Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two Days at Dixon Springs and Tough Times in America

Rain has finally stopped, but more is expected. Large areas of Southern Illinois are inundated. People in Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, have been told to evacuate by midnight tonight. Floodwalls there were built to protect against a 64 foot water level, and the river is likely to reach over 60 feet tomorrow. The long period of stress there, however, creates danger of the levees breaking. Our state is holding our breath that this historic town with close to 3,000 citizens will not be flooded.

Meanwhile, two barges with 265 tons of explosives are waiting to possibly break a two-mile stretch of the levee at Bird’s Point, Missouri, if the Army Corps of Engineers deems it necessary to save Cairo. If this happens, 130,000 acres of prime farm land may be flooded making the land unusable for perhaps as long as a decade. I have read estimates of from 75-l00 homes in this area. I am holding my breath for these people also.

A lawsuit was settled quickly when Missouri tried to block Army Corps of Engineer plans. The federal judge in Cape Girardeau ruled in favor of the Corps of Engineers, who have been given responsibility and authority by Congress to make such decisions.

Sandbagging has been going on in many areas of our state including Union County, where Gerald and I grew up. Although Tuesday and Wednesday had to be cancelled, we did get to have the last two days of Stewardship Week at the Dixon Springs Agriculture Center, where school children come in for the day and experience the out-of-doors walking from station to station and learning about many environmental and nature topics.

Despite the fact that their home in Karnak had to have its water shut off in these unpleasant times, Scott Morris, who became interested in Indian languages when he was just 15, kept his commitment to help me at our Trail of Tears station. He taught the children some Cherokee words and sang “Amazing Grace” in Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek. When Scott told how Cherokee boys used blowguns to help obtain game for the family table, we saw some little boys’ eyes light up.

Today’s kids are so well behaved and polite (thanks to conscientious teachers whom we heard reminding the kids before they came into our station), and it is a joy to share history and information with them.

We were in a tent this year, and the ground inside stayed muddy—very muddy. I brought an old piece of carpet the second day to put down after I had a shoe stick in the mud on Thursday. Teachers had advised kids to wear boots if they had them, and many did. I cleaned a great deal of mud off two pairs of Birks first thing this morning —but I noticed after they dried, that I still need to give them a second cleaning.

I am not about to complain, however, knowing how many people in our area are suffering and that a large part of the southern states are devastated by tornadoes. It was interesting on Facebook, that one young woman from our community, was serving as“information center” with her daughter and friend at Tuscaloosa where there was, of course, no electricity or land line phones. She was watching damage and weather reports on the web and sending the information down to them. Somehow she and they were able to text each other on one phone (not the other) during the scary ordeal when the friend’s parents were missing. (They were safe.)

It has been a difficult week for so many people, and I am glad it is over. I told the kids at our Trail of Tears station about the Cherokee kids who were their ages and walked a 1,000 miles under terrible weather conditions. Those Cherokee kids proved that humans can do tough things if they have to, and I tried to impress on these school children that they too can do tough things if they are required to do so. I wish I were not hearing thunder right now.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter to Remember

A co-worker with the preschoolers yesterday during the morning worship service asked me how many were at our house. I went blank and realized I had no idea. People were coming and going, so I really could not keep up with them.

Since Tara had phoned Thursday night that they and the three little boys would be leaving Aurora soon and would arrive around 2 a.m., I decided to follow her instructions to go on to bed and not wait up. I was almost in bed shortly after midnight and heard people in the house and was confused since I knew the Archibalds could not have gotten here that quickly. When I saw the edge of a blond head, I thought maybe Leslie had arrived, but it was Brianna and also Trent. Their dad had brought down their new camper and was sleeping in it outside although it was not completely set up yet.

When I woke up the next morning, not only were the Archibalds there, but Vickie and Geri Ann had also arrived and had picked up Leslie at Nashville. Jeannie, Elijah, and Cecelie had come in also around 3 a.m. Everyone has to take responsibility to find a couch and linens when the bedrooms ran out.

Jeannie although sleepy was ready to go biking if the weather had cooperated. She and Leslie went shopping instead. Afterwards, they ran by to pick up Sam, who wanted to get out here with the other cousins, and David had Leslie bring Sam to the farm in David’s car so the teens had an extra car.

There was a softball double header on Friday at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, so several were headed over there. Jeannie went with her dad, and after the game, she helped him finish up the last-minute grocery shopping for me. When the teenagers took off for the Dairy Queen in Marion, little Aidan who had stayed behind just to play with them, might have been upset. But Leslie put aside her home-work book and entertained him so well that he did not miss them. After all, he had an exclusive date with a beautiful blond giving him all her attention.

After rain cancelled the Saturday noon game, two groups had left to shop and/or meet other relatives, and I realized as we sat down for lunch that there were nine of us at a table that only sits eight. Gerald went downstairs to listen to Georgia’s game at Fayetteville, Arkansas. That game series was keeping Gerry away from Woodsong, and a track meet in Freeport prevented Rick from being able to join us.

Brian had gone back to Springfield area on Friday, and he and Mary Ellen came down late that night travelling through terrible storms—Brian with a trailer of farm equipment behind his pickup and Mary following in their car. (The plan was for Brian to plant this week and to stay down until he finished, but the continuing storms made that impossible.)

Because everyone had to leave Sunday afternoon to get back to school and work the next morning, Gma Shirley (Vickie’s mother and that set of grandkids’ other grandmother) was kind enough to have the Johnson family Easter celebration on Saturday night.

It was a full weekend and lots of fun and with some scary moments as well. We thought one of the visiting dogs had run off after two stray dogs in the storm when searches could not find her--actually she had crawled back in her bed after hiding from us. Aidan woke up with pain sobbing on Saturday night and told his mother his jaw hurt. Very bad. This is a child with a very high pain tolerance and who never complains even when seriously hurt. It was after midnight when Tara drove to town to get Tylenol for him and much later when he finally got back to sleep. By the next morning, he was no longer in pain, and we all relaxed and assumed it was perhaps a tooth coming in.

Gerald was kept busy giving Maddux tractor and boat rides. Payton, who is in a clinging-to-his-parents phase, made Gerald’s holiday by putting out his arms and going outside with him and riding the tractor also. Although just not quite five, Aidan is already blending in with the older teen cousins, and they are great to include him in their activities. The teenagers died the eggs and decorated the Easter bunny cake this year. I’d boiled extra eggs to make deviled ones since I know Erin especially likes them. Jeannie made those eggs for us Sunday morning before church. Leslie and Elijah sang for our village church’s morning service although none of us made it to the sunrise service. Somehow Mary Ellen and Brian arrived home from church before the rest of us and turned down the oven and saved the ham, dressing, and scalloped potatoes before they burned. Mary Ellen’s made the green bean casserole and fixed her store-bought corn casserole (not as good as her own) and the mac and cheese casserole for the kids (that we all liked) in the oven in the camper.

I think by now you understand why I did not know how many were at our house. But there were twenty-one for Easter dinner. Vickie and Geri Ann had taken Vickie’s mother and gone to her brothers’ church at Stonefort, so she brought Gma Shirley to our house to extend their visit with her just a bit. Erin, of course, had been coming and going after the Saturday game was cancelled and she had Easter surprises for her three nephews. David and Katherine were finally able to come out despite the rainy weather, which of course made placing her in the van more difficult, and despite a cancellation of an aide to help that morning. She and Shirley are special friends and were happy to be together. We were able to sing “Happy Birthday” to Katherine since her birthday is tomorrow. They were on their way to another family dinner with David’s family, so Elijah drove their car loaned to the teens back to the Cedar house in town as the Eilers left for Freeport.

We won’t forget this weekend, but neither will the many in our river region called “The Land Between the Rivers.” Although our lake has never been higher and is running steadily out the emergency overflow pipe, we are on a hill and have no danger of the house ever flooding. Yesterday was very frightening, however, for many in the Ohio and Mississippi River bottoms as the rivers rose. Some highways are closed, and the flooding has started. I am praying that levees don’t break. I was supposed to tell the story of the Trail of Tears to school children this week at the Forest Service Stewardship Week in the Dixon Springs area. This is an outdoor event. The first two days have been called off, and I expect Thursday and Friday will be also. Ten inches of rain down there in seven days has the ground saturated and some areas closed, and heavier rains are predicted.

Gerald had an eye appointment this morning, but I was able to go to a neighbor’s funeral held in Carterville. We have known this farmer’s four sons ever since we moved here, and then watched as these boys grew up and married. Now we know most or the grandchildren and some of the great grandchildren. His wife Mary died a year ago after 64 years of marriage. It was raining again as we left the funeral home. Although a beautiful sunshiny day for a funeral is helpful, I always think that nature is weeping with a family when the rains come.

After the funeral, family and friend were going back to the G. B. Morris home for a final dinner there in a now empty house filled with memories and the vibrations of years of family gatherings. A house where grandchildren and visiting neighbors were always welcome. For the past decade, the sons and their wives have kept careful watch and finally a constant vigil as the two parents grew progressively weaker and incapacitated with numerous serious health problems.

Three sons live in houses on land on the farm and one son lives in nearby Marion. Often twenty-four seven care was needed, and these families supplied it by taking turns when hired help was not available and by coordinating and cooperating with the outside help when it was. The sons’ wives have had care responsibilities with their own families during all their time as well. It has been a challenging and demanding responsibility for the four couples as they have lived through their own health problems and surgeries and with their own growing families.

As someone from down the road a ways and only vaguely aware of all the illnesses, problems, and stress they have endured, I am inspired by their faithfulness in dealing with the pain and suffering even as they rejoiced over all the good things and the good example that their father and mother provided them.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bouncing Between the Past and the Present

When I first read that this year’s annual Illinois State Historical Society Symposium was to be at nearby Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I knew I wanted to attend. Before I found the misplaced newsletter with registration form and wrote my check, emails began arriving saying that SIUC alumni and students could attend free, so I phoned in my registration as directed and prayed nothing prevented me from enjoying this rare opportunity. Amazingly, I was able to attend all three days.

One of the attractions for me was the subject of this year’s Symposium: “Sacred Oaths, Shallow Graves: Illinois in the Civil War, Part 1.” There are many mysteries among the veterans of that long-ago war which took the lives of over 600,000 and some experts say perhaps 700,000. I have many questions about the service of my great grandfather in the infamous 109th and also about the death of his baby brother who supposedly died at Andersonville. Nine Martin cousins volunteered for the Union army despite their Tennessee roots.

Any time you explore a topic, the information needed immediately broadens, and so presentations included slave spirituals,the Metropolis ship building industry, use of archives, our Mound City National Cemetery, life stories of individual soldiers whose lives became examples of many more, various ethnic groups in the Civil War, free black settlements in pre-Civil War days, emancipation Baptists, Oberlin’s anti-slavery agents, and on and on so that it was terribly difficult to have to select which break-out sessions to attend. I wanted to go to them all. The credentials of the presenters were impressive and their broad knowledge very rewarding in terms of how much one could learn in such a limited time.

There are always off-topic offerings too and I especially enjoyed Kara Allison’s report on “Chicago Convention 1968” when she was one of a panel of three students from Milliken University. The other two panelists spoke on Camp Douglas in Chicago, and women, slaves, and Indians in French Illinois, which I missed part of by arriving late. I always want young people to study history, so I was delighted this professor engaged his students for this fine presentation. The three young women fared very well in comparison to the majority of presenters who were recognized history scholars—both academic and independent scholars.

On Thursday, I wanted to hang and talk briefly with Ron Nelson, whose research is fresh and will be seminal for future abolitionist scholars. But he was surrounded before I could get to him. It was five o’clock and I needed to get home for grandson Sam’s 14th birthday surprise party. I stopped by Katherine’s to leave our card and money gift hoping this would throw Sam off a bit. I was also checking to see if Katherine needed me to help set up at the scheduled restaurant, but she had everything under control and urged me to go on to Woodsong, so that Gerald and I could come back to town together.

With fresh lipstick and a quick brushing of my hair, we were soon back at Mackie’s Pizza where a delightful fireplace area was reserved for Sam and his young teenage friends.

David had taken Sam and his neighbor friend Josh out to buy Sam new shoes for his birthday, and then the plan was to meet Katherine at Mackey’s. Since Josh and Sam frequently go out with each other’s families, this seemed normal to both boys—neither of whom knew about the party. (Katherine did not want Josh to have to try not to leak the surprise.)

A few balloons tied to a sports bag, crepe paper streamers and the carried-in birthday cake all in University of Tennessee orange increased the festive feel of the attractive area. (Since our grandson-in-law was one of the SIUC architecture students who participated in planning and decorating Mackey’s, our family feels pride in the pleasant results of their class project.)

A table-full of his friends were there to greet Sam and yell, “Surprise!” and soon they were digging into the cheese sticks and pizza. Both sets of his grandparents were there, and we went through the annual amazement at how our grandson had grown. Food and pitchers of cola were laid out by the fireplace in buffet style and a salad served in a huge lovely glass serving dish was absolutely delicious. Sam’s youth minister and family came, and one of the kids’ mother worked very hard handing out plates of pizza and drinks while the kids cavorted, laughed, took cell phone pix, and generally enjoyed themselves.

We adults were all sitting in booths surrounding these junior high students at the center table, and it was fun to see how comfortable they were with each other. These youngsters are very close, and I am sure last weekend’s 8th grade band trip to the Chicago Heritage contest, where they did very well, contributed to their obvious affection for one another.

I hurried to bed afterwards, so I could be up to drive to Carbondale for the second day of the Symposium. And Friday night I did the same although I mentally started planning for our weekend trip to our grandchildren’s home in mid-Illinois about 30 miles south of Springfield. Brianna, a sophomore at Lincolnwood High at Raymond, was participating in their school musical Oz. I missed their play last year with Brianna and Trent, and I was determined to be there this year for this adaptation of the famous story.

A dark cloud followed me from Smalls Store to the farm Friday evening. I’d bought sandwich fixings for our supper because we were going to be in Gerald’s office listening to Georgia play softball against Ole Miss. I had just reached our garage when three or four hail stones hit the top of our car and many more banged on the concrete garage floor with deafening noise before I could get the door closed. Hail was huge and lasted long, but the only damage we think was a torn screen door out to the deck.

Gerald reported after his Saturday morning walk down the lane to get the paper that it had turned cold. I was so tempted to hunker down and stay home, but I really did want to hear the Saturday morning presentations at the Symposium. I was glad I did, and we finished packing, listened to Georgia softball again, and took off in time (barely) to reach Mary Ellen and Brian’s country home out from the little town of Waggoner (population: 200) and ride over bumpy rural roads to the musical.

The kids in their high school at Raymond (with around 250 students) showed an abundance of talent with their singing and dancing as well as acting. Their music and drama teacher has been there for four or five years and done a good job doing a play one year and a musical the next. She was emotional as she said goodbye to the seniors who were in their last production, and I knew her affection and passion had influenced these students to willingly share their talents.

Gerald was amazed at the scarecrow who stood stock still and unblinking for probably 10 minutes or more before Dorothy freed her from the wooden post holding her. We loved the cowardly lion and tin man and, of course, sweet Dorothy and all their solos. And as Brian said, the girl playing Toto never missed a line: Arf arf! There was also a wall display in the auditorium by the art class, and we were pleased to see Bri and Trent’s work as well as the other students’. It was so good to have the rare treat of seeing these two grandkids in their high school milieu with friends we have heard about.

Mary Ellen had sloppy Joes and fresh banana bread waiting for us to indulge in before and after the musical. And Trent had the Apollo movie set up and ready for us to watch on the big screen in the living room after we’d had table time after the show.

I slept late this morning even though I heard Gerald visiting with Mary and Brian downstairs and would sleepily think it might be nice to be downstairs with them before I turned over for more sleep. But I joined them for Mary Ellen’s good breakfast. The exhausted kids were still sleeping, but we adults were able to get to l0:15 worship at their church in Raymond and had a wonderful lunch at the very attractive buffet where locals gather at a scenic motel.

One of the interesting aspects of this park-like place was a large steam boat replica sitting in a small pond, and we enjoyed that view and the rest of the scenery out the generous windows as we ate and had out final visit. (Mary Ellen told us that this was the site for a gathering of college friends for someone’s wedding. Mary Ellen was singing at the wedding and she was concentrating on preparing. Neverthelss, she and Brian, who had dated in college, did have some time for visiting and updating their friendship while there before he went back upstate and she went back to Tennessee. When they moved here two years ago, she realized that this was the town and the motel for that long-ago wedding gathering. I thought that was very romantic.)

After our drive home with lovely weather observing folks fishing in the bar pits along the highway, it was good to learn SIUC Salukis had swept Indiana State and that Georgia had swept Old Miss. Georgia Coach Lu Harris-Champer had earned her 750th win during her 15-year collegiate career as a head coach.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now the Dogwood

The redbud are dropping off their pinkish blooms and are greening for the rest of spring and summer. Meanwhile the flowering white dogwood has come into its own and has decorated lawns and the roadside woods. Gerald’s tulips have replaced the hyacinth, and the iris bed is getting ready to strut its stuff. A large circle of mayflowers in a neighbor’s meadow promises that soon there will be a white flower beneath those green umbrellas. People have been bouncing between turning on their heat and then the air conditioner. Today it was likely to be air on. Schedules are full with end-of-school plays and concerts, graduation events, and bridal and baby showers postponed for pleasant weather. For many of us, softball and baseball games keep us busy.

My friend Marilyn Schild and I exchanged notes on our Christmas cards that we must get together for lunch as soon as the Christmas rush was over. It seems to me that we’ve not really had much slow time since even though winter is usually a breather before spring. So finally on Monday, Marilyn and I met up for lunch. Usually we meet at a Mexican place in Marion, but I had been wishing to try to the new bed and breakfast in town that serves lunch for the public. Marilyn had not been there yet either but had heard good reports from her neighbor, so we met up for our usual two-to-three hour lunch there.

The historic house at 1414 Main Street has always been attractive to me. After standing empty for a few years, it was offered for sale with a large enticing sign on the lawn. Each time I would pass that corner on the way to pick up our grandson Sam at the junior high, I would fantasize about how much fun it would be to live there. It was not a real desire—just something fun to think about.

Then I read it had sold to Debbie Hayes last March and she planned to open a bed and breakfast there. I can’t remember if the feature article said she had Marion roots, but she came here from the East with some New York recipes to share. The name Jasones was in memory of her son Jason Rowcliffe who died on Christmas Eve 2002. Jason had a dream of someday opening a 5-star restaurant after he attended Jjohnson & Wale Culinary Institute to become a Master Chef. Debbie explains on her menu: “All my love and passion has gone into this house, and I am pleased to share with you the joy of Jasones Bed & Breakfast.”

We had the tomato soup with basil first. We both tried the Beef-On-Weck so we would not have to envy the other one’s choice as we might if we had ordered different items. The sandwich was labeled a New York delicacy with this description: “Tender and juicy aged angus beef, sliced thick, soaked in au jus, piled high on top a kimmel weck roll, served with a side of au jus, ketchup and horseradish." Our waitress thought we must try the white pie, and Marilyn ordered a piece with the idea of splitting it with me. I said I’d just take a bite to sample it, but she insisted I needed a half. I am glad she did because it was good, and that also gave me an excuse to ask for the third coffee fill-up as we continued our conversation catch-up.

Even though we did not get around to talking about politics as we usually do, we had a very satisfying conversation. We shared problems and sympathized with each other. And I was thoroughly entertained hearing about Marilyn’s latest adventures and activities which are always interesting and vastly different from mine. There is nothing like a long talk with a good friend to brighten one’s life and to stimulate one’s mind. I left Jasones refreshed and hoping (probably vainly) that we would not have to wait as long the next time to meet up for lunch.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Freeport is covered with SHOWTIME signs and other recognitions of this long-time tradition that combined with the outstanding speech and drama department makes Freeport one of the best cities I know about for high school kids interested in the arts.

Although the trip upstate is getting more difficult as we age, I could not keep from having some sadness knowing this is the last Showtime I will probably ever see since grandson Elijah is a senior this year. The lasting hold that this annual show has on its city was developed in the filmed skit of some of the parents of 2011 Showtime kids. These parents too once walked the boards and now claimed they were addicted to Showtime and burst out singing to prove it. Likewise, I am convinced that the Showtime experience will stay with these kids for a lifetime and boost their self esteem every time they remember just how talented they were.

After the annual excellent jazz band concert directed by Bill Petersen and a brief intermission, the magic lights come on revealing this year’s set for Showtime. Every year the elaborate set is visually stimulating and satisfying. The show band is revealed high above in the back of the stage and it blasts forth the Showtime theme. The audience expectantly settles down for over an hour of music, dancing, laughs, and an ending with some important serious messages that will endure and enhance the lives of these young performers as well the viewers.

The most impressive thing director Jeff Lehman does, in my opinion, is to get this kind of cooperation from this many kids year after year. I doubt if many or even any of the guys in the show ever had a dance lesson, yet they are so good. They throw their hearts into each skit that will feature their singing and dancing, and the result is true theater with each face and muscle expressing the song.

Another impressive aspect is the rapid timing that never lets the audience feel impatience. By the end of the men’s song, they will have probably be joined by the young women dressed in new costumes and without a break, the audience will take in the new aspect of whatever theme is then being explored. Kids will have seamlessly changed props and backdrops if needed. There is never a lag or time for boredom.

Once again there was a three-screened photo report on the Showtime’s annual trip during their spring break, a trip where they perform at other schools and often notable venues. This year’s destination was Colorado, and they sang in the chapel at the Air Force Academy and climbed mountains and had the usual annual working vacation that demands more organization than I can imagine.

Finally, after multiple skits and songs that allow many different students to have their turn in the spotlight with solos or key roles, the final segment caused us to remember the upcoming l0th anniversary of 9/ll. I consider myself very patriotic, and for me, part of that patriotism is not getting silly sentimental. I judge patriotism by pitching in to help your neighbors and the community to succeed as well as doing your best to use your own talents and strengths. I judge patriotism by voting and willingly paying taxes to keep this nation healthy and solvent and our stupendous highway system in good shape. I do not like huge flags being used to pull people into a gas station to buy gas there. The flag is too important to be used in that way.

So although I expected to appreciate the students’ patriotic endeavor, I did not expect them to stir my emotions as they did with their high-powered renditions of songs with national importance while the giant screens reviewed September 11 for us. Suddenly, local uniformed fireman and police marched solemnly out on stage, and the audience instantly rose en masse with wild applause to show their appreciation for those public servants and for their New York colleagues who served and sacrificed so much on that fateful day. There may have been some dry eyes in the house, but mine were not among them.

This was followed by flag-bearing veterans marching in one by one down the aisles – many showing their age as well as dedication to our country. Balloons and confettti thrown down on the audience at the show’s conclusion to enchant the children was a remembered tradition, and this year added the sudden appearance of multiple huge red, white, and blue star-studded banners to hang over our heads.

We had driven half way up state the night before to Mary Ellen and Brian’s country home south of Springfield, and grandchildren Trent and Brianna were up and ready early the next morning for the long drive to Freeport. We arrived a little later than hoped for at the Eiler residence to pick up Cecelie, and we were delightfully surprised to have Elijah come out with her as he was unexpectedly free to spend the afternoon with us. (Jeannie was in a workshop at the Chicago Art Institute and Rick at Moline for a track meet.)

We checked into our hotel and went in search of lunch and a ESPNU station showing Georgia softball team playing Kentucky.
The manager where we ate was kind to search but reported they did not have that channel. Trent saved the day for us by finding the game on his new I-Phone and we kept up with the Georgia Dawgs’ success. (Both Georgia and the SIUC Salukis had 3-game sweeps this weekend.)

It was after 3, when we finished eating lunch, and we took the kids back to Jeannie’s house where they planned for a walk to Krape Park while Gerald and I rested. We’d prepared to take Lige to the theater at 5:30, but a college friend was home and he ended up going with her. I knew we had plenty of time to go back to our hotel to change for the evening show. I was relaxed because Jeannie had chili going in the crock pot and a fridge full of sandwich goodies, so I did not have to worry about kids getting hungry.

Then Rick came in from Moline and he could take Trent, Bri, and Cecelie to the show. Jeannie, who would be arriving late from Chicago, had secured tickets for us and Rick had a teacher friend usher us to our excellent seats. After the show, Elijah was involved with the cast party, but the rest of us headed to the Eilers for chili and food. The kids still had not eaten, but they were more excited about being together than eating. They grabbed sandwiches and were quickly off to their own projects in another room while we lingered at the dining room table and caught up with Jeannie and Rick’s news.

We left them to cope with the teens and we went back to our room in the landmark hotel in downtown Freeport instead of our usual home away from home, where a wedding in addition to the Showtime crowd make rooms scarce. It was late, and we slept extremely well until late the next morning where breakfast on the house and a newspaper awaited us downstairs.

We met up at the Eilers’ church and worshipped together before picking up the kids’ suitcases at Eilers and going out for a final meal together. I’d offered for Trent to sit up front on the way up, but he preferred whatever he was doing on his
I-Phone and Bri was glad to sleep going home since the cousins had stayed up a lot longer past midnight than Gerald and I had at the hotel. We made the trip back to First Road leading to the Taylors without incident despite a high wind making steering difficult and making us nervous of swaying vehicles.

We were greeted by Fifi when we dropped off Trent and Bri and quickly headed back to Woodsong since Mary Ellen and Brian were not home. We ate at Mt. Vernon, and were relieved when a call to our next-door neighbor told us the electricity was back on shortly after their return from Florida. Earlier in the afternoon, another neighbor had kindly called and warned us of the outage. Gerald laughingly told Sonje we had been thinking we might have to sleep at a neighbor’s since we had forgotten to take a house key and our garage door can’t be opened if the electricity is off. I am sure she was more relieved than ever that their lights were shining brightly and our pole light was back on. We slept good again last night.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Redbud Are Aflame in Southern Illinois

Jeannie and Cecelie did pull of the highway to get a few hours’ sleep here. At midnight Saturday night, they still weren’t here, so I went on to bed with lights left on for them. Jeannie had phoned and warned me it would be quite late when they arrived and they had to leave very early the next morning to get back to Freeport for responsibilities there. When I woke up at 5:20, there was no van with bicycle attached parked out front. My heart skipped a beat wondering if they had trouble. Then I was relieved to see things laid on their bed for them to take home were gone, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I just didn’t expect her to pull that off as early as she did, but I had to be impressed.

Almost all day Sunday the winds were wild. In over nine years living here, I had never seen white caps on our lake, but they were there that afternoon. Rains came, which was good for the grass seeded Gerald planted Saturday. After morning church, Gerald and I snuggled down all comfy and dry downstairs in his office to eat quickly prepared hot dogs for our lunch as we watched on Game Tracker as Georgia won over Tennessee Martin. (SIUC split up at Iowa.)

Katherine had an aide helping her that afternoon, but I had told her I’d be glad to come in if she needed me. So before David took Sam to his youth meeting and the aide home, he called about 4 to see if I could help Katherine with her hair after a shampoo. I ran on to town, and Gerald said he’d come in later. I have never had hair talent, but we all made it to the 6 p.m. service at Katherine and David’s church where our friend from college days is preaching as an interim pastor. Wendell and his wife Mary come down from the Belleville area and stay at a local motel on the weekend.

While getting out luggage that afternoon, the wind had been so strong that it had blown the trunk lid of his car down on him. He had to start his participation in the service with an explanation for the small but noticeable bandage on his bald head. He said he was just grateful the trunk lid had not decapitated him. After the services, the Cedars needed to pick up something, and since we were in separate vehicles, Gerald and I came on home. I fixed us soup and a bite to eat. It seemed quicker and simpler than meeting up somewhere in town with the high winds that did not make getting in and out of the car very inviting.

The winds brought more cold temps back, so Gerald has worked this week with his coat on. He finished up the lawn work this morning by rolling one small area that he had not yet rolled. Then he kept a routine doctor appointment, and when he returned, we took off for Cape Girardeau for some things he needed there.

He had invited me to go along saying he’d drop me off at the mall. I am not much of a shopper, so I grabbed Don Barnett’s novel They Shall Take Up Serpents that I have been eager to start reading. It is a good thing I did because when I started to get lunch at the mall I discovered my billfold with credit cards and money was missing.

The check book that usually is inside the billfold was in my purse, and I found enough change thrown to the bottom of my purse to buy a huge muffin at Barnes and Noble. So as I ate my muffin, I was soon engrossed the Barnett’s story. I am really wanting to get back to it right now.

I still had most of my Christmas gift Penny’s gift card left, and I found a very soft warm cuddly jacket on sale with nice spring colors, and I paid for it with the gift card that was safely in my purse.

By this time Gerald was there to pick me up and we did a few more errands that allowed me to continue reading in the pickup before going back over the breathtaking Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge to Illinois. We stopped for supper at the Lake of Egypt and picked up our mail at the end of the lane. We switched over to the car from the pickup and went to vote a couple of country roads away. Then I came into the house hoping to see my billfold lying somewhere on a table or desk. So far I have not found it. I am totally puzzled. I would not worry about the few bills if there were not two credit cards in there.

It’s been a good day. The red bud is at the height of its glory in Southern Illinois right now, so the drive to Cape was lovely, and I continued to enjoy its colorful pink/purplish flowering on the way to and from the polling place. I still need to fix the morning coffee and put a few things away before I get back to They Shall Take Up Serpents. I would enjoy it much more if I knew what I had done with my billfold.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spring Break for the Freeport Family

Jeannie was able to ride the bike trail here quite successfully although not altogether pleasantly since it remained cold most of the time she was here. However, when we waved her and Cecelie off on Thursday after lunch to head to Nashville for a visit with Leslie at Belmont University, it was quite beautiful and considerably warmer, Weather has a frustrating way of being perverse that way.

Spring breaks have been less than cooperative weather-wise this year. All of our grandchildren have had breaks at different times, and that has also been less than conducive for their visiting here at the same time. I read on Facebook that Geri Ann has break this week, so I hope it is warm for her. Trent and Brianna will have a break at Easter time, which to me is the best time for a break since families often want to travel that weekend. And with Easter coming late this year, I hope we have warm weather.

Although in school, Sam was able to come out Tuesday when Cecelie and I picked him up after school after taking him by his house, which let Cecelie visit a minute with her Aunt Katherine. Later all of us here at Woodsong returned with Sam to Marion to the junior high school to hear his special 8th grade concert. As usual, he looked stunning in his black tux matching his black hair. After dropping off Sam, Cecelie, and Jeannie at the school, Gerald and I went on to Katherine’s house and picked her up since David was away on a business trip.

Sam’s band will be heading to Chicago this coming weekend for contest, and Tuesday night was a workshop-type dress rehearsal. A visiting music professor from Southern Illinois University Carbondale was there to critique and give them suggestions. It was an interesting format.

Jeannie was impressed both with the band and also the art class self portraits displayed in the school cafeteria that we have to pass through on the long way to the cavernous second gym. The gym, as you can imagine, that has less than good acoustics, so we were unable to hear all that the director and the visiting professor said, but the music was outstanding for this age students. Jeannie was more than a little upset that there is no planning or welcoming arrangements for family or friends to sit with those in wheelchairs. It seemed unfair to her that anyone in a wheelchair had to sit alone on the gym floor many feet from the rest of us.

While Jeannie was on the bike trail, Cecelie was enjoying getting to drive the Gator around the farm by herself for the first time. Gerald was impressed by her driving, (She even chauffeured Sam the afternoon he was out.) She was also working on a big school project that involved writing and typing up her autobiography. I did hear her practicing her violin downstairs where she sat up her music rack in the kids’ den, but unlike her older siblings, Leslie and Elijah, she does down like to perform by herself, so I only heard her from a distance.

In fact, one of the reasons Leslie wanted her mom and sister to come down to Nashville, was to have them in the audience when she sang at a fellow student’s junior recital. Leslie was performing from the time she was a toddler as her mother said she never simply told you something, she always acted it out as she told you. She and Elijah have both been very generous in being willing to perform almost anytime requested because they are very comfortable in front of any size crowd.

Gerald has been busy all week working on our yard and reseeding it. Now he is waiting for rain to bring up the seed. I thought it already looked lovely when I came in last Friday night and saw how green it was. But the unwanted presence of crab grass had been bugging him, and he had seed stored and ready for spring planting. I have been teasing him about tearing up and yard and making it look ugly, but in the near future, I am sure I will like the lush grass that he has worked so hard this week to provide.

I certainly was grateful yesterday for his beautiful bulb garden when I needed spring flowers for a centerpiece for Women’s Club. I had missed the last two meetings and had not opened our year book when another new member phoned and left a message that yesterday was our day to be hostesses.

Thankfully, when I called her back, she had already bought all the needed tableware, soft drinks, and the ingredients for an absolutely yummy cake. I was so glad she had been alert to our responsibilities, and I said I’d bring the centerpiece and coffee fixings. I also took my signature grapes since that helps anyone unable to eat sweets.

Coming home from picking up Sam from his trombone lesson on Thursday afternoon, I stopped to pick a couple of sprigs of white pear blossoms off the John Combes property. The ancient tree has been damaged by storms, but the remaining limbs were abundant with blossoms. I liked thinking how the ground used to be covered in the fall with pears off that tree, and how Mr. Combes had made our young son Gerry welcome to eating a pear from the roadside tree.

I want to write his daughter and my friend Joyce a note and tell her I used her blossoms. When she left our neighborhood to teach at a Virginia college, I grieved her leaving. And I am sure she grieved departing from her ancestral home where her great grandparents had farmed and where the two-story house was finer than that of most black families had at that time. Now that farm house is no longer there, for when Joyce left, it was beyond repair at a reasonable cost. Typically, Joyce donated the house to the local volunteer fire fighters to use as a practice in fire fighting. I grieved again when I saw those flames. When we first moved to this neighborhood, my mother-in-law recalled that as a little girl coming home from visiting grandparents in Creal Springs, their family had a break down. I have assumed this would have been a wagon in those days. They stayed there with the Combes family who welcomed them until they were able to travel the next day.

Yesterday morning I picked a few more sprigs off an ornamental tree awash with white flowers in our front drive-way circle. Then I went down to see what was left of Gerald’s early blooms. There were a couple of tall white and yellow daffodils and I picked one of each. Then a pink, a bright blue, and two white hyacinths. And some of the “Throne of Buddha” wild flowers that had sneaked into the edge of the bed to place in the bottom of the bouquet because I like this little flower that some might call a weed. I ended up with a sweet smelling flower arrangement that I was pleased to take to our meeting. Now it is in the front hall giving out nice aromas.

I had no intention of joining the Women’s Club when Jari Jackson asked me to speak there on the Trail of Tears. I explained to her that I was in the process of getting out of organizations—not joining new ones. When I saw the lovely older ladies who belonged, however, and realized that the “young ones” my age were keeping the meetings in the afternoon just so those dear women could continue their monthly outing, I wanted to know these 90 something inspiring women. So I joined with the warning I would be a poor member, but I would attend when I could. I am so glad I did.

I’m not sure if Jeannie and Cecelie are stopping back by here on their way home from Nashville or not. It will depend I guess on how much time they allow for a return to Freeport and back to school on Monday morning. Elijah and the high school Showtime gang were already back in Freeport on Wednesday night after their annual trek giving performances and seeing sights. This year they went to Colorado and were able to visit the Air Force Academy there. We are all feeling the mix of sadness and joy as Elijah and Trent finish up their senior years of high school.