Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving Reflections in 2005

Tara's smile when she came in on Thanksgiving Day is definitely my brightest memory. Her smile was even brighter than the beautiful diamond on her left hand, which she flashed for us. Come to find out, Gerald, who had gone up to Johnston City the night before to Geri Ann's basketball game, had already seen the ring and had refrained from telling, so we could all enjoy the big moment when our oldest grandchild made her exciting announcement. I told handsome Bryan that I was glad Tara said yes; and with much feeling, he said he was too.

We enjoyed having Erin home from Notre Dame and her teammate Christina also. Her California home was too far away for a short school holiday, so we were happy we got to be her second choice.

I had plenty of pumpkin pie for son Gerry--home from Mexico--and a couple of pecan pies also. The pumpkin was from Gerald's garden as were most of the veggies--the green beans that Mary Ellen turned into sons-in-law Rick and Brian's favorite casserole, fried okra, eggplant casserole, turnips, corn-on-the-cob, and the tomatoes in the salad. We also had to have mashed potatoes,sweet potato casserole, pickled beets, celery, cranberry sauce, and Vickie's corn custard casserole to go with our turkey, giblet gravy, and dressing.

Jeannie and Rick had arrived with Leslie, Lige, and Cecelie at midnight all the way from Freeport. Although I had carefully put on the outside porch light before I went to bed, somehow I overlooked that the door had been locked. I don't know how long they stood in the chill before I heard their arrival and let them in with much excitement since Lucky and Leah dashed right in also before the kids grabbed them and put them elsewhere. Before going to bed, I had put sheets on the living room couch for Les and fixed a pallet on the floor for Elijah. Cecelie still fits in the tiny youth bed that I moved upstairs to her parents' bedroom. When people ask me why we built such a large house for retirement, I ask them if they want to come at holiday time and sleep on the floor like people do here at times.

Mary Ellen and Bryan, Trent, and Brianna arrived from Lake Saint Louis on Thanksgiving morning. Their Fifi acted just as happy to see her cousins Leah and Lucky, as the human cousins were to see each other.

Katherine, David, and Sam had only to come upstairs to join the festivities since they are temporarily here during house remodeling.

Another special Thanksgiving memory was the presence of five unusual water fowl (large for ducks, small for geese) that graced our lake. They let us come within four or five feet of them and were not afraid of humans. Gerald could not find their picture in any of his bird identification books, but after discussions with his brother Keith, he decided they were Egyptian geese--wings of beautiful browns with white feathers under their wings showing when they flew, pinkish-red beaks and long pinkish-red legs. Like the rest of our guests, they have gone on to other places now, but we will think back on their presence with us fondly.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Virus Alert Shuts Us Down

After being a part of a group of ten local authors at Cata's book store at West Frankfort, I dropped by Geri Ann's middle school basketball game and then on to Southern Illinois Writers Guild, where we had a good meeting reading and critiquing one another. Back home again and going to do my nightly chore of deleting junk emails and expecting to relax surfing the Net, I suddenly faced the dreaded "Virus Alert" from Norton--a first for us. Norton admitted defeat with this particular virus, and I did not even know until the next day how to pull their little warning window aside and read our email. By then I was packing and getting on the road for my adventure to go back to Cata's for an individual signing, up to my brother and wife's to spend the night at Mattoon, and then on to Freeport to see granddaughter Leslie sing in Working.

Jim and Vivian proved my best book signing yet as they generously bought books for many relatives for Christmas! We had a good overnight visit Friday night on my way to Freeport and another one Sunday night on my way home from Freeport. I got to see both Judi and Beth, but missed Willow's first birthday visit when Josh and Leana brought her by on Saturday. But I loved hearing about it.

I cannot say enough good things about Freeport High School's music and drama department. The musical Working based on Studs Terkel's 1970s interviews of workers in Chicago was an excellent choice for high school students in the throes of trying to decide what they want to work at during their adult lives. And the music and acting and choreography were all fantastic. So was my granddaughter Leslie, of course, who played the part of a housewife and sang about that career.

I had a great weekend and got home Monday. Gerald had spent Monday downloading various hoped-for solutions to delete or quarantee the virus, but he finally took the computer back where we bought it and it is now being freed up of the virus. I am writing on an old computer that does not work too well.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Wengers enjoy celebrating 25 years of marriage!

After spending most of the day at John A. Logan at the Autumn Fest signing my book, I scurried home to the farm to meet Gerald and get back in the car and drive down to Lockard Chapel Church, where Terry and Debby Wenger were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Such celebrations always make me think of Virginia Kelly's remark after her inlaws' beatiful 50th celebration on the lawn next door. I got there late (after hitting a neighbor's dog in the road and being very upset--the dog lived and was fine), but by the time I arrived, it was at the end-of-party period when people were sitting with shoes off and the stress over, and they were reviewing and summarizing their emotions about the event. I've enjoyed that memory. Virginia said something to the effect that there is so much bad in life that we cannot celebrate that it is especially important to celebrate the good -- marriages that have endured are so valuable that we need to contemplate and rejoice about them.

It was indeed very good Saturday to sit at table with cousins and see the happiness on the bride and groom's face as they cut their anniversary cake while loved ones took photos. The smile on their son's face would not have been so bright if they had not endured the trials that all marriages must endure to last 25 years. Hearing his parents repeat their vows could only give him feelings of security and joy. It was especially important to us since just a year ago we were grieving together at Aunt Clela's funeral dinner and then more recently at the funeral for cousin Jo's beloved mate. Seeing her children and grandchildren surrounding Jo encouraged us as we think sadly about her deep grief, and we know she will be all right.

It was a good day in Southern Illinois celebrating artists of all kinds at John A. and celebrating marriage vows that are sincere and lasting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Basketball games replace softball.

Another sign of fall and the approaching winter season, is the beginning of basketball games. Instead of going to see softball, now we are heading to Johnston City to watch Geri Ann play basketball with the middle school team there. I had gotten most of the girls' names in my head last spring, but I am having to relearn the ones who weren't playing softball with her this summer and the one or two new girls. So far their team has done very well with only a couple of losses. We have been leaving after the junior-varsity game as it seems we are always rushed, and Gerald says the bleachers are hard. Ha. So I still have to relearn the names of the eighth grade team. It is difficult to have supper and get to Johnston City by six, so last night we left the Cedars to prepare their own supper and we enjoyed a quiet meal at Bob Evans after Geri Ann's game. For years, my social life consisted mostly of visiting with other mothers at Crab Orchard ball games. (Gerald often could not go as he would be still working at the hog barns.) Now a big slice of our social life is sharing ball games with other grandparents.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pumpkins and Flu Shots--It Must Be Fall!

Katherine and I got our flu shots without incident at Bi-County Health and did not even have to wait in line.

We had jack-o-lanterns on our front porch for the first time in years. The Cedar family attended their second annual weekend family camp at Little Grassy a few weeks back and brought home two. One of the camp activities is to let parent/child carve pumpkins together. Besides the traditional face, one of ours had a wolf on the back, and Sam's had a pair of bats. The camp has a Saturday night ceremony and lines up all the lighted jack-o-lanterns. After a final lighting here on the 3lst, I threw the rottening remains out into the field along with one of Gerald's garden pumpkins that slowly slumped into a decaying pile before I got around to cooking any.

Today I will start cooking a couple of the pumpkins and pulverizing the flesh for fall pies. Erin is bringing a softball friend home for Thanksgiving vacation since the friend cannot go to her California home until Christmas break. I will have to have plenty of pumpkin pie for the holiday.

Gerald carries in turnips from his patch, and we have had them on our table several times. And it would not be fall unless one of the Glasco men produced winter radishes. Gerald's dad always grew them in great quantity along with turnips and huge fields of fall spinach. He'd gather all the largesse into the back of his pickup and visit his elderly friends at housing units. The women would come out running with aprons or dishpans to fill with the autumn vegetables that brought back memories of their own country gardens in previous years when they were in better health. Gerald's brother Garry produces the winter radishes now, and Gerald brought them up from Garry's place. I will be certain to save one back for the Thanksgiving meal.

After he had saved seed from our very productive okra this year, Gerald plowed up the garden. I've finally got the last of eggplants cooked and in the freezer for a casserole, and I've wrapped the last of the green tomatoes cousin Doug and I picked the evening before the first frost. He asked why I wrapped them in newspaper, and I could only say that someone told me to do so once upon a time and I've done so ever since. I know it helps if one spoils to have it wrapped. I always intend to still have tomatoes for salads yet on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Book Worm Awaits while I'm stuck on Route 57!!

The plan was to leave Wolf Creek Antiques in Goreville at 3 and be at Book Worm in Carbondale at 4 p.m. when Carl and Kelly Rexroad suggested I come Saturday. Sounded like a good plan, and Anna was kind to scurry me out of her place and onto the road. I was zipping up Route 57 when the traffic came to a standstill. Almost to the exit for Carbondale, I thought I was through the road contruction area, and I was in the right lane to take the exit. Lodged between two huge trucks, I could not see ahead, but I figured we'd be moving again soon. After l0 minutes, I phoned Book Worm that I might be running close on the time. At 4 p.m. I phoned them again.

Teenagers kept walking by and so did one family with two little children. Oddly none of them ever returned. It seemed as if they were going to a precipice and falling off. I wondered if they had a driver to leave behind in case the traffic started up. Two men beside me in a four-wheel drive studied their map for an alternate route and decided to risk going through the very very steep ditch in the median to go back south and try to go up Route 37. They waved goodbye and warned me not to try it in the car, but I was in the wrong lane to do that stunt anyhow. They had phoned someone who evidently told them we'd have a two-hour wait as a semi was lying across both lanes ahead. I worried the driver might have been killed, but right before we started moving a man came from up there and said only the driver's shoulder was hurt. The next day someone told me that the wind had flipped over the huge truck.

Next I enjoyed visiting with the young couple whose car moved up to the spot the pickup had occupied in that left lane. They had just come from Branson and were eager to reach their home in DuQuoin. She gave me a flyer on a great show they had seen, and I gave her one of my cards telling about my book after I had described my dilemma of trying to get to Book Worm.

After another long wait, suddenly traffic was moving--but only the left lane was cleared, and I was in the right lane. But the young couple stayed their lane and let me in and I got to Book Worm shortly after 5 p.m. over an hour late. Judy Travelstead had left a book on the table there for me to sign for her, and Joyce and Ken Cochran from the Jackson County Historical Society were visiting in the area and came back a second time to get the book. We had a good visit about Emma Glasco Schwartz, who at age 40 had married Joyce's grandfather and gradually became not just "Emma" but "Granny." As a young orphan, Emma was raised by her grandfather Dr. Jesse Glasco and went with him in his buggy to help deliver babies and care for the rural sick around Alto Pass. Only after her obituary appeared, did I find out that she had come back to live in this area. How I wish I could have heard her stories.

The Rexroads were most kind and understanding, and the plan is that I'm invited back later when their store remodeling is finished and they have a grand opening there. Of course, now I have discovered about the best-made plans!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wolf Creek Antiques on Broadway in Goreville

Getting to spend time in Goreville always makes me happy. I can drive up and down the streets there and feel emotions I cannot experience anywhere else in the universe.

When I drive or walk on Broadway, I can see the former building of the Baptist church and instantly feel the sleepy-warm heat of a summer day during sermon time with the drone of a fan overhead. I can remember Mrs. Green teaching our Sunday School class up in the choir loft during the summer months we spent at Mt. Joy Farm. And I can remember being jealous of her daughter Evelyn, who was my age and played the piano so well. And I think I remember my sister reminding me it was because Evelyn practiced more than me--which would not have to be very much to have outdone my practice time. Later in Marion, I became reacquainted with Evelyn at the ball park where our sons played ball, and where she was now Evelyn Malcolm of Pittsburg. Then I was saddened in recent years by her passing.

I can remember being one of the "flower girls" at my grandmother's funeral as I asked to be. In those days, girls carried in and out the beautiful flower arrangements for the church house during the funeral service. I knew I was considered too young to be one of the flower girls, but since I wanted to be, the adults talked it over and allowed it. My grandmother's casket had had been brought down to the church house from her home there on Broadway.

I can remember at an earlier time being disappointed when I thought Grandma had made a yellow cake for dessert, and it turned out to be cornbread. I can remember loving to sleep in her feather bed on the old-fashioned fold-up bed--a large upright piece of furniture. I felt cozy and secure knowing if the roof leaked my head was protected under the top of that fold-out bed. I remember loving to look at the many trinkets in her trinket case (now in my front hall). And I loved playing with the collection of broken jewelry and "pretties" she saved for me to play with. I can remember sitting on her porch with my cousin Jack, whom I adored, when he was down from Detroit. I liked knowing my grandmother knew everyone on the street and so did my daddy. When we sat on the porch in the evening, I liked hearing Myrtie Dennison's wonderful laugh from the corner brick house and knowing that everyone on the street heard it too.

When I go down the narrow little street parallel to Broadway, I can imagine my grandmother's lovely rock and flower garden behind the tiny house where she used to live before the house on Broadway. And I can remember sitting on the porch swing of the corner house there on that street and Collins--visiting on a hot summer day with some friend of my grandmother. Since my grandmother died when I was six and had already moved to the house up on Broadway by then, I have no idea how young I may have been when she lived in that little house. But I know I must have felt a great deal of love to be able to feel so much of it yet just by driving down that street.

I can also remember the Fourth of July excitement on that very street when it was roped off and there were horse races there. And there were sack races and greased pig races in town too. And out at the farm later we would have an entire wooden case (24 bottles) of soda pop--a rare treat befitting such an important holiday.

I can remember having to wait once for Daddy at Fluck's grocery store up on Broadway for some reason. I felt awkward and out-of-place among men gathered there. Uncle Charley was there and bought me a soda out of the icy-cold water in the red storage case.

And I remember my dignified mother sitting on the little built-in metal seat on the front of General Vaughn's store, and I think sometimes people were sitting there on feed sacks--everyone enjoying the chance to visit and socialize while they were in town for Saturday afternoon shopping after they had sold their eggs and cream at the back of the store.

I cannot go to Goreville without being flooded with such memories. But I wasn't in town to reminince. I was in town to autograph books at a signing at Wolf Creek Antiques. What a beautiful venue! Booth after booth, upstairs and down, of lovely furniture, dishes, and objects from yesteryear. So I was unable to help myself from making more trips down memory lane even inside. And with each cousin or loved one who came in to get a book, another wave of emotion and love for Goreville enveloped me. And Dixie and Jim Terry were there to hear me read from my book even though they had a half a dozen other events to attend that day.

After a wonderful day, Glen Billingsley came in at the last minute--said he had been fishing and almost forgotten--but there he was. What a thrill to see an old friend of my father's, who down through the years has become my friend too. (Actually we are distantly related since two of the Billingsley daughters several generations back married Hugh Craig, and the second sister and wife became the mother of my great grandmother Louisa Jane Craig Martin.) Among other things Glen has done for me was sending me the papers proving I had a horse thief for one of my ancestors. Sometimes friends give us more than we ask for.

What a warm atmosphere Anna Scheidt has created at Wolf Creek with family and friends coming and going, visiting, and telling stories--just like the men and women used to do sitting on those feed sacks in front of General Vaughn's store. How I enjoyed meeting her mother, Mary, and thinking how fine it was for someone born in Brooklyn to fit in so very well with the friendly family-minded folk of Goreville.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

After Glow from Sturgis Signing

Saturday was a fun day -- one that pushed me a trifle out of my comfort zone. I grew up a little bit that day. (And I met a wonderful senior citizen role model Ethel Tucker whose book From Pilot Knob to Main Street would inspire everyone that they can still write the book that they want to write. She was so beautiful and charming that I found myself hoping someday I can be even a little like her when I am in my eighties.)

I really did not want to drive to Sturgis by myself although my husband and everyone said it would be easy. And it was. Gerald printed me directions from his trip maker and also drew me a little map, which was very helpful. I had already looked Sturgis up in the atlas and had it laid out to take in case I got lost. Which was really silly cause the way was so simple.

Somehow I had heard of Sturgis, KY, many times, so I assumed it was a larger town than it was. It was my size town, and the scenery in Kentucky driving there was so beautiful. And a high percentage of the people there must be book lovers. I could not believe the wonderful foot traffic as people came all day long to buy books from the more than a hundred authors sitting at tables prepared for us.

The early morning drive was somewhat difficult because of heavy fog and a bright rising sun shining through it--especially at Shawneetown as I approached the bridge. I am always a little spooked about driving over bridges, but the fog was not that heavy on the bridge. I was sort of proud of myself that I arrived plenty early while a very young man said he arrived late because of the heavy fog coming down from Evansville. I just felt real competant and grown up that I had driven by myself although I still regretted that because of her surgery Lois Barrett had not been able to make it with her When the Earthquake Spoke. Of course, this was a rural drive, and I am a very experienced rural driver. It is city driving that is difficult for me--I can't read and process the signs quickly enough to be comfortable, and Gerald's directions to just "read and follow the signs" does not help me a whit.

I promised myself I would not buy any books, because I knew I would be at risk surrounded by all those authors and their books. I did really good too. I could not resist my tablemate's historical novel when I found out it was about her fourth great grandfather, who was one of George Rogers Clark's 75 men who made the "impossible" expedition through overflowing swampland across Southern Illinois during the Revolutionary War. I have already read A River Away with great fascination. I finished it at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Marilyn Dungan's five years of research stored in four file drawers was obvious and made this novel's look at history especially meaningful. I wanted to buy Marilyn's latest book about her son a Kentucky veterinarian, but I resisted.

I was pleased to meet David and Lalie Dick, who have done so much writing about Kentucky. Although I hung around their table as briefly as possible for fear of buying more books, there was no way I could resist David's beautiful hardcover that was a biography of Jesse Stuart. Seeing the dedication to Naomi Deane and the youthful photo on Jesse on the cover, I am looking at it longingly and with great anticipation. Is anything greater than having a special book that you want to read all ready and waiting just for you?

When I stopped at the post office in Sturgis to find out where the convention center was, I saw another person inside and I was able to guess he was there for the same purpose I was. So I did not even have to go inside. I just asked for his directions. That author turned out to be Lee Martin, whose Turning Bones flyer was given to me some years ago by Gerald's librarian sister Ernestine. I have meant to order it all these years--it is in one of the genealogy piles of paper in my office. I did get the opportunity to ask him where his Martins came from, and found out they came from Pennsylvania and not Bedford County, Tennesee, so I guess we aren't related. (Or at least it would have to be even several more generations back if some of our southern Martins did happen to come down from Pennsylvania, which is a possibility I have heard mentioned.)

One of the delights of the Western Kentucky Book Expo for me was meeting several Illinois people, who had also ventured across that Shawneetown bridge through the fog: Mary Jo Oldham Morgan and husband Larry Morgan, the librarians from Harrisburg who were wearing "I am reading Silas House" buttons advertising their book promotions going on in Harrisburg, and many others whose names I failed to remember. Larry, who shares my alma mater Anna-Jonesboro High, had once hauled anhydrous to our farm for Gerald back when he had worked for Winfred Brown, and we had numerous connections of area people and places. Mary Jo had seen my book and sent him over to look at it as she thought he would be interested, and I was so pleased to autograph it for him. (Isn't it strange how the mention of a long-ago hometown friend, such as Winfred Brown, so warms the cockles of one's heart!)

The Harrisburg group had also had Lee Martin recently as one of their featured writers. I went up to his table a couple of times, but he was so popular that I could never find him unoccupied with fans and I did not want to interupt. That is for the best, cause I might have had to buy a third book.