Small town civility

I was so proud of this little town today.  You see, when I was a child I knew that if a funeral procession came into view, my Grandpa Carl would pull the car to the right, stop, take his fedora off (what, you think he left home without one?), place it over his heart until the last car had passed, and pray for the deceased.  It was the right thing to do.

This morning I was headed out to do some errands when I saw the approach of a funeral cortege.  We were on a 4-lane street, so there was no question of it being able to pass unobstructed.  Much to my surprise, 14 cars pulled to the right and stopped until the entire procession had passed.   I had thought the custom had been forgotten in today’s society.  Grandpa Carl would have been proud today,  too!

Head for the hills!

One of my most defining childhood memories is the Mississippi river bluffs of SE Iowa.  Here’s a picture of Burlington’s famous Snake Alley. Look on beyond the foot of it, and you’ll understand why the city bus routes have names like “South Hill”. ( That was the route to my grandparents’ home and another story for another day.)

Fast forward to my, um, “mature” years, and I’m living in Louisiana,  where the land is mostly river delta.  Admittedly, that delta is made of good Iowa topsoil that washed away, but here it is flat!  I’m like a woman who spends too much time in high heels, then can’t stretch her heel far enough to stand barefoot.  I need my bluffs; leave me too long on the flat, and I get melancholy.

(Insert disclaimer:  Baton Rouge has a river bluff.  I’ve seen driveways steeper than their “bluff”.  When we first came here in the 1970’s, and they pointed out Highland Rd as the river bluff, I lay on the floor laughing!  Just saying…)

Fortunately, there is a solution within driving distance, and yesterday DH surprised me with a day trip to see the hills.  We headed north up Highway 61 to Natchez, MS.  Yes, Natchez is built on river bluffs, but it is the hills you see on the approach to Natchez that make my heart sing.  As you come to the top of my favorite hill all the valley lays out before you.  DH indulged me and stopped the car so I could capture the scene.  Then I turned to the right and took a picture of the very top of the hill there. Why is that special?  If I had enough money I’d track down the owner of that land and build my dream house right there…with windows overlooking that glorious view.Here is the woods below “my” house site, just beginning to have some fall color.    Every time we drive by, I say “There’s my hill!”

Now you’ve seen my favorite spot in this part of the world.  Tomorrow, I’ll take you on a noon-time adventure in old Natchez.

A Finished Object Returns Home

Yesterday I picked up the completed framing of the Summer Garden sampler.  In fact, I was so excited that I made an extra trip to Baton Rouge to retrieve it.  (You’ve heard of giving up things for Lent?  I was supposed to give up frequent trips to Baton Rouge for gas prices. Sorry, DH.)

Several of you have written that you’d like to see the framed sampler, so here it is. I fell in love with this sampler because it reminded me of my grandmother’s lovely gardens.  At the back of the yard was a white picket fence with an archway gate.  Growing against the fence were Chrysler Imperial roses – deep red with a marvelous, rich perfume.  Many years my birthday picture was taken out there, with the cake on a pedestal table beside me.

The key to the wall grouping is in that memory.  You see, the upper frame contains the handwritten recipe for my grandmother’s white cake.  She kept that a close secret during her lifetime; I received the recipe as an inheritance.  Her cakes were amazing – the cakes on Ace of Cakes always make me think of her.

What would be on your wall, were we to capture your passions of life?

Our Town, revisited

Mother taught high school drama, and, in the course of things, produced Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It’s a play about a young woman’s untimely death, and her opportunity to go back and see what is happening in her town. Several times recently I have been reminded of that play.

It is easy to become detached from the town where you grew up when you go of to college, marry the man of your dreams, and move around the country as “corporate gypsies”. I’ve been gone from that little town for 45 years. The memories I have of my town are as dated as the poodle skirt, but I have nothing more current to put in their place.

When last we traveled to my home state, I made a point of visiting the cemetery to jot down family names and dates. It was stunning to look around and see so many familiar names on the tombstones. When did he die? She’s gone, too? I was surrounded, once more, by the adults of my childhood; this time, they were silent. I was sure that at any moment I would hear the voice of the Stage Manager, the narrator of Wilder’s play.

Yesterday, as I was pondering these things, I remembered the devoted town librarian.  That is, I remembered many things about her, how she loved birds, her knitting knowledge, her love of books and patience with young readers.  She was a single woman who was the caregiver for her aging parents.  It occurred to me that she would fit right in today.  The town pitied her behind her back, but she was a very strong woman.

Here’s the thing:  I couldn’t think of her name!  Forget the Olympics, forget my knitting, what was her name?  Thank heavens for Google!  I typed in “history of my town library” and poof, there was a wonderful narrative.  I learned things I had never known, and there was her name, as well.  She served the town as librarian from 1949 – 1966.  Rest in peace, Mary B.