A Flash from the Past

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 . . .

Cane Bay

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.

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Colony Cove, formerly The Barrier Reef

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.

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The Cruzan Rum Distillery

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.

 

 

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The Good Hope School

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.

My Island

My island is not really my island, but for the short period of time I lived there as a teen, I fell in love with the rather small rock in the middle of the Caribbean, and I’ve never forgotten St. Croix. Right now, she is being battered by the winds and rain of Hurricane Maria, and I have been and continue to pray that loss of life will be zero, and there will be some sort of miracle as far as damage goes.

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It was on St. Croix that I first experienced that painful ache of viewing something of indescribable beauty, and the overwhelming desire to record it and remember it as best I could. It was on St. Croix that I really started flexing my poetry muscles with any sense of satisfaction. Keep in mind, what I share below was written by a fifteen year old teenager. At the time I thought it was pretty awesome. And now as I wait for news, as I wait for answers to my prayers, I read these words written almost forty years ago and remember.


Twilight Sea

Silver moonlight,

Diamonds scattered

By a careless hand

Across the waters.

Cool winds,

Scents of hibiscus,

Ginger thomas.

Peaceful winds,

Quiet shadows,

Gently moving palms,

Swaying flamboyant trees.

Cool winds,

Peaceful winds, 

Bring the spirit 

Of a twilight sea.

(1979)


Turquoise in Portrait

The ocean:

A turquoise stone

Melted into fluid motion,

Waves capped with

Ivory froth,

Ivory that is swallowed 

By the turquoise sea

And comes forth

On the next wave,

Undaunted.

(1979)


The Lonely Ruin

Turquoise, sky blue, deep purple

Blended together in a velvet sea

Washing golden white sands.

Long, stony road

Through tangled vines and

Tall mahogany trees of an ancient rain forest.

Clearing in the forest —

Ragged, crumbling vine covered walls,

Hundreds of years having stood.

Silent ghosts roam the halls

Open to the skies.

Gentle rains wet the floors

That have known the tread 

Of the elite dwellers 

Of a bygone day.

Worn path leading away

Through hibiscus and sea grape tree

To a rocky, jagged cliff.

Below,

Turquoise, sky blue, deep purple

Blended together in a velvet sea

Washing rocky, jagged shores.

(1979)


Tuning into Memories

Every song brings back

The memories of a distant age,

Where life held no requirements 

On the spirit.

In my ear’s memory, I hear

The fading strains

Of our favorite band, Styx,

And the delicate taste of

Orange Lipton tea still lingers

On my tongue, while the

Click of backgammon die

Quietly punctuates the

Heavy heartbeat of the “Renegade.”

Those were such fine days,

The sun streaming down on

Your pale green shag;

I stretched like a sleepy Siamese,

And you accused me of

Laziness.

We raced down the hill to the courts

To play a game of one-on-one,

While Dennis and Dave sat in the red Datsun,

Feet on dashboard,

Ears keenly attuned to Pink Floyd dreams.

Sweat beads formed on your lip,

And I asked if you wanted a Coke.

As we walked toward the rec hall

Beneath the sea grape trees,

A breeze smelling of salt

Cooled us and made us long for Cane Bay.

(1980)

 

Some Things Never Change

This morning/afternoon, I spent three hours talking to my dearest childhood friend.  It was like balm to my soul, a long overdue visit with someone who has loved me almost as long as my parents and sister, and a little longer than my husband and daughter.  We met on the last day of school in seventh grade.  We were like Anne and Diana, Trixie and Honey.  From the first moment we met, we were kindred spirits and friends forever.

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Anne and Diana
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Trixie and Honey

I remember we spent the entire summer between seventh and eighth grade talking on the phone.  We obviously couldn’t go anywhere, being too young for drivers’ licenses.  Her mom was the city secretary, so she worked every day and my mom was busy with my little sister and volunteer work at our church.  So I laid on the carpeted floor in my parents’ bedroom, the receiver of the princess-style phone between my chin and shoulder and she probably did the same at her house on the other side of town.  We talked about all the things that not-quite-eighth graders do:  who our friends were, which teachers we hoped to get, which classes we liked and hated, how much we hoped our moms would let us start wearing makeup to school.  Boys were just barely on the radar — we’d both had baby crushes the year before like all girls that age do.

When summer ended and the school year began, we were very happy to discover we were in the same English class.  We were in Mrs. Goen’s class and we were not given assigned seats so we were able to sit near each other.  We passed notes back and forth, finally had our first serious crushes (unrequited, of course), learned to diagram sentences, and she became my first and biggest fan when she read my poems and short stories.  I remember her asking me that if anything ever happened to me, “would you please leave me all your writing?”  Eighth graders can be so dramatic!

I won an honorable mention in a Houston writing contest that year and the awards ceremony was held in the La Fontaine Ballroom of the Warwick Hotel .  My teacher said that I could ask a friend to attend the ceremony, along with my parents and so I asked Renae to share the most grown-up moment of my life to that point.  Lynn Ashby, a well-known columnist for the Houston Post, was the guest speaker and I knew we were on the fancy side of town when I spotted an exotic and rare “anchovy” atop my salad.  The night was absolutely magical and I was so happy my best friend was there to share it with me.

We made it through the remainder of junior high, spent another summer talking on the phone, and began our freshman year of high school.  We just thought we’d been something in eighth grade.  All the confidence that we’d built up being the upper classmen to the seventh grade “kids” was dashed to smithereens when we migrated from a campus that consisted of one large building to a campus that covered several acres.  Eight minutes were allowed for class changes to ensure there was enough time to traverse from one side of campus to the other if your classes were so unfortunately scheduled.  I’m sure the 900 “fish” that descended on Alvin High School that first day looked quite comical, trying to find lockers, classes, and the cafeteria without looking totally lost.  Thankfully, we had each other for support as we navigated our “new normal”.

By this time she’d decided she wanted to be a brain surgeon and I was pretty sure I was going to be the next Great American Novelist.  We met most days in the sub cafeteria beneath the auditorium for lunch and discussed the future and all its possibilities.  And the cute guys, of course.

Two months into ninth grade, my dad took a job overseas and I was gone for fifteen months.  Neither of us developed the knack of written correspondence and so we were excited that my dad’s employer allowed us to return home for a month in the summer to visit family and friends.  I still remember meeting Renae and three other friends at the Pizza Inn on Gordon Street to eat pizza and talk, talk, TALK!  It was wonderful to be home, but I didn’t regret moving to the Caribbean, because the islands offered so much inspiration for my poems and stories.  In fact, I fell in love with St. Croix and seven months later when my dad said we were moving back to Texas, I really struggled with mixed emotions.  I was thrilled to be moving back where my dear friend lived, but I didn’t want to leave the island, either.  So when I returned a few days after my 16th birthday, she understood my mixed up emotions and was a true friend in the way only a kindred spirit can be.

We had a few classes together over the remainder of our high school years and made lots of memories.  We went to plays together (Dracula, The Merchant of Venice, Wait Until Dark, to name a few), hung out when studies allowed, and never stopped being each other’s confidant.  One autumn, her parents took us to the Texas Renaissance Festival and christened me “Jaws,” because I could not stop talking about all the wonderfully fantastical things I’d seen that day — and later I returned the favor by calling them “Papa Jaws” and “Mama Jaws” because they truly treated me as one of their own and I’d come to love them as though they were my second parents.

Graduation came and went and we spent the summer hanging out when we could prior to entering the “big leagues”:  college.  She went off to Baylor and I stayed at the community college, before transferring to Sam Houston.  Life got really busy and it became harder for us to whittle out time for visits, but we stayed in touch as much as possible.  Eventually, we both graduated, got jobs, and ended up living in the same apartment complex in Houston.  Work schedules (lots of overtime at the law firm where I worked; her work in the Medical Center as a speech pathologist) and social lives (she had a Greek boyfriend at the time; I had a black cat) managed to make that apartment complex seem HUGE, but we knew in our hearts that if either of us ever needed the other, we would be there for each other.

Then . . . she took a position at a hospital in Ohio and our lives changed forever.  Before it was a walk across the complex, or a car drive down the road — but now it was half way across the country and I wondered if our friendship would be able to survive that “new normal”.  Thankfully, I discovered it could and would.  She was there to stand by me when I pledged my vow to my husband, and I was there to stand by her when she pledged her vow to her husband.  We sent photos back and forth of our children, and while phone calls are not as frequent as either of us would like, when we do connect it’s as if we’re still those not-quite-eighth graders, lying on the carpeted floors of our parents’ bedrooms sharing our hearts as only two kindred spirits can.

100 Things About Me, Part 1

I’ve been spending the last few days cleaning up my computer.  Through an “accident,” I ended up with two user accounts on my computer.  I decided to utilize this accident, and add a third account to compartmentalize all my interests.  So I have “business,” “photography,” and “writing” sections on my computer.  While I was moving things around from section to section, I found this and found it pretty entertaining.  I’ll work on posting the second half another day.

  1. I was born in a Texas town that celebrated its 200th birthday long before the United States Bicentennial.
  2. I love the color blue in all its various shades.
  3. I lived in the Virgin Islands for almost 15 months when I was in high school.
  4. The two times I’ve flown to Pennsylvania, my flight has been cancelled and I’ve been stranded there.
  5. I learned calligraphy when I was in high school.
  6. I drove the teacher to distraction because I sat Indian-style in the chair.  She emphasized good posture to achieve the best results.
  7. She was distracted because I proved her wrong by being a very good calligrapher.
  8. I hate the humidity of the part of Texas where I live.
  9. I’d like to live somewhere that enjoyed four seasons, but it will have to be within the Texas state lines.
  10. I have a large freckle to the right (my right) side of my nose.  In junior high, I took a modeling class through J.C. Penney’s, and the teacher thought it was a bit of foundation that I hadn’t blended in properly.
  11. I fancied myself a writer when I was younger.  My first “work” was a pitiful little story about the Bishop’s Palace in Galveston.
  12. I won an honorable mention in the Houston Post Scholastic Writing Awards competition in 8th grade.
  13. Lynn Ashby presented the awards and I got his autograph.
  14. I won third place in the same contest my senior year in high school.
  15. Leon Hale presented the awards and I got his autograph, too.
  16. I learned to scuba dive when I was 15 years old.
  17. Diving over the Cane Bay Wall in St. Croix, I almost gave my dad a heart attack when he saw my regulator float out of my mouth as we swam along.  I grabbed it, cleared it, and kept on going.
  18. I find scuba diving very relaxing (and thus have to concentrate on not letting that regulator float out of my mouth…)
  19. The deepest I’ve ever dove was 80 feet off the Cane Bay Wall, which drops to more than 2,000 feet from the surface.
  20. St. Croix is probably the one place that I would consider living, outside of Texas.
  21. I took Creative Writing my junior and senior years in high school.
  22. The second time I took it was when my physics teacher advised me to drop his class.  I ran to the counselor’s office to return to my favorite class.
  23. I was the editor of the literary magazine that year.
  24. I had a ridiculous crush on the same boy from 8th grade through my freshman year in college.  Thank God for unanswered prayers.
  25. When I was a child, I had a play house with real glass windows.  Three of us were playing together and two of us ran in and locked the door.  My friend tapped on the window with a stick right when the other child pressed his face against the glass.  The window broke and cut his forehead.  I thought it was my fault.
  26. I also had a Schwinn bike with a banana seat and tall handlebars.  The same friend who busted the window in the playhouse gave her sister a ride on my bike.  The sister caught her toe in the spokes, cutting it badly.  I thought that was my fault, too.
  27. I planned to be a school teacher until I realized that I would probably end up in prison for hurting someone’s “baby” for misbehaving.
  28. I’ve been to Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington State, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, plus British Columbia.  Granted, I only changed planes in Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon, and I touched my toes in Illinois and Kentucky on a driving trip, but I have been there!
  29. I love photography.
  30. I have five cameras that were purchased specifically for me.
  31. I also have a 1980 Olympic commemorative Canon 35mm that belonged to my grandfather.
  32. I enjoy scrapbooking, but have a difficult time finding time to do it.
  33. I used to teach scrapbooking classes.
  34. I would like to start cross stitching more.  I used to cross stitch a lot, but haven’t in a while.
  35. I was a perpetual student in college.  From August 1982 to graduation August 1986, I only sat out one summer session to go on a family trip.
  36. I earned my Associates Degree in 2 years — 62 credits were required, but I graduated with 83 credits.
  37. I transferred to Sam Houston State University and earned my B.A. (English major/History minor) in 2 more years.
  38. One of my great great grandfathers was named in honor of Robert E. Lee.  His first name was “Jeneral” and his middle name was “Lee”.  My middle name is Lee, too.
  39. I met my husband on the phone, initially.  Several weeks later I met him in a bar when I went dancing with some friends.  I didn’t make the connection between the person I spoke to briefly on the phone and the person I met in the bar until we’d been dating several weeks.
  40. We dated two years and broke up.
  41. After four years apart, our paths crossed again and we married eleven months later.
  42. I am glad our paths crossed again.
  43. My first job out of college was working as a circulation supervisor for Texas A&M at Galveston’s library.
  44. They did not charge late fees on overdue books and the stack of missing books was ridiculous.  I put a hold on all the records of those students with overdue books.  The graduating seniors hated me!
  45. I retrieved approximately 2/3 of the missing books and collected payment for the books that were never found.
  46. My then boyfriend (now husband) nicknamed me “Conan the Librarian”.
  47. After six months, I changed jobs and spent two years working in the rare book and archives collection of The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
  48. Then I got a REAL job.  I became a legal secretary for one of the big three law firms in Houston and made good money.
  49. And realized quickly that money isn’t everything.
  50. When my husband and I had been married for four years, our daughter was born and I quit my job when she turned one year old.