  two collections that pay homage to my beloved Mrs. Deloney:  vintage rhinestone American flag and Christmas tree pins.  These pins take me back to the love and safety of my third grade classroom.  To the draped cardigan sweaters adorned with seasonal rhinestone pins.  To the place of love and grace and Loyce Deloney.

Mrs. Deloney, it's me, Carolyn Kinzbach.  Remember me?  My mom taught in the classroom 2 doors down.  When I grew up, I became a teacher, Mrs. Deloney.  I had my heart set on teaching 3rd grade because it was my favorite.  Because of you.  I never taught third grade.  But, I always read to my students after lunch.  Because of you.  

Thank you, and, I love you, Loyce Deloney.

A note to Janie Bug in the Woods:  
Wohelo, O friend of 50 plus years.  I think of you when I think of Mrs. Deloney.  What treasured memories we share.  Love you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Banana Bike

With the wind dancing through my shoulder length, tangly blonde hair, I felt like I could fly.  Oh, the freedom I felt on hot summer afternoons in my tiny hometown, Carthage, Texas.  Together, we raced down the neighborhood's black-top roads softened under the blazing sun.  Carefully striking the perfect balance, I gracefully lifted my feet from her pedals and spread my legs wide - toes pointed like those of the prima ballerina spinning in my jewelry box.  Then, in one fluid motion, I let go of the handlebars and held my arms out like the wings of a soaring bird floating along on the warm summer breeze as we ventured forth.  She was my friend.  She was my partner.  She was my banana bike.

I remember well how she came to be mine.  With my birthday only days away, my mother took me to the Western Auto Store on the corner of Panola and Shelby.  There in the small, crowded, rubber tire scented store amongst the fan belt and spark plug displays was a small row of brand new, shiny bicycles.  My heart raced as we entered the store.  I felt like a princess entering a grand ballroom or a movie star walking onto a movie set.  "I'm ready for my bicycle, Mr. Western Auto!"  With my head lifted high with a regal "I Am A Paying Customer" air, in I floated.  The men of Western Auto took notice when a lady with a 7 year old snaggle-toothed, blonde daughter entered the store.  "What can we do for you, young lady?" said the approaching smiling salesman with his Brylcreem slick hair and Old Spice splashed cheeks.

At this point of my story, I feel compelled to take 
a but a moment to pay homage to Brylcreem.


"Tell Mr. So-and-So why we're here, Carolyn!" my mother gently nudged me.  "I'm gonna pick out my birthday bicycle," I grinned feeling like I had just announced exciting headline news.  I could hear Walter Cronkite's deep voice booming, "Carolyn Kinzbach is selecting her birthday bike at the Carthage, Texas Western Auto today in preparation for the grand celebration of her 7th birthday which will rival that of Caroline Kennedy's!  Sources tell us that she has her heart set on a pink, or perhaps, green banana bike with lovely handlebar grip streamers.  And, that's the WAY it is on this 27th day of  February 1964!"  Interrupting the "Up to the Minute" broadcast, Mr. A-Little-Dab'll-Do-Ya announced that the bicycles were "Right this way!"  I knew by heart where the bicycles were.  I'd tagging along with my dad to Western Auto for yeeeeeears.  While he examined tire treads, I wandered over to the small row of bicycles to caress their gleaming fenders and gently brush the multi-colored streamers flowing from the pristine white handlebar grips.
This bike, minus the hand brakes, is very similar to mine.

"What kind of bike are you wanting, Little Miss?" the saleman said waving his arm down the neat row of bikes tilting on their kickstands.  "A banana bike with monkey handlebars!" I quickly replied grinning from ear to ear.  "A banana bike?!" he exclaimed feigning surprise.  "Well, let's see what we have here!  I think we have the perfect birthday bike for you!"  
From the row of small to large bikes, he rolled out a shiny blue model with a long, narrow banana seat crowned with gleaming chrome monkey handlebars tipped with a rainbow of glossy plastic streamers.  "Does it come in pink or green?" I asked hopefully.  "No, Ma'am.  Just blue.  Why don't you try riding it around the store to see how it feels?"  Disappointed, I obediently straddled the bike and began to circle the aisles of auto parts on a wobbly test ride.  The seat was comfortable.  The monkey bars were elegant.  The streamers floated daintily as I rode.  As I made my way back to the bike aisle, I spied my mom holding out an item that sealed the deal -  a pretty white plastic "wicker" bicycle basket with plastic flowers woven around the upper rim.  The bicycle was mine.

Back in the days when children played outside with balls and sticks, a bicycle was a most prized possession.  A kid's bicycle was his or her form of identity.  Mothers could look down the block and locate a child's whereabouts with a quick glance.  Little Suzie was at the Miller's house because her green Huffy with the Old Maid playing cards attached to the spokes with clothespins was parked in the Millers front yard.  Bikes new to the neighborhood were met with appreciative with calls of  "Hey, new bike!  Neato" and "Ge-aaw! A banana bike!"  As we pulled into the driveway, my dad met us smiling.  "What a pretty bike!" he raved unloading it from the back of the El Camino.  No sooner than its wheels had touched the driveway, I hopped onto the banana seat and began my own private neighborhood parade of one.

That bike took me far and wide on the streets of Carthage, Texas.  Back then, a little girl could safely ride her bike from one end of the town to the other.  The rule was this:  Don't ride so far that you can't make it back home in time for supper.  With a Mason jar of sugar-sweetened strawberry Koolaide tinkling with ice cubes and a wax paper wrapped Miracle Whip sandwich tucked into my wicker bicycle basket, I could just about make it to the Louisiana border and back.  My favorite ride was the one I made with my mom and my big brother, Kirk, - she on an old Huffy Cruiser and he on a dashing red 12-speed English Racer - on warm evenings just as the mosquitos began flitting around looking for chubby little girl arms fit for a midsummer night's feast.  

On these deliciously adventurous excursions, we rode way into the pineywoods along country roads.  I can't tell you which direction or how far.  The calculations of my short legs pedaling hard to keep up estimated the distance to be about 10 miles to our destination.  Far, far from the flat streets of our neighborhood was a narrow tar farm-to-market road with a treacherously steep hill that dipped down deep like a roller coaster and headed up just as steeply as soon as a flying bike reached the bottom.  

The three of us would perch upon our bikes at the top of that incline staring down into the mouth of the dragon.  Then, slowly Mom would count, "One...two...three!" And, off we'd fly screaming "Geronimoooooo!" at the top of our lungs.  Up and down.  Up and down.  Up and down until we were breathless from laughter.  Then, in the gathering twilight, we would turn towards home where, more likely than not, a watermelon would be waiting in the aluminum dog washing tub filled with ice.  We'd end the day with tousled hair, itchy mosquito-stabbed legs, and sticky watermelon juicy arms.  Enjoying the dance of the fireflies.  Pure, simple, sweet contentment.  I loved to ride my bicycle.  I loved to ride my bike.

You knew this was coming.


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...