Henry Fonda Tea Rose

Henry Fonda Tea Rose
My Special Rose

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What are you afraid of?

People enjoy talking about their accomplishments; how well they did on the stock market, what a great deal they got on a new car, how absolutely brilliant a grandchild has become, but they get a bit nervous if you ask them, "What are you really, really afraid of?" Some will say things, like, "Well, I'm afraid of what's going to happen if we get stuck with any more taxes!" That's not the kind of fear I'm talking about.

When I was still a kid, my older sister hated using the telephone to place an order, or anything other than calling her best friend. She might need something from the drugstore, (they delivered in those days) but some stupefying fear made her unable to make the call and talk to a relative stranger.She would give me a nickle out of her 25 cents weekly allowance if I would do it for her. Since that wasn't my particular fear, I was happy to take her money.

I've always thought it would be fascinating to be a psychiatrist and be able to find the answers to the reasons why people develop debilitating fears that rob them of some of life's greatest pleasures. One thing I would love to be able to do is float on water. Friends have described the simple joy of swimming in a lake at sunset and deciding to relax and float for a while, looking up at the myriad of colors displayed across the sky above them. In my whole life, I've never been able to relax on my back in the water. Once it starts creeping up into my ears and touches my cheeks, I feel sure I am going to submerge and drown, and begin immediately to flay my arms about and push my legs down hard against the water's pressure, trying to give my feet something solid to stand on.
Possibly, my fear of drowning came from an incident when I was a toddler. Mama said she heard my sister scream for help, and ran to find me floating in a sunken goldfish pond, fully clothed in corduroy overalls. I don't recall this frightening accident, but maybe my brain still has it locked up, and when I get in water, the memory surfaces.

The one fear I can't explain is my fear of getting lost. I know that lots of folks say they have this fear, but I seem to be bothered by it more than most. This fear arises a lot on vacations, if I don't know the territory. I once spent a miserable day at the "Mall of America" in Minneapolis. We were with several couples, everyone talking at once, and nothing was settled about where we were all to meet if we became separated. The men went off in one direction while the women were still trying to decide where to start. I began to panic at the thought of getting lost from everyone in that huge place, so I just followed a couple of the women around wherever they wanted to go, rather than going off on my own. I was so afraid they'd leave me, I would even go into a dressing room and try on anything. It sounds ridiculous, but that fear just takes over. Even trips to our new Walmart can be worrisome, especially with my husband. I always say to him, "Now, you take a basket and go get the things you need. I will meet you HERE by Customer Service in 30 minutes." I always get back right on time, and he is seldom there. He means to be, but gets distracted by something down an aisle somewhere, and he figures he'll have enough time to get back where he's supposed to be before I get there. He's not the least bit afraid he'll get lost. So, there I am at X marks the spot and have no idea where to start looking for him. The neighborhood Walmart becomes a giant maze. I remember the store stays open 24 hours, which means I could spend quite a long time looking for him. I could get lost!

One day, I discussed some of my fears with him, and I asked him to tell me honestly what he was afraid of. He was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for 29 years, so I expected him to say, "Getting shot down over a jungle," or something like that. Instead he thought a minute and said, "High places." Go figure.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding Joy in August

There is always something to be thankful for, and I am so thankful that my job in life is not one that requires me to roof a house in August. It seems to me there's no way you could survive in this heat. It is hard to believe that I lived without air conditioning growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In those days we did a lot more ironing than we do today. That was such a hot job. Ironing involved so much of your time--spray starch hadn't been invented, and the standard procedure in our household went something like this: Take a heat-proof basin for holding your starch. Find the box of Faultless and read directions carefully. Mix the correct amount of starch with a small amount of cold water; pour in basin. Add boiling water as directly, being careful not to splash any on yourself, and stir quickly. It became a thick, opaque mixture, and if you had watched your Mama often enough, you learned to judge just how much hot water got you the right consistency. You had to let the mixture cool down enough to put your hands in it, because you had to dip your clean blouses, pillow cases, tablecloths, etc, in this slimy stuff, and then squeeze as much out as you could. After you had all that finished, then you took the starched clothes to the clothesline (banned in a lot of communities these days) and hang the clothes out to dry.
Of course, that wasn't the end of the job, either. When your garments were dry, you brought them back inside and found the sprinkler bottle. This, in my household, was a clean empty ketchup bottle filled with water. A cork stopper with a sprinkler cap was poked in the open end. (Hard item to find these days). You then sprinkled each stiff item of clothes and rolled it up. When all were damp, you put all the rolls in an old, clean pillow case, and that went in the refrigerator overnight. This is why most housewives washed on Mondays and ironed on Tuesdays. Through osmosis, I suppose, every piece to be ironed would be uniformly damp, and the iron fairly glided over the fabric. Some of Mama's blouses looked pretty enough to be framed when she finished ironing. However, she was always so tired afterwards. I know she was glad when my sisters and I could be trusted with a hot iron, so we could pitch in and help.
As hot as she was, ironing in a home without air conditioning, Mama often told me how her mother scrubbed the household laundry on a metal and wood scrub board and then took a stick and lowered each piece down into a black cast iron pot, bubbling with clean water. She poked them around until she judged they were clean; then, using the stick she lifted the steaming laundry into a cold pot of clean water. Imagine doing that in August. Every Monday. With little kids running around, about to give you a heart attack coming close to the big, hot pot. We really have nothing to complain about, when it comes down to it. Guess, I'll close, and go adjust the air conditioner. If Grandmama could do laundry in August in 90 degree weather, I should be able to stand 78!
There is joy in August.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Too Long Away

How can it be almost May? My little blog has lanquished in neglect for months; through Autumn, and the coldest Winter in years. Spring is stirring me to life again. Thank God for that!

A small perennial poking stubbornly through rocks and debris restores my lagging faith. Winter was so long, and the days so predictable. One begins to forget the gift of returning narcissus, daffodils, forsythia. The lucious colors of tulips have saved their surprise all these months; a few lost to hungry animals, but who can fault them--they do look good enough to eat.

Everything becomes Technicolor; slamming the door on the gray of winter. The sounds of birds suddenly begins, as if on signal. Soon the drumming of woodpeckers joins in and my laughable one-note bird (I don't know what species he belongs to) picks up where he left off last year.

Is it any wonder that a bit of longing comes with the gift of Spring? I can't help but long to have the youthful body, sans arthritis, and the thick auburn hair that attracted my husband long ago. Now, if I plant a tulip, and if it makes it through the winter, it comes back as lovely as ever. That's a trick I'd like to learn.

My favorite flower is still a rose, despite the darned thorns. I discovered a beautiful golden yellow rose whose fragrance fills the room, though I hate to cut it and bring it in. It was named after a man, of all things: "Henry Fonda". Never thought of a rose as anything but feminine. I will try to post a photo or two of my sweet smelling Henry. Don't think Norm will mind a bit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thank you, Sarah...

Looking in my big ole china cabinet with the warped door, my mother's cut glass salad bowl caught my eye. Thinking of Mama always opens doors to so many memories. Looking at that glass bowl reminds me of the Saturdays when my childhood friend, Sarah, and I took the trolley to downtown Shreveport and spent all day "shopping". We knotted our few baby sitting quarters in a handkerschief and tucked them deep in our purses, keeping any small change handy in the inside zipper pocket. We just window shopped the expensive clothing stores, because the well-dressed sales ladies always pounced on you with their standard, "May I help you?"before you got a foot in the door. Their was a corner Walgreen's we always spent a few minutes thumbing through movie magazines until we felt guilty and left. When we got good and hungry enough to spend a little money, we headed for Silver's Dime Store, where they had a little lunch counter. For one quarter we could buy ourselves a barbeque on bun sandwich with cole slaw and a small coke. That would not really fill us up, but it was all we wanted to spend on food. Afterwards, we looked at every counter in the store, just drinking it all in.

There were so many things in a dime store then, and Sarah and I just spent hours and talking about the things we'd like to have. When the afternoon was getting on, we'd make our way downstairs to Silver's basement. There was more wonderful stuff there. We watched the donut machine dump the circles of dough into the grease and turn them over when they were just right. They smelled so good, and if we hadn't spent our limit upstairs, we sometimes bought ourselves a donut. Always, before we left, we'd shop for some little something to take home to our mothers. It could not cost more than 25 cents, or we wouldn't have trolley fare home. I always chose something in the glasswares department; clear glass bowls or small glass candy dishes. Sarah usually spent her last quarter on some candy for her mother, or a little dresser scarf to embroider.

All the way home on the trolley, Sarah and I talked about our day in town, and we still had enough to talk about during the 4 block walk from the trolley stop to our homes. We hoped our Mamas would like our gifts, and they always did. It was a wonderful time of innocence, and Sarah was such a good part of it. Sadly, Sarah developed some "nervous" problems as she grew up, and became so uncomfortable going to a large high school, she dropped out. She remained childlike, and though she had a brief marriage, I think she never really intended to do anything but play house. I married and moved away, but whenever we came back to visit Mama, I'd always go over into our old neighborhood and try to spend some time with Sarah. Her condition grew worse, and eventually she was put in some sort of a institution. She passed away years ago, but I often think of her when we made those carefree trips to town, enjoyed canned barbeque on a bun as though it were T-bone steak, and had such fun picking out our presents for our Mamas. Thank you for those memories, dear Sarah.