I became a mom twenty-two years ago today. I could wax poetic about what an amazing and beautiful young woman my daughter has become. I could share with you the mixed fear and pride I felt when she traveled (with great excitement) to a Central American country to serve in missions. I could tell you how smart she is and that the creative gene is strong in her. We could chuckle over how she curls up on the sofa in comfy clothes and teaches herself new embroidery stitches while watching episodes of Doctor Who, like she’s a really cool granny. I could rattle off her literary accomplishments — completing NANOWRIMO four times, having her poem published in the college literary magazine, rocking it like Noah Webster in the writing department.
But then I’d just be bragging.
My girl is twenty-two today and I love her very much.
So today has not gone quite as I’d hoped. I planned to really tackle some of the finishing paintwork (doors, trim that could use another coat), but I’ve been busy attending to other matters. Balancing checkbooks, returning phone calls, scheduling appointments, and working up a blind quote for a repeat customer.
I did a little googly detective work, too. There is a lovely home in Alvin, over one hundred years old, that I have loved since I was a little girl. Before I was old enough to do so myself, I would ask my mom to drive by so I could gaze upon the fanciest house I’d seen in my young life. Older, running errands for my mom, trips to the grocery store somehow always required sidetracking down South Beauregard Street. Even now, when I return to Alvin for whatever reason, I manage to find an excuse to drive past that elegant Victorian. Thanks to the internet (and my hardheaded persistence), I located the name of the owner and carefully penned a letter of inquiry on nice stationery, asking if I might write an article on the home and its history for Image Magazine. I enclosed my Image business card and I’m hoping my handwritten letter will open the door (literally) to a visit.
The key to a successful interview will not be asking the right questions or taking nice photos.
The key will be not passing out from unbearable excitement.
Yesterday I spent some time filling out my planner for the week. One of my goals is to be more diligent about scheduling my time. That encompasses responsibilities and fun! So when I sat down yesterday and entered appointments and to-do’s in my Agenda 52 Planner, tomorrow’s entry was especially exciting.
Years ago when I worked at the law firm, I had the pleasure of working for a legal assistant named Sallie. We were a good match and I enjoyed working for her until life took us in different directions. We lost touch for many years, and then one day I decided to see if I could reconnect with her through Facebook, and was happily successful!
Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) we are meeting for lunch and I think we both are as excited as little kids. It will be so nice to catch up with each other after such a long time. She is a wordsmith, in addition to many other things (a lawyer, a realtor, a homeless animal advocate), and I look forward to hearing all about life since we worked together back in the day.
When the blue-haired ladies of Liberty went to Grace’s for a shampoo and set, they entered the East Texas beauty parlor through the door located on Hawthorne Street. When I went to my MaMaw’s beauty shop, it was always after hours and I let myself in through a swinging door hinged along the top, which separated the shop from MaMaw’s home. We were never allowed to go between the house and the shop during business hours. We would have to go out the back door, through the carport, down the sidewalk and back up to the door on Hawthorne Street. Health department rules or some such nonsense.
When we’d go for a visit, MaMaw and my mama would sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee and sharing recipes MaMaw had collected from her Eastern Star sisters. The shop was much more interesting than their recipe-trading, and MaMaw never minded my playing in there as long as I put things back where they belonged. I remember pushing that strange swinging door with all my six year old might, making just enough space to slip in, letting go quick enough so I didn’t pinch my small fingers when the door swung shut with a loud smack.
Once I’d navigated the dangerous door with all my extremities intact, I found myself in a shop that was a treasure trove of grown-up beauty for a little girl just recently allowed to use Tinkerbell “cosmetics.” The mingling fragrances of shampoo, setting lotions and hairspray were intoxicating, and to this day when I smell the laquer-y scent of Lamaur Vita/E hairspray — still sold in the same brownish-gold can — I’m immediately transported back to MaMaw’s.
Two black vinyl chairs beneath two slick black porcelain shampoo bowls were situated to the left of the swinging door, opposite MaMaw’s chair where she took care of her clients. A tiered stand stood nearby; its bins held pink, blue, purple, yellow and gray Toni perm rods of varying sizes. The nubby plastic rods were thinner in the middle than on the ends. Little stretchy bands attached to one end and connected to a stopper that plugged into the other end once hair and perm papers were wrapped around the rods. I enjoyed putting all the plugs in the ends of the rods. Now I realize it might have made MaMaw’s work a little harder the next day. At least I made sure to keep the colors separated!
My short legs didn’t need the foot rest on any of the chairs, but a telephone book worked fine the time MaMaw gave me a shampoo and a pixie haircut. (My daddy didn’t speak to her or Mama for three days.) I sat in MaMaw’s chair when she took care of me, trimming my hair with the precise snipsnipsnip of her shiny hair shears. Sometimes she’d use a little Dippity Do and curl my hair with brush rollers and long white plastic picks that held the rollers in place. Those picks were a little uncomfortable, but I felt so grown up, I didn’t mind. MaMaw would perch me on the trusty phonebook and I’d stretch as tall as I could when she lowered the hard plastic helmet of the hair dryer and the warm air flowed over my head.
There were two additional chairs near the dryers — I can only assume other beauticians worked there at times, although I don’t remember them clearly since I was usually there after hours. A small rolling table used for manicures stood in the corner. I’d get the nail buffer out of the table’s little drawer and rub the soft chamois across my bitten nails. MaMaw would sometimes give me a quarter for the slider Coca Cola machine across the room. Standing on my tip toes, I could just barely slide the Coke along the rail to the opening on the left which allowed removal of the bottle after depositing my coin. MaMaw would help me clamber back through the swinging door opening where I’d sit at the kitchen table and drink my Coke, feeling every bit as special as those blue-haired ladies of Liberty.
I’m almost 54 years old and I can count the times that it’s snowed where I live on one hand, with fingers left over. I’m not talking about flurries or a scant dusting on the deck. I’m talking about a good blanket that allows you to make a snowman and requires the wearing of rubber boots. I’ve seen that less than five times in my life.
Today’s surprise snowfall would have allowed for snowmen, except we’d already had several days of rain, so there’s mud under that pretty white blanket. Who wants to build a muddy snowman? Then there’s the fact that it’s December 8 in Southeast Texas and it was almost 80 degrees less than a week ago. The ground is still too warm for this to hang around for any length of time. In fact, it started melting just a short time ago, so I’m really glad I got out there and took these photos while I had the chance. (Click on each for captions.)
The magnolia tree.
Down the street.
Looking toward our neighbor’s place.
Looking for the snowball Jami threw her.
The oleander didn’t much care for the snow.
My daughter and her pup, Jane.
Jane didn’t know what to think, and then decided she liked it.
That’s a LOT of snow for our parts.
This may be all we get this year/decade… the last time was in 2003… or 2004. I forget. But when it’s here, it sure is pretty.
I’m a very sentimental person. Whenever I use or admire one of the many “hand me downs” in my home, it’s a point of contact with the person it originally belonged to. I use an old bottle opener with a Bakelite handle that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, GG. The Pyrex salt and pepper shakers that my mother handed down to me before she passed away have a very 1960s’ “race for the moon” feel that bring to memory snippets of my very young childhood. There are a few EAPC (Early American Press Cut) glass serving pieces my Grandma Power gave me when I moved into my first apartment. I’m pretty sure she picked them up at a garage sale — she loved garage sales, and I enjoy that memory of her. Things like these, that are in regular use and help to keep the memories of loved ones alive — I will never get rid of them if I can help it. But the rest of it? I am cleaning house, my friends.
Last night I spent about an hour posting items for sale on VarageSale. The most time consuming part of this is taking decent photos to upload to the site. Decent photos are important because potential buyers need to be able to tell if the item is in good condition. I look at listings on eBay, Etsy, and VarageSale regularly, and if the photo is blurry, I just keep moving on. I’d already taken quite a few photos of some things I want to sell, so actually posting them goes pretty quickly. I woke up this morning to discover a lady wants to buy three of my listings: a crystal vase we received as a wedding gift (can’t remember who gave it to us), a crystal rose bowl that was at my mom’s (have no idea where it came from), and crystal candlestick holders I bought for a party we had about eight years ago that I haven’t used since.
$28 for things I don’t use, and I’m decluttering, too. It’s a win-win!
I’ll never be a minimalist, though, because I’m just too sentimental. When I see my mother’s copy of “Etiquette” by Emily Post sitting on my bookcase, it reminds me the importance she placed on good manners and the importance she placed on how we treat people. Flipping through that book when I was a teenager was how I learned about “bread and butter” letters (a short letter of thanks to one’s host and/or hostess after an overnight visit). And when I look at the children’s world globe (still reflecting the United Soviet Socialist Republic!) my husband gave me our first Christmas with a sweet, but cheesy, note that said he would give me the world, I remember the butterflies of newlywed love.
Yeah. No. I’ll never be a minimalist.But I am working on making sure what’s here deserves to be here.
In my purging/organizing frenzy, I’ve run across a disc that holds most (if not all) of my blog posts from Xanga, when it was still a thing. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to import them here, so I’m going to go through and copy/paste entries that might entertain you. This one is especially poignant for reasons that don’t need to be explained — a simple reminder to keep praying for all those in the Caribbean, that they will recover and come back stronger than ever.
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
The green-eyed monster has me by the tail . . .
This is where my sister-in-law is right now. And where I am not. While the average Jill might be a little green with envy, a tiny bit jealous . . . I am CONSUMED.
This is St. Croix, U.S.V.I., and St. Croix is where I spent 15 of the most glorious months of my life when I was a teenager. In fact, this picture that I copied for your viewing pleasure happens to be of Cane Bay, where I made my certification dive when I was 15. Yours truly swam out to sea and dove a deliciously scary 80 feet down the Cane Bay Wall (which continues to drop a toe-curling 3,200 feet before hitting bottom — think phosphorous glowing fishies a’ la “Finding Nemo”). I saw the most amazing creatures, collected the most beautiful shells, made the most wonderful memories.
While it has been 24 years since we returned to Texas, I am positive this is the condominium we lived in the first three months we were there. The name has changed — it was called “The Barrier Reef” when we lived there, but the view is the same, the design of the condo is the same, I’m certain this is it. In another photo on the website, I identified the condominiums next door as Mill Harbor, hence my confidence. I learned to snorkel off this beach before advancing to my scuba adventures. The reef we explored was full of sea life and named “The Barrier Reef” because it resembled (on a much smaller scale) the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.I remember wandering through the 300+ year old streets of Christiansted and shopping in store fronts that were built by Danish settlers in the 1600’s. My best friend, Cindy, and I would roam the shops and then grab a sandwich at Reed’s Deli followed by a trip to Steele’s Smokes and Sweets. Did you know that the aroma of flavored tobacco mingling with the sweet scent of chocolate is intoxicating? We bypassed the smokes (although the antique lady’s pipe with a pink coral bowl and long ebony stem made smoking a pipe seem almost elegant), indulging in the chocolates that were to die for.
I don’t know why, but many of my memories are tied to scent:
Each morning, our school bus drove past the Cruzan Rum distillery. Even now, at the age of 40, when I smell rum, I think of Good Hope School and the school bus . . . weird, I know.
It was an awesome school — a private school built on beachfront land donated by Laurance Rockefeller. We had a rotating schedule, which was geared toward making sure that we were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at least one day a week for each subject. (So, if you had Math, English, and Science on Monday, you’d have English, Science, and Math on Tuesday, and Science, Math, and English on Wednesday, etc., etc., etc.) I had one open period in my schedule and I often spent it in the art classroom pretending to be talented or sitting on a rock down on the beach until my next class started.
I met probably the most intelligent and interesting educator of my life while a student there. Richard Collings was my European history prof and even now, I occasionally correspond with him. An amazing man, he was born in England and travelled all over Europe and other parts of the world. He was able to teach history with so much more depth and make it so much more interesting because he’d actually been all the places he was telling us about. While he managed to keep us on track lesson plan-wise, he still allowed us time to discuss issues that were important, confusing, or interesting to us. One topic that came up repeatedly was the hostage crisis in ’79 – ’80, when Americans were held prisoner for months on end in Iran. We were 9th graders, and for the first time in our lives, we realized that sometimes things happen that our parents might not be able to protect us from, or even themselves.
In my mind’s eye, it seems almost like yesterday when we left. Three days after my sixteenth birthday, we boarded a plane and came back to Texas. It was really difficult for me, because I’d made some very close friends in the brief time I lived there. I wrote some heart-wrenching poetry (thank you, teenage angst) and slowly but surely readjusted to life in the “real” world.
Someday, I hope to return. I’d like to take my husband with me and share “my” island with him. If I’m feeling particularly generous, I might take my daughter, too . . . but it would be an awesome “just the two of us” trip. Jami might have to stay with her MoMo.
A lot has changed since I wrote this — our girl is grown and finishing college. My mom passed away two years ago. As much as my mom was a homebody, I think she enjoyed our adventure as much or more than we did. She settled in to life on the island really well, learning to drive on the left side of the road quickly and was not hesitant to get out there and explore, even while my dad was at work — taking care of us, running errands, participating in the HOVIC women’s service league. She bought cookbooks to learn how to fix the crazy things Dad brought home from his snorkeling and diving adventures — I can still see her standing over the stove, frying conch fritters and letting my sister and I make “creatures of the deep” with the leftover batter. Sometimes I think she adapted to life there better than any of us. I know if she were here now, she would be praying for the islanders, too.
I have borrowed photos from a variety of sources discovered through Google Search for the purposes of this blog post. As best I can tell, they are not copyrighted.