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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Aunt Peep and Uncle Leo


Here's my short story that was included in the latest anthology edited by Celia Miles and Nan Dillingham, IT'S ALL RELATIVE, Tales from the Tree from 50 Western North Carolina Women Writers.

Enjoy!






Aunt Peep and Uncle Leo

When I was a little girl there was nothing I loved better than going to the beach to visit my Aunt Peep and Uncle Leo.  They were a hoot!

I would always go down and stay about a month.  The visits were usually supposed to be two week visits, but somehow lasted longer.  Aunt Peep would beg almost as loudly to my mom and dad as I would.

Peep and Leo owned a little restaurant right on The Boardwalk.  It was a treat for me to be able to run in and out of that restaurant like a little wild child, coke in one hand, hotdog in the other.

I would roam Ocean City with summer friends, with a freedom today’s children don’t know, nor would they understand.

I was sent out the door after breakfast and the only rule was that I be back at the restaurant for supper.  At that time it would be decided if Aunt Peep was going home, or if she’d stay at the restaurant.  If she was free to go, I’d go with her.  I just never could get enough time with my Aunt Peep.

The last summer I went down to stay with them, things were different.  Aunt Peep wasn’t going to the restaurant as much.  And my Uncle Leo didn’t seem to come home as much as he used to.  

And when he did, there were arguments.  Loud, mean arguments.  And when I would hide in my room, I was scared that some of the noises I could hear might be hitting.

Doors would slam.

Peep would cry.

I was afraid.

When my two week visit was over, I went home.

I didn’t beg to stay.  Aunt Peep cried, but said it was best if I went on home.

It was not long after that that I came home from playing with friends down the street to find my mother sitting in the kitchen crying.

Aunt Peep was dead.

Nobody would tell me what had happened.  An accident.  That’s what I was told.

I asked my mom if the bruises I had seen on Aunt Peep’s arms had caused her to die, but I was told to  hush.

When I heard my mom and dad talking about going to the funeral and that they planned to leave me home because I was too young, I pitched what could only be called a hissy fit.

The fit didn’t win – it never did with my parents.  But the fact that my heart was broken did.

We went to the funeral home for the viewing as soon as we got to Ocean City.  I had heard my parents talking in the car on the way.  They were wondering if the casket would be open or closed.

Seeing as how this was my first funeral and my first viewing, I was of two different minds about this casket being open thing.

I didn’t want to see a dead person, especially not one I loved so much.

But, at the same time, I wanted to say goodbye and wasn’t sure how to do that if I couldn’t see her face.

And, there was that horrible childhood morbid curiosity.

The casket was closed, and it turned out that my stomach quit hurting when I saw that.  I guess my stomach knew better than I did that I didn’t really want to see Aunt Peep dead.

I waited until there wasn’t anyone standing near the casket when I walked over and whispered my goodbye to my aunt, along with an “I love you.” 

And I just stood there, by myself, remembering how she would take me to the beach on her days off and race me into the waves.  And how we’d share fried chicken on our beach towels.  And talk about books.

I learned my love of books from Peep.  She took me to the Ocean City library each summer to renew my library card and I would spend some time visiting with the librarians that I hadn’t seen since the summer before.

They all had recommendations – lots of recommendations, and I was never without books to read while I was there.

While standing next to the casket, I thought I heard a voice.  Very soft.

I froze.

And I heard it again.

“Katy?  Katy, are you still there, honey?”

I turned around so my back was to the rest of the room and looked at the casket.

“Aunt Peep?”

“Yes, honey, it’s me.”

“Aunt Peep, aren’t you dead?”

“Oh, yes, child.  I’m dead.”

“Are you sure?”

I recognized Aunt Peep’s soft laugh and that’s when I started crying.  How could I go the rest of my life without hearing that laugh?  Well, maybe I wouldn’t have to after all.  I mean, here she was laughing . . .

“Katy, don’t cry.  Please, don’t cry.  I can’t stand it.”

I sniffled loudly.  “Aunt Peep.  Want me to go get somebody?  My mom, or Uncle Leo?”

“NO!”

She spoke so loudly, I jumped.  Then peeked over my shoulder to see if anyone else heard.

“No, child.  I don’t need anybody.  But I wanted to tell you something, okay?”

I nodded my head.

“After the funeral tomorrow, I want you to do me a favor.”

I nodded again.

“I want you to say hello to Mrs. Mitchell.”

“Aunt Peep, I don’t like Mrs. Mitchell.”

“I know you don’t, Katy.  Me neither.  But just do me this favor and I’ll be able to rest easy.  Okay, honey?”

“Okay.”

“When you say hello, it would be best if there were a lot of people around, especially your Mom and Dad.”

I nodded.

“And look and see if Mrs. Mitchell is wearing a bracelet.  A gold bracelet with cameos.  Can you do that?”

“That sounds like your bracelet, Aunt Peep.  You wear that bracelet every day.  Even swimming!  I remember.”

“It is my bracelet, Katy.  You be sure and ask Hortense Mitchell what she’s doing wearing my bracelet.  The bracelet that belonged to my mother, and to her mother.  The bracelet that I wore every day – even swimming.  You ask her, Katy.  And make sure there’s a gracious plenty of folks around to hear her answer.  Especially your good for nothing Uncle Leo.”







Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday Part Two












I returned home from the Boone Mall empty handed yesterday.

I appear to be a person who has forgotten how to shop.

I didn't see one single thing that looked like something any of the folks on my Christmas list would use/need/like.

Didn't see one single thing I couldn't live without either.

But I did have my picture taken with Santa.  


Wish I could post it here, but it probably won't arrive in my email until Monday, and I'll post it then.


And the crowds really were not too bad.  

Well, in Belk's they were, I guess, pretty bad.  

But the Mall itself wasn't overly crowded.

And T.J. Maxx wasn't too crowded at all.

I could have easily shopped, and there were some bargains to be had.

I just didn't see anything that spoke to me.


I'm meeting my friend Melissa for coffee Monday morning, I think I'll maybe go downtown Boone and visit some of the local businesses and see what I can find.

I really need to get some Christmas shopping done.

Donald and I don't exchange gifts at Christmas any more. We stopped doing that a few years back and now use that money to buy a couple gifts to put under an angel tree for a family less fortunate.  There are a lot of families going through tough times.  


Or, we may send it to Planned Parenthood after today's events in Colorado.  It is a crazy damned world we're living in and if people would actually do a little research into what Planned Parenthood actually "does" instead of what they "believe" Planned Parenthood does I think they might find themselves enlightened a little more than they want to be.  Some people enjoy being ignorant.  Makes it easier to hate, I think.





Back to what I was saying . . . 

An interesting thing.

Usually on Thanksgiving Day and the day after, we will see car after car after car with at least one Christmas tree tied to the top.

Yesterday when I went into town I took my camera in hopes of getting some pictures of all the trees leaving the local Christmas tree farms, a lot of which are usually heading down the mountain.

I saw an awful lot of cars driving into the tree farms, but I did not see a single car with a tree.  No idea what that means, but it is very unusual.

We have been seeing a lot of large flat bed trucks filled with trees leaving.  Everyone will soon be seeing their local businesses and parking lots setting up their Christmas trees for sale  -  many of them will be from right here in our neck of the woods.  


When I got home from the mall, I slipped into jammies and settled in with my coffee and a book.  

I thought we were in for the afternoon and evening.

Seems Donald had other plans and we ended up going back into town for a belated birthday dinner.


I did get out of my jammies before we did that.


We went to one of our favorite places - Bella's Italian Restaurant





And we noticed as soon as we walked in the door that all the waitresses and some of the patrons had their faces painted.




I swear.  Boone can be so much fun.


There was a face painter all set up in a corner.






But the painting wasn't being limited to kids only.




I ended up with a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer face.

and it was a fun thing.


And dinner was delish!






 French Onion Soup and a crispy garden salad -  just right.  

It's been a fun couple of days.  

But then, sadly, I had to wash off the Rudolph face before turning in.  

Fun for awhile though!









Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday



Mornin', all!


I'm having coffee, Don Barley is taking today's on-line photography lesson and I'm going to go do something I haven't done in years.

ANOTHER one of those "I will never do that again" things where I'm, once again, eating my words.

I've almost decided that's how I gained so much weight a couple years ago - by eating my words so often.

Anyway.

My mom and I used to always shop the day after Thanksgiving.

For years and years we did that and we laughed and laughed and had lunch and came home with a few bargains. 

Some, quite significant.

Some, not so much.

But we had enjoyed the day.

We only did it once after we moved to Boone.

And, truth be told, for Black Friday, it wasn't so bad.

After having navigated the crowds in Atlanta malls, Boone was a piece of cake.

Maybe it was too easy since we never did it again? 

Who knows.

We do all know that if anything is too easy it tends to lose its appeal.

So. I'm going to finish this cup, throw on my boots and bluejeans and hit the Boone Mall.

Many of you have seen our mall, and I love it.

It's tiny.

It takes me longer to get there than it does to shop it.

And because I've never understood why there needs to be 36 shoe stores under one roof, it suits my needs to a T.

We'll see how I feel when I return . . .

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, my friends.


(note:  some of you have let me know your comments don't show up.  There are two reasons.  #1) I have enabled the "moderate comments" app due to a wild amount of spam showing up.  So, if Blogger allows you to leave a comment, it's there, it's just waiting for me to moderate and hit the "publish" button. Sometimes that happens quickly - sometimes, not so much.   However -  #2) Blogger is having issues.  If you get an "error on comment" message, that's Blogger.  Hopefully, this will get worked out soon.  Patience, my pretties, patience.  and yes - this is a case of "do as I say, not as I do . . . since patience is something I'm short of.  imagine that.)


Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Most Unusual Day



So.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!


If you're not celebrating Thanksgiving today, I'd like to just wish you a day of peace.



And, I'm wishing myself Happy Birthday.


Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday Dear Meeeeeeeeee
Happy Birthday to me.



Today has been a very good day.


I've been sung to by some of my favorite people - both virtually over email and in the real world.  Wishes coming from favorite people in any form are dear and quite special.


And I have, indeed, been made to feel quite special with birthday messages on Facebook, by cards I've received at home and by phone calls.


I couldn't be a curmudgeon today for love nor money.


I have, admittedly, been a bit grumpy lately.


And, I have, admittedly, been a wee bit needy.


Why?


Oh, Laws, no reasons, a lot of reasons, sensible reasons, ridiculous reasons.  


Who knows.


I generally over analyze and over think and over worry about everything, so just pick an answer - any answer would do.


But. 


Today is a good day.


And that's what it's all about isn't it?


Good days made up of good moments?


And even our good days can have some bad moments.


See!  There I go again!  the over-thinking thing . . . . 


Let me just get on with it and tell you about my day, how's that?


There's just something unfair, basically, about a gal having to share her birthday with a holiday.


Don't you think?


And you know - Thanksgiving.


A day when the American way is to spend days in the kitchen cooking and baking and setting a pretty table . . .


Well.  You know.


I'm really not all that wild about cooking.


And cooking for my birthday?!


Pfft.


Honey.  That just ain't gonna happen.


So.


Out the door we went earlier today, knowing we were going to eat out.  Somewhere.


Where?


What?


That was yet to be determined.


We knew  our choices would be slim because most people aren't thinking about today being my birthday after all - they're thinking about it being Thanksgiving.  


Imagine that.


So, of course, there aren't many restaurants open - and that's as it should be.


We could have made reservations at one of several nicer places around town, but that didn't seem to interest either of us.  It just didn't feel like the kind of holiday that either of us wanted to put a whole lot of effort into.  For a variety of reasons, but mainly, and honestly?  I wasn't sure how I'd handle this day without my mom.


So.


We drove by the Cracker Barrel. 


LordAMercy - the line!  Whoa!



No, said I.


Drove by The Daniel Boone Inn, and what did we see?


A tour bus dropping off about 64 million people.


No, said Donald.


Drove through town and there wasn't a thing open.  But it's a gorgeous day and the perfect opportunity to take a couple pictures of some downtown sculpture I've been wanting to take.








Places that were open -

McDonalds's, Bojangles, The Waffle House . . . 


no, no and no.


And nothing against any of those places - we eat at those places more often than we should and personally, I'm a huge Waffle House fan.  But Thanksgiving/Birthday at The Waffle House?  



just.


no.


So.


Back to The Cracker Barrel and the line wasn't quite so bad (don't believe it - that was a fib).  


But, we went ahead and put our name on the list for a 45 minute wait.


But - it's a gorgeous day, so sitting in a rocking chair out front just wasn't a bad way to spend the morning.





Donald found it entirely too amusing that shortly after accusing me of being immature (don't ask) he was able to take a picture of me sitting in an "adult rocker."



I found a bit of irony in this sign hanging on the outside of the restaurant -





I mean, really??


Really???


I know Cracker Barrel is known for signs and "stuff" hanging all over it, but "this" ?


just.


oh, never mind . . . 


Our 45 minute wait turned into an hour and a half.


After getting a little bored with rocking, I decided to go inside and shop.


Pfft.


What a ridiculous thought.


Any idea how many people were crammed into the gift shop of the Cracker Barrel?


I don't know either.


a LOT.


So, we kinda scrunched ourselves into a spot next to the hostess station and ended up having an enjoyable little visit with her.


And things got silly.


When Donald realized I was getting a little "weary" of being brushed, jostled, pushed and knocked around he asked if I wanted to change places with him and stand in the corner.


"No.  I'm fine."


"uh oh.  Nobody puts Baby in the corner."  he says.


And I hooted.


Loudly.


I wish I could learn to laugh softly.


The hostess also hooted - she obviously watches the same movies we watch.


For the uninitiated - that is a classic line from Patrick Swayze in the oh so classic movie "Dirty Dancing."


Once I get tickled, it's hard for me to stop.


But I did finally get a grip.


Then I spotted this.





Now, not having kids I might be wrong about this, but it's Elsa, right?  From the Disney movie "Frozen?"


And this is a hat.


I asked Donald if he wanted to wear it.


"No,"


But the delivery was quick.


Very quick.


And oh so very sure.


Tickled again.


The hostess?  VERY tickled.


When we were finally seated she said she was sorry to see us go.


okay - so.


Seated and reading the menu.


Our waitress was adorable and we were soon comparing tattoos.





I love her tattoo!!!


She said there was a very long story behind it, and that it had a lot of meaning.  I'm sure of it!  As that is the whole point of a tattoo, after all.  


anyway.


After pondering the menu for way too long and then finding out the turkey (you know, I'm really not all that wild about turkey) dressing was cornbread dressing (no - just.  no.).  I decided to have breakfast.


And this is when Don Barley got the giggles.


"We have waited an hour and a half to get in here.  And you're going to have breakfast?"


And this is when I got the giggles.


"Yes."


"It's Thanksgiving."


"It's my birthday."


"It sure is.  I think I'll have breakfast too."









So. 


Breakfast for Thanksgiving lunch at The Cracker Barrel.


It was delightful.


And, who knows - maybe a new tradition?


We'll see.


And, just 'cause, here's a picture of Harley and my new birthday boots!










Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Grateful Post for the Day



My "grateful" post for the day is, additionally, in regard to yesterday's piece I posted here about "Gratitude ? ? ?." It has always been the nature of my blog, for some reason, to garner more private responses than public comments. 

The emails and messages I've received regarding this one have been strong and supportive, for the most part. 

But not all. 

And that's good too, really - I like friends who think and who will speak. 

Save me, please, from people who won't/can't/refuse to think. 

And I sometimes feel badly for those who won't/can't/refuse to speak. 

I do know it's a personal choice - a very personal choice and I respect it. 

I do. 

And for that very reason, I expect respect in return because I'm always going to live by the words of E. Burke, I guess, or at least I hope to. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 

I don't want to "do nothing." I want to do whatever I can - and I have found that the anger I'm feeling motivates me to do a little more. 

Write letters, make phone calls. 

Do some volunteer work in my community. 

These are the things I'm doing - with the new year bringing opportunities for me to get more involved in the volunteer work. 

I am, however, steering clear of political volunteer work. I've had it with politics in this country. 

I will continue to be outspoken about it and I will continue to make phone calls - even when the person who answers the phone makes it obvious they wish I'd quit calling. 

But I'm not giving my volunteer time to it. That's for people with an ability to contain their rage and their words - not for me, I'm afraid. 

But women's issues, homelessness, literacy. 

Those are things I can help with. 

Things I can give my time to. Things I've been somewhat active in, but it's time to step that up. 

So here's my "grateful" for the day - 

Grateful that I can help.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude ? ? ?



This is that time of the year to give thanks.

Thanksgiving isn't just about sitting down to a table laden with good food, as we're reminded by friends, family, TV commercials, etc., if not by our own conscience. It's a time for us to be grateful.

Grateful for the blessings in our lives.

Grateful for the friends and family who grace our lives.

Grateful for partners who love, stand by us, and respect us.

Grateful for the furry little creatures we share our homes with.  Who make us laugh and who fill our hearts.

I am grateful.  Eternally grateful.  For so much.


But I'm also angry.


Angry that the whole world seems to be at war.

Angry that some of the most hateful, most ignorant people on God's green earth feel as though they have what it takes to lead our nation.

Angry that we have people living on our streets without a roof over their head.

Angry with so much that is so wrong.

So this Thanksgiving, I hope you'll forgive me if I don't seem as graciously grateful as many might feel I should be.

Truth be told, I'm feeling guilty about feeling grateful.  

But mostly I'm just feeling kinda sad and wishing life were more fair.  

If it were fair, no child would go to sleep hungry.  

No parent would go without sleep worrying about how they'll feed that hungry child.  

Not one single person would have to sleep in a doorway tonight, or knock on an invisible door at an invisible border seeking shelter to replace the home he's lost.

Yes I'm sad.

And so worthlessly, uselessly angry.







Saturday, November 21, 2015

Taking the bad with the good, making lemonade out of . . whatEVAH



If you know me, you know I try not to whine.  

I may rant and shout like a sailor.

But I don't "think" I do too much whining.

Well, honeys, this is a whine of a sort to make up for all those past un-whines.

Skip it if, like me, you're pretty turned off by the noises made by a constant whiner.

Pitiful is just not my thing.

And I do not mean this to sound as though it's directed at those of you who have very legitimate complaints.

There are, after all, real reasons for complaints and then there are those who feel as though if they don't "suffer" a drama a day they're not going to get the attention they so need.

THOSE are the people I'm talking about here.



But enough about them - this is gonna be all about me.



All about me whining . . .


Being pitiful . . .


I hope I've made that perfectly clear.  (insert little winking emoticon here)


So.


I was suffering a bad case of the blues about this week.


Thanksgiving.  My birthday.  Happening this week without my mom.


My answer to combating this week of the blues is the same as it is for so many other things.


A week at the beach.


Now, as you may have figured out over time, the beach, the ocean, any big expanse of water meeting the sky is a balm to my soul.


It's not something I simply enjoy.


It's something I truly need.


Need from the very bottom of my feet to the very depths of my heart.


If I had known my ties to the water were so strong I doubt I could have ever left Cambridge where every drive I ever took was, sooner or later, going to have me going across a bridge.  Or have me within just a head's turn to see the water.  Cambridge Creek.  The Choptank River.  I get emotional by only thinking about them.  


But.  Had I never left Cambridge, what are the chances I would have ever met Don Barley?


Or many of the other people I've met on this life journey.  People I'm privileged to call "friend?"


So.  There's my making lemonade out of lemons.  


Oh, hell - enough of that.  


I am here to whine, I tell you!



We were able, on very short notice, to rent a house at Topsail Island.  Our favorite "go to" beach of the past many years.


The house was perfect.


Dog friendly.  Ocean front.  Large deck facing the ocean.  A sunroom in case the weather was a bit too nippy for early morning/late night coffee times.  As long as I can see, hear, or even sense those ocean waves, I am a contented woman.


And there was going to be a bonus this trip.


Because we pass closely to my friends Margaret and Joe's place we sometimes get to visit with them on this trip to the beach.  I was hoping to meet them for lunch today on our way.


But, as chance would have it - that couldn't happen this time because Margaret was already planning a trip to Topsail and would already be there.


Long story short  -  plans were made for me to get together with her for dinner this evening.  The dinner was to also include some of her writing group - The Weymouth 7.  The Weymouth 7 includes Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Diane Chamberlain, Mary Kay Andrews, Brenn Bonner Witchger, Katy Munger and Alexandra Sokoloff.  Pretty stellar group, huh?


While all seven were not part of this week's writing retreat at Topsail, Margaret, Sarah, Diane, Mary Kay and Brenn were.  


And my beach bonus was to include dinner with those who were there.  Except Brenn who ended up not feeling well.


Oddly enough, she apparently was pretty contagious with vertigo which she passed along to me.  (is that even possible?!  I don't think so . . .  but I need to place blame on someone and Brenn gets to be it).

<insert another winking emoticon right here>


So.


Not only are we not spending this week at the beach.


I am not having dinner with Margaret, Sarah, Diane and Mary Kay.


Insert every four letter bad word you have ever heard uttered in your entire life right here.


And now do it again with greater emphasis.


More gusto, please!


Believe me, you're not even coming close to expressing the disappointment I feel.



Except for Mary Kay, I know these women.   I was looking forward to meeting Mary Kay because I've been a long time fan.  Loooong time fan.  I lived in the area she used to write about under the name Kathy Hogan Trocheck in her Callahan Garrity series.  And I love the books she's writing now.


So.  A group of women, most of whom I'm lucky enough to know.  Women I admire.  Read.  Women whose work I read for heaven's sake - how cool is that?!   How could I not be sad and disappointed.


I demand a "do over!"  (and Brenn joins me in this demand).


In the meantime, today I'm picking up my copy of Diane Chamberlain's newest book, "Pretending to Dance."  I'll read it and about 6:00 this evening I'll lift my glass in a toast to the women at Topsail who I'll be missing.


<clink>