Sweet Childhood Memories
Childhood so often is filled with sweet memories. Most often those memories are sweet because of the fondness attached to them. I have memories from my childhood that fall into this kind of sweetness. Yet, the memories that wash over me now are filled with a different kind of sweetness. A sweetness that I can feel. A sweetness that I can smell. A sweetness that I can taste.
There’s a giant scuppernong vine behind by grandparents’ house. A long time ago, my granddaddy put fence posts in the ground, ran wire between the posts, and worked to get the vine to grow along the wire so that it was easier to harvest the scuppernongs. I’ve often wondered why he worked so hard to train it along those wires when it really wasn’t the scuppernongs he wanted. While that vine was easy picking, he would search the edge of the yard and the edge of the fields for wild muscadine vines. Once he had located vines heavy with ripe, dark purple muscadines, he would go get buckets and pick all he could reach. Sometimes, my granddaddy would stand there staring up into the furthest reaches of the vine and decide he had to have those plump muscadines also. I can still vividly remember one of those times. My granddaddy decided that he could get those muscadines with the help of his eldest granddaughter – me – and a frontend loader. The plan was that I would stand in the bucket of the frontend loader and he would raise me up in the air. That way I could reach those muscadines wily up in the tree. I don’t like heights, so I was terrified of this plan. The thought of what would become of those muscadines was encouragement to overcome my fear. I climbed into the bucket, held on tight, and rose up into the air. I picked every muscadine that I could reach. I picked util my hands were purple. My granddaddy slowly let the bucket down. I proudly helped carry the harvest into the house to my grandmother. Over the next few days, I sat in the kitchen and watched my grandmother cook those muscadines down and turn them into sweet muscadine jam. As I got older, she taught me how to make the sweet, delicious jam.
Over the years, my granddaddy has transplanted some of them wild muscadine vines into the yard. He has trained them to run along the wire. There is no longer any need to put me in the bucket and lift me high to pick the plump fruit. Even though he is well into his 80s, my granddaddy still goes out and harvests those plump, dark purple muscadines. My grandmother still cooks them down and every Christmas I know when I open my gift there will be a jar of sweet muscadine jam.
by Amanda Vining (Adult Writer)
Spring has Sprung
Spring has sprung,
Fall has fell.
And it’s cold as…usual.
It was my first introduction to poetry. I was seven and all the second-grade boys thought the little poem was bold and smutty. We only recited it in the Spring when we were feeling our oats. At seven, we knew nothing of hormones. Saying the poem made us feel alive and risky. Because of the last word of the poem, we could say it out loud, not just in a quite corner with only guys around. We were wound tight, restless, and its recitation gave us a release.
Spring is the season of brave and new. Azaleas come out on stage to show off their colors. Birds are courting with their whistles that sing “Hey, baby” songs.to occupants of nearby branches. The dingy grass and bald trees sprout a pollen pandemic and then turn as green as a chameleon on its happy side.
A few weeks ago, I caught a quick glimpse of a red fox in edge of the woods near my house But, this week. The fox sat right near the road and watched me drive by. I was impressed with its courage and wondered it was the “right” of Spring gaving the fox permission to show bravery instead of relying on its customary timidity.
Yesterday someone ran over a snake crossing the highway. It was the first snake I had seen this year. When I passed by there later in the day, four crows were standing near the snake sensing his inevitable demise. But the snake was coiling and striking at the crows as if to say, “I’m not giving up.” I was fascinated with its tenacity. It is amazing what Spring can bring out, even for underdogs…aka, undersnakes!
A tiny wren built its nest on top of a column at the corner of my house. It was well-protected from everything except the down spout of the gutter. One big rain and the little ones could float away. But the wren seemed unconcerned. The baby birds hatched and completed flight school before the next big rain. What optimism and daring. Spring has definitely sprung.
The word “Spring” is the carrier of many little words. Inside its package is “ring”—a word we use to announce a new year. It contains “in”—the comforting moniker we employ to connote being a member, not an outside observer. Unscramble it and you get more word colors of Spring like “grin” and “sing” and “sign”—what the fox, snake and wren seem to sense. Its “get up and go” message invites us to turn off the mute button, raise the shades, and go outside in the grass and breathe. It inspires us to throw off the winter covers and governors. It beckons us to “spring forward.”
by Chip Bell (Published Writer)
Whoever came up with the term March Madness definitely didn’t have the pandemic of 2020 in mind. This unseen enemy that the CDC labeled COVID-19 inflicted mayhem not only on our shores but the whole world. Our country was in a lock-down: only essential workers worked, people couldn’t visit hospitalized loved ones, and the public hoarded toilet paper.
But toilet paper wasn’t the only thing in short supply this past year—face masks and other PPEs (personal protective equipment) were also in demand and impossible to find. So we, the innovative American people, turned to more creative solutions. We made our own. And some of those creations were amusingly imaginative.
Like the short, squat fellow I saw at our local Publix one afternoon. He gave an entirely new meaning to the term brown-bagging it as he clumsily navigated the aisles wearing a brown paper bag over his head. It was clear to the onlookers that his PPE was not the right choice. Between the shopping cart’s wheels behaving like a whirligig and his struggle to see through the small slits in the bag, he managed to ram into the store’s endcaps several times before nearly knocking down a woman who had just snatched the last roll of toilet paper. The collision was unintentional, but he could have avoided the nasty scene that followed if he had made the eye holes just a wee bit bigger or wore something more user-friendly.
One fellow wore a dog cone, aka “the cone of shame,” as a PPE, and another gentleman was seen wearing a coffee filter taped on the bridge of his nose. On the outside of it, he had written in large letters, “COUGHY FILTER!” And yet another guy was caught satiating his addiction by puffing on a cigarette through the hole he had cut out in his run-of-the-mill face mask.
Then there was the photo of a heavy-set woman seen driving her red scooter on a busy side street. Strapped on her face was one of those large, yellow, heavy-duty scrub sponges.
One of the best creative masks was the man who looped large rubber bands through the hole on a DVD disc and secured it by wrapping the other end of the rubber bands around each ear. On the front of the disc was imprinted Norton Anti-Virus!
And lastly, a photo of a woman and her husband in the Walmart parking lot made its rounds on social media. Both of them were wearing personal hygiene pads as masks.
Even though the madness of March 2020 has spilled over to March 2021, we can thank all the innovative and creative people who gave us something to chuckle about. But we also need to thank all the first responders who literally put their lives on the line to take care of those unfortunate ones who contracted and suffered from this uncanny virus and the pharmaceutical industry for their rapid response in getting and distributing vaccines.
by Barb Griffiths (Published Writer)
The spies have just returned. Hope and joy begin to bloom within me. I am ready for this long journey to be over. I close my eyes and let the hope wash over me. Can it really be over? Are we finally home? Is the long march finally completed?
My mind drifts back over the past year. A year of marching through this desolate land. A march I didn’t think would ever really end. There are times that I miss what used to be my home. Papa constantly reminds me that we are to be grateful that God has chosen us. It is hard sometimes. The march through the desert has been long and weary. The promise of this great land has been a phantom in my mind. Now, the spies have returned! It is no longer a phantom.
Papa heads out of our tent and makes his way with all the rest of the men. He goes to hear the report from the spies. Mama and I wait anxiously at the tent. We hold hands, straining to hear. It is so quiet as the entire camp awaits with hushed reverence for the word from the spies. A commotion, a shout, an outraged cry. What is happening? Why is the air filled with anger?
I can now see papa making his way back to our tent. His face is gaunt, and a haunted expression fills his eyes. I cling to mama as she reaches out to him. Papa grasps mama’s hands, draws her close to him, and begins to weep uncontrollably. I can now hear the murmuring going through the camp. The spies have given a bad report. There are giants in the land. We will be squashed as bugs if we enter. Only two of the spies tried to stand up and say that God is with us and He will take care of us as we enter. The people didn’t want to hear it. The fear of the unknown as taken over.
Papa has wept himself to sleep. As we sat in our tent, he finally told us what happened. Ten of the spies gave a bad report and the people chose to listen to them. Papa said it is sad how quickly the people have forgotten all that God has already done for us and all that He has promised to do. There has been a grave consequence for this disobedience. Papa said that we will now wander for forty years in the wilderness before entering the land of promise. Forty years we will march onward.
I am awoken by the sound of readying. It is time to go. I hear grumbling, complaining. I know that we have done this to ourselves. As I help gather things, I wonder, will I be one of the few that will leave this day and enter the land of promise once this long march is over? I do not know. All I do know is that today we will march onward.
by Amanda Vining (Adult Writer)
Second Shot Whoopee
On March 9 I had an afternoon date with Moderna. I was impatient to meet her. She was, after-all, one of Dr. Fauci’s selected vaccines. After this second inoculation I would be able to survive potentially fatal sneezes and coughs from roving gangs of pandemic skeptics devoid of concern or common sense. After a bleary year of COVID house arrest, I was about to be a free man.
Fantasies quickly materialized. My back to life baptism would be glorious. I would dine and wine with friends and family—or at least those who could still recall my name. Our entrees would come on plates not in sacks. Napkins would not be made of disinfection wipes. Waiters in masks would envy us.
There would be adventure. I would allow myself to travel more than six blocks from home, perhaps even entering CVS Pharmacy without first returning to my car to retrieve my forgotten mask. I would shave every week and call monthly to see if my barber might still open for business. Near normal was almost—yes, let me utter the long-longed for word–near!
Then reality came to call. After forty-eight hours of Moderna’s curled-lip second-shot revenge, my ability to stand upright and digest broth had finally recovered. (So much for the blasé attitude of friends who suffered no side effects.) More to the point, I began to realize my long house arrest had been replaced by an ankle bracelet of continued social restraint. “Normal” was a-ways off. I must yet wear a mask at CVS. Handshakes and hugs were still simulated by elbow bumps and air-embraces. Small group, socially distanced dinners will continue to require fresh batteries in my hearing aids.
Yes, I’d better go slow with plans for second shot whoopee. After communicating with acquaintances via ZOOM, it will be hard to recognize them when they are not bracketed in small boxes and appear to be illuminated by flashlight. After such a long face-to-face absence, I probably will not be able to recall their personal status. Catch-up conversation could be awkward. Should I begin with “sorry to hear” or “happy to hear?” Wrong choice, short conversation. My opener should probably be non-committal, –“I hardly recognized you without your mask.”
So, what’s my second-shot strategy? As things open and the joyfully vaccinated herd storms the promised land of gaiety and get-together, I intend to observe the results with cautious detachment. Let’s see how real hugs affect those emerging from a year of pandemic seclusion. I will wait my turn.
On the bright side, with this second shot of Moderna coursing in my veins, I should be able to achieve my major objectives–reaching near-normal status before they discontinued my blood type.
by George Heiring (Published Writer)
Most of you will not know this song. It was a traditional wedding song, once sung at many weddings in the past. My older sister, Margaret, who is now 93, married her college sweetheart , Gene. They are still married and thriving today. I vividly remember this poetic refrain from their wedding. I was a young teen, and do not remember a lot about the wedding, but the song struck a chord within me. After hearing it at the rehearsal and the wedding, I memorized every word. Time moves on, and so do social mores. Many weddings today may still use “Til death do us part”, but the deep and poetic feel of “Oh Promise Me” does not portray the same meaning as it once did.
Mrs. Bartlett was scary! She was a large, fearsome looking woman who rarely smiled and seemed to tower over us. She rarely smiled and was harsh looking. The most fearsome thing about her was that she wore a metal brace in plain sight on her left leg.
She was my eleventh-grade English teacher, and was feared not only by me, but I was convinced by the entire school. It was a small high school, and there was only one eleventh-grade English teacher. Her metal brace was visible because at that time, all women teachers wore dresses or skirts to work. The brace squeaked loudly when she walked unevenly down the hall. You could hear her coming before you turned the corner of the upper-class hall. Worse, was when you heard her coming behind you. It made you involuntarily straightened up and hold your notebook and texts tighter. Mrs. Bartlett was not unkind, but she was demanding and had a way of looking like she knew the real you.
I seemed to get along with her because I was in the National Forensic League. Poetry reading and dramatic interpretation were my strengths. Debate, not so much. Mrs. Bartlett was the advisor to the club and there were field trips and whole Saturdays spent together with her a few other students. In my senior year, I was named Editor of the Yearbook and Mrs. Bartlett the advisor. She had done this for lots of years, so our staff just did what we were told to do, when we were told to do it, and The Corinthian was published as planned.
When I asked Mrs. Bartlett to sign my yearbook, her inscription was a quote from Shakespeare. “This above all to thine own self be true, and it shall follow as the night the day that thou cans’t not be false to any man. “ I was astonished. Why would she write that in my yearbook? I was honest. I kept my word and was dependable. In fact, I was voted Most Dependable in the senior superlatives. What did she mean by that inscription? I only hoped that Mrs. Bartlett wrote the same thing in everyone’s yearbook she was asked to sign.
In thinking about the word promise, I have reflected on Mrs. Bartlett’s inscription. Promise means telling the truth to yourself and others. It also means a hope for something good to happen: the promise of a better day, the promise of rain in a drought, or to see promise in students. That is what a good teacher does. This is what I hope Mrs. Bartlett was imparting to the graduating students. You will reach your promise when you remain true to yourself. We live in times when we desperately need the promise of better times ahead on many levels and the hope it can be achieved.
by Janet Kelhoffer (Adult Writer)
“I’ll be back to get you when school is out,” a parent promises as her youngster exits the car with bookbag in tow. So begins an all-important matter of trust between a child and a parent. The level of trust that results will depend on whether past experiences are “Mom (or Dad) always comes,” or “Sorry, I’m late again; traffic was terrible.”
We live our lives on promises. From the time a child can grasp the concept of “cross my heart and hope to die,” there is a forever realization that anxiety can only be reduced through proof of trust while waiting for a promise to be kept. From “Scout’s honor” to “I do” to “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” we seek cues that allay our worries. Lifeguards, curfews, the bus schedule, and the spotlessness of a hospital room are all obvious artifacts of promises waiting to be kept.
All relationships begin with a promise made or implied. Promises sound like, “We’ll be arriving on time,” “…until death do us part,” or “I’ll be there by noon.” We sense its subtle power when the restaurant finds our reservation; the newspaper is on the front porch, or the bank statement is accurate. Promise keeping is the superglue of all relationships. It’s absence, in the form of infidelity, is the number one tipping point that leads a marriage to becoming a divorce.
What are the secrets of being a promise keeper? Never make a promise you cannot keep. Tell the truth. Always do what you say you will do. Make your agreements really matter, not just idol, carefree assertions. Remember: trust comes from the overactive compassion in us and not from the hyperactive Scrooge in us. Become known to everyone you know as a meticulously, reliable person.
by Chip Bell (Published Writer)
“I do.” Two simple words that speak volumes. Two simple words which are so full of promise. Two simple words which invoke visions of happiness and forever. I can still see the day in my mind. The white dress. The barn where I got dressed. The young flower girl tip toeing through the grass. The wildflowers my daddy searched up and down dirt roads to pick just for the occasion. The family gathered under the pecan trees. Maybe I remember these few things because they are the few things that can still bring a smile from that time. The time before promises fell apart. The time before promises meant nothing anymore. Looking back now I wonder if they ever did. Nobody utters those two little, simple words thinking that one day down the road they will be broken, shattered, mired in depression. Nobody stands there with the sun streaming down on the couple thinking that instead of the promise of love there will be a promise of abuse. Nobody stands there smiling and looking radiant in white thinking that instead of the promise of being cherished there will come the day when trash is thrown on the floor and she is told to dig through it and find herself a Christmas present. Or the day the front door is taken off the hinges and thrown across the yard because she shut the door too loudly for his liking. Sometimes those promises become a chain weighing you down because you made the vows to stay till death do you part. And sometimes you finally get the courage to realize that the promises of that beautiful day don’t mean anything. Instead, the promise’s you make to yourself matter more. The promise that I will survive. The promise that my child will not grow up in this. The promise that I will leave, and you do.
“I do.” Two simple words that speak volumes. Two simple words which are so full of promise. Two simple words which invoke visions of happiness and forever. Two simple words that you are scared yet joyed to utter again. I remember that day with happiness. A smaller gathering. No white dress. Blue jeans and boots instead. Two families coming together. Two people broken by their pasts but willing to cling together and be whole together. Two people who realize that the failed promises of their pasts do not dictate their future. It was hard to give those promises another chance in my life. To open up and let someone into the broken and shattered mess that was me. But oh, the promises, they have been worth it. To be cherished. To be loved. To be uplifted. To have someone to stand by me and help me heal. I never really knew the true promises held within those two little, simple words. Now though, I do.
by Amanda Vining (Adult Writer)