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I’ve drifted away from this blog and have been spending more time on Gossip and Solitude, a blog about reading and writing. I began Mom’s Musings years ago as a forum to post thoughts about any and everything from family to work and religion to politics. I’m a grandmother now, not a “mom” with dependent children. Does Mom’s Musings still fit? Maybe. Like a friend told me last week, “You’ll always be a mom.”

So here goes.

Note to self: No more whining about anything. I’ve got more good stuff going on than the law allows.

Of all the memorable  things I saw, heard, and experienced this past weekend,the prize goes to a sweet image I’ll carry in my heart for the rest of my days.

I went to church in Myrtle Beach yesterday morning, and as I was chatting with a friend before Sunday school began, my attention was drawn to a sweet scene that involved two tiny people, my granddaughter Amelia and her cousin Fern. The tots were leaving the chapel hand-in-hand on their way to the nursery, and I knew that within their little psyches, they felt the power of love and unity. I could see only the backs of their heads, one blond and the other chestnut, but I didn’t have to see their beautiful faces to know they were smiling.

Backtracking a bit, we dined with Amelia and her siblings and parents Friday evening, and although it might have seemed ordinary to many, to me it was anything but. However, if I hadn’t been deliberately observant, I might have missed, or at least not savored, a few of the shining moments.

  • Ethan, my grandson rode with Elizabeth and me to California Pizza, and on the way, he spotted a huge navel orange in the back seat and claimed it as his own. His aunt Elizabeth told him she had brought it for Grandma Jayne, but that was his orange and no one was wresting it away from him. For dinner, he nibbled on pizza but ate the orange in its entirety.
  • Olivia, the first grader, began coloring and playing tic-tac-toe on her paper placemat right away. Always able to entertain herself, she “worked” and chatted until her mac ‘n’ cheese arrived.
  • Amelia Grace ate her pizza and some of her sister’s chips. Generous, she handed several chip pieces across the table to me. Paying no attention to my no thanks, she kept her little arm extended until I took one or two or three.
  • When we left California Pizza, it was pouring down rain, and Ethan sheltered beneath the umbrella with Elizabeth as we hustled towards the car. The other two children were with their parents, and I’m glad I got a glance of the four of them huddled together as they hurriedly splashed down the sidewalk.

Last Sunday, I attended church in Rincon, GA with my daughter Carrie and her five children. I usually leave after Sacrament service, but that day I stayed for all three meetings. My oldest granddaughter, Brooke, was giving her last talk in Primary that day because the following Sunday (yesterday) she was being promoted to Young Women’s. Lovely and serene, she gave her talk like the champ she is, and witnessing the moment was worth the two-hour delay of leaving.

Shining moments don’t have to involve children or grandchildren. One afternoon last week a friend and I were captivated by a small flock of starlings circling and swooping over downtown Camden. Glad I noticed.

What about you? What’s something that’s made you smile lately?

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Scorcher of a day! Despite the miserable heat and the children’s occasional whining, we had a memorable afternoon.

We were in the bookstore across the road from the temple, Nephi’s Books, when Colton spied a small ceramic tree with a couple of bluebirds resting beneath it. As I stood beside him, he sounded out all the words and then looked at me with a smile. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of the message was, “I’m so happy to be perched on this family tree.”

We stood in the aisle talking about what perched meant, and then I pointed out a limb where he was possibly located. That led to a discussion about families and their many members, some past and some present, some here and others “there,” in California, Virginia, South Carolina, and Utah.

“Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they’re not on the tree,” I said as he stared at the bluebirds and pondered my statement.

“In fact,” I continued, “In a few minutes we’re going to ride over to a different part of Columbia so we can visit Sarah Beth, one of your cousins.”

“Have I ever met her?” he asked.

“Sure, plenty of times.”

“Have we played with her?” he asked, glancing at his siblings.

“I don’t think so. She’s older. And really, she’s your second cousin.”

Realizing that was more information that he needed, I said, “Come on, let’s go find Mama and go see Sarah Beth’s new house.”

Twenty-five minutes later we seven, Carrie’s crew and I, tumbled out of the van and rang the doorbell. Sarah Beth took us on the grand tour, including a visit to the backyard. There in the far right corner stood a structure, a garage without doors, much like the one that had stood in my parents’ backyard. I knew Carrie would notice and remark on it. She didn’t disappoint. Sarah Beth said it was the first thing she’d noticed too

We walked back inside and checked out the layout of SB’s house, her huge laundry room, the itty-bitty closet in the guest bedroom, and the screened-in front porch. While we were standing in her dining room filled with unpacked boxes and a vibrant orange chair, one of the grandchildren said he wanted to have Thanksgiving there. Sarah Beth laughed that cool laugh of hers and said she had to find a table first.

We sauntered outside, and one of SB’s friends who happened to be visiting agreed to take our picture. Hot and bedraggled but happy to have shared some special moments together, we all smiled. Except for Seth, that is. We said our goodbyes, and moments later we were in the van headed towards Trotter Road.

Once there, the girls and I lazily walked over to some rocks and sat down to enjoy the scenery, including some beautiful trees flowing in the gentle breeze. Two loud helicopters buzzed over, momentarily disturbing the peace.

Beep, beep, beep I looked at my iPhone to see a message from my sister. “It’s official. We will have a new son-in-law soon.” I shared the message with Carrie and told her how auspicious it seemed to get the news while together in the temple parking lot.

A scorcher, yes, but what a day! One niece showed her cousins and aunt a new house, and another niece became engaged. Braden gave me a book, Brooke experimented with some light pink lipstick, Emma climbed a tree, Colton became better acquainted with his family tree, and Seth in his five-year-old wisdom instructed me on how to fasten his shoes.

We ate sweet vanilla ice cream, took turns sitting in Sarah Beth’s blue velvet chair, and said Cheese for the camera. But the activity on, between, and within the branches on the family tree is what sustained us.

 

It can’t be that fattening, right? And after all, it has fruit in it. At least that was my thinking when I bought the cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. Usually, I just scoot right by the pies when grocery shopping, but on this particular afternoon, my progress through the crowded aisle had come to a dead stop right in front of the dessert choices. The apple pie crumb pie looked good but not quite inviting enough to tempt me. That’s when I saw the cherry one. After hesitating about ten seconds, I tossed it into the buggy.

I maneuvered the cart though the rest of the aisles as I picked up yogurt, milk, bagels, apples, grapes, bananas, and a yellow onion. No cookies, chips, or ice cream landed amongst the healthy choices. But then, there was that cherry pie. The picture on the box looked so tasty. And well, it conjured up a memory of a Sunday afternoon decades ago.

Dinner was over, and the rest of the family had skedaddled to do whatever whatever they chose. I, however, was stuck with kitchen duty that day. As I removed the plates and leftover food from the table, I noticed two pieces of pie, tempting and tasty, left in the pie plate. I wanted one—or at least a sliver of one and asked my mother if I could have a piece of a piece.

I’ll never forget her reply. In fact, it’s become somewhat legendary among the females of my family.

“Of course, you can a second piece, but you need to know that’s how people get fat.”

She didn’t say “gain weight” or “get chubby.” She said “get fat.”

At that time, I was on the skinny side of the curve. Seriously, maybe the 35th percentile for weight. Not only was I not in any danger of becoming “fat” (hate that word), but also there was no talk anywhere about the dangers of kids’ diets and exercise. Those topics were just not part of the social conversation. We played outside A LOT, and very few people had sedentary lifestyles—at least not the people I knew.

But when my mother warned me about the perils of a second slice of pie, though a small one, I cringed. Even as a child, probably ten or twelve years old, I recognized the truth when I heard it. Choices count.

“No Ma’am, “ I told her. “I think I’ll pass for now.”

Now whenever I think of having a second piece of fried chicken, a extra dollop of ice cream, or a loaded baked potato instead of broccoli, I remember a Sunday afternoon exchange between my mother and me.

Big deal, you might be thinking. Who cares about cherry pie? What I knew then was something that has been reinforced over and over and over throughout the years. Choices count. As Sartre said, “We are our choices.” Do your homework or go to class unprepared? Pay your bills on time or get a bad credit rating? Clean your house or allow it to get so cluttered that you feel unsettled? Walk around the block (or do some type of exercise) or do your laps on the couch? Finish college or drop out?

It’s your choice.

I succumbed to temptation and bought that cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. I also bought some small cups of ice cream to plop on the top of our warm slices. Right before beginning this post, I got the pie out of the freezer to read the directions and learned that there are 340 calories and 17 grams in one eighth of a pie. Seriously.

When I told my husband the bad news, he asked, “What about the sugar?” I could hardly believe my eyes: 17 grams of sugar in one eighth of a pie. And this is without the cup of ice cream!

We decided to wait for another day to enjoy that tart, red, juicy fruit cooked in the flaky crust. I also decided to go for a short walk around the block, do a little work on my fall classes, and sweep the kitchen. Choices count.

Tender to the touch, my left shin serves as a reminder of last week’s adventure My sister, her daughter, and one of my daughters took off on a girls’ trip to North Carolina, and after “doing Asheville” on Friday, we decided to make Chimney Rock State Park Saturday’s grand finale.

We cruised into town around 10 o’clock after oohing and ahing over the sights along Hwy 64. We wondered aloud how it would be to attend Bat Cave Baptist Church the next day, and that led to yet another discussion about how many different ways there are for people to live and love and play and worship. We heartily agreed that it was important, imperative in fact, to get out of Dodge once in a while to see more of the world than our own narrow corners of it.

Once in Chimney Rock, the park entrance was upon us before we had a chance to signal and turn in. No problem. We rode through town and took in the sights, and since Lake Lure was right down the road, we went there too. I wanted to have a look at the beach. There were no ocean waves or roaring surf, but there was a beach. Water too. And a lifeguard. The area was fenced in, off-limits to us, and people were lined up to plunk their money down.

We headed back to Chimney Rock, not turning again until we got to the park. I was surprised to learn the fee was only $13, and the woman selling tickets said the price had been reduced because the elevator to the top wasn’t working. No one said anything. Not a word.

“So we’ll have to walk up?“ I asked.

“Yes. Is that a problem?” she said.

The general consensus was that we had come this far and by golly, we were going to get to the chimney and touch the flagpole.

“Let’s do it, y’all,” I said.

You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Feeling overdressed and hot, we stopped at the restroom area and changed into lighter clothes and bought some water. I had learned from an earlier experience not to hike any distance on a hot day without H2O. We got back in the car and around and around the mountain we rode until we got to the parking lot.

We got out of car and looked up at the tall stone chimney. I had climbed this rock before, but it had been a beautiful fall day with brisk temperature. Now it was July. Truthfully, I think we all felt a bit of trepidation. Elizabeth had misgivings about walking in flip-flops, but since she had no extra shoes, it was wait on us at the gift shop or step forward. She started walking.The journey of 499 steps began with the first one. On we went, stopping to peer into a cave, look over the edge at the parking lot, or simply rest a minute. At one point, Elizabeth muttered to me, “This is the worst day of my life.” Lucky girl, I thought, understanding what she meant but knowing she could do it.

“You can do hard things,” I reminded her. No response. She just kept climbing in her flip-flops.

I took dozens of pictures and listened to the encouraging words of folks coming down. “It’s so worth it,” they all said. Some lied and said, “You’re almost there,” when in reality we had quite a way to go. The four of us made small talk and continued climbing—together.

At last we ascended the final twenty or so steps and walked on the rock itself. We laughed and shared “war stories” of the trek. We took selfies, and snapped photos of other people for them. There were so many people with us at the top that I had to carefully maneuver my way between them and the several big rocks. At one point, I got pushed (accidentally) and scraped my shin. Immediately, a goose egg puffed up, and a reddish purple contusion appeared. Ouch.

 After relishing our accomplishment for a few minutes, we began our descent, reluctant to leave the mountain top but anxious to begin the next adventure. Going down was so much easier than going up, and we gleefully told the tired looking climbers that they had a treat in store. “Keep on climbing,” we said. “The view is so worth it.”

Today I’m aware of my tender shin and the memories it conjures up of a day four of us, united by blood and purpose, ascended Chimney Rock. We encouraged one another, swigged our water, kept putting one foot in front of the other, stopped for breathers, and reached the top—together. It’s easier that way.

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While most people don’t know or care that Camden High School had its 50th reunion last weekend, 200+ graduates and their families and friends do. Even those who couldn’t attend because of sickness, distance, prior obligations, or fatigue are probably interested in how it played out.

Since last week, about a dozen people have asked, “How was it?” In a word, fabulous. Read on for a summary and some noteworthy tidbits.

On Friday evening, classmates met at one of Camden’s historic locations, Proctor Hall. A two-story house with lots of character, it was the perfect setting for a gathering such as ours. According to its Facebook page, “Louise C. Proctor Hall epitomizes the gracious hospitality and antebellum ambience that characterizes Camden.”

Classmates walked across a lovely lawn beneath trees lush with the greenness of summer to get the entrance hall where they received names tags, information about weekend events, and a booklet with short bios of classmates. With a beautifully decorated dining room on the right and a grand parlor on the left, the downstairs area offered three rooms in which to mingle, and classmates crossed from one area to another to greet old friends. From time to time, I spotted clusters of people chatting on the porch.

On Saturday, several opportunities to get reacquainted with one another and with Camden were available. I can’t speak for other classmates, but I enjoyed visiting the Archives where dozens of mementoes from school days were available for all to see. What made this activity especially enjoyable was sharing it with others and hearing their laughter as a photograph triggered a memory of a teacher, student, playground prank, or classroom experience.

I also joined several classmates (25?) for lunch at one of Camden’s favorite eateries, Candy’s at the Granary. Not really expecting that much of a turnout, I was surprised and pleased to see that so many folks gathered to break bread together and just “visit.” From Dr. Hoffer who sat next to me I learned that the arthritis in my knuckle is likely the result of a traumatic injury and not the kind that comes with, well, you know, the aging process. Good to know. From Wanda and Bryan, I learned about the Apple Festival in Hendersonville, NC on Labor Day Weekend. Count me in.

On Saturday evening, the BIG event took place at the Shrine Club. Meeting there has become somewhat of a tradition. There was music, entertainment by some excellent shaggers, delicious food, and nonstop conversation. Someone had been hired to take a class photograph, and what could have been an ordeal turned out to be a fun half hour. We got a little cuckoo before it was over, and when we began singing the Alma Mater, the photographer directed our musical efforts.

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Dozens of scenes from the evening continue to run through my mind, but this afternoon, the primary ones are:

  • A graduate who brought two of his grandchildren rather than miss the gathering.
  • The numbers of people who gathered to watch a 1960’s DVD that featured events, music, and news.
  • The photographs of forty-four deceased classmates. There was rarely a moment when their names and faces weren’t being studied…and remembered.
  • The handsome caterer who appeared from time to time, shaking his head in wonderment and saying he had never seen anything like it. “Y’all ought to put this in the paper!” he said.

 

Here’s the concluding paragraph from the preface of the bio booklet, Here’s to the All of You. “Despite our relative homogeneity as kids, we’ve evolved into quite a diverse group. We served our country, nursed the sick, raised children, traveled the world, taught school, weathered personal storms, experienced tragedy and loss, run businesses, managed banks, and lent a therapeutic ear. We’re artists, dancers, camel riders, marathoners, golfers, coaches, and musicians. And we’re survivors.”

So far I haven’t encountered anyone who didn’t enjoy the reunion. As for the committee, we’re already planning for one five years hence. Next time it will be in the fall or winter. We seniors (yes, we can admit it) can’t take the heat as well as we used to.

Will someone please share a memory? Someone, anyone, everyone, tell something you liked, enjoyed, and would like to see repeated.

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We sat in the breezeway between the Welcome Center and the gift shop at Brookgreen Gardens, Grandpa and I. While I don’t know for certain that Grandpa is what his grandchildren called him, that was clearly his role that spring afternoon.

I was holding a sleeping three-year-old, and Grandpa was watching the antics of his grandchildren as they scampered about in front of him. It was probably inevitable that we would strike up a conversation.

“Do you live in South Carolina?” I asked.

“No, Washington. But we have a place here, and we try to get together with our children and grandchildren as often as possible.”

After a moment, “Everyone’s so scattered about.”

“Tell me about it,” I replied. “Who would have imagined that little kids sitting around the dinner table would grow up so quickly and move so far away?”

“Yeah, imagine that,” he said, smiling wistfully.

We chatted about our former jobs, how we felt about retirement, our travel plans, and the joys of grandparenting. Like me, he saw his grandchildren in a condensed sort of way rather than a steady, everyday exposure. While sharing our experiences at the coast, I told him that I knew everyone was having a good time because of my oldest grandson’s request the night before.

“Hey, I’ve got a good idea,” he said. “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell what their most fun time was.”

After the sharing began, it soon became evident that choosing just one thing was well nigh impossible, so Braden changed the guidelines to one thing per day. Even that proved challenging because there had been so much seeing, doing, and sharing. They had searched for Easter eggs, flown kites, walked on a jetty over the sea, eaten specialty cupcakes, played with cousins, seen an otter, gone on a pontoon boat ride, and learned about the Gullah culture. And did I mention the Butterfly Exhibit?

Gramps listened politely and then shared his family’s version of sharing experiences, an ongoing tradition that began when his children were small. At day’s end, they sat around the dinner table and played a game called “Roses and Thorns.” Intrigued, I turned and gave him my full attention.

“The rules are simple. Everyone shares one highlight from the day and one “thorn,” something that didn’t go quite right. Like being scared of jelly fish or getting sunburned.”

I thought that was a splendid idea and made a mental note to incorporate the thorns aspect at some future date. As grownups, we all acknowledge that life is not all sunshine and roses, but it’s not something we discuss on vacation. But why not? It’s foolish to think that every single thing is going to turn out perfectly, especially when there are several people involved who have their own agenda. And the weather. Let’s don’t forget that.

Here are my roses from this past week: Easter dinner (lunch) with my extended family, including a six-week-old baby: cupcakes from Cocodots to celebrate several special occasions, including the opportunity to be together; walking a wide stretch of Huntington Beach with my daughters and grandchildren to get to the jetty; flying kites on the beach with my children, their father, and all eight grandchildren; seeing alligators, otters, foxes, and goats at Brookgreen Gardens; watching a feeding frenzy in the aviary at Brookgreen when the caretaker brought tiny fish for them to eat; and being with sweet baby Amelia on her first visit to the seashore.

My thorns? It ended all too soon.

 

That tiny blue cup sitting in the windowsill next to the infant’s picture might look like just another gewgaw to you. It isn’t. It’s fraught with meaning. My grandson Ethan, 20 months old at the time, gave it to me on Thanksgiving morning as I left Lake Lure. I had received word about the passing of my stepson Chris and was battling shock, disbelief, and sadness.

As I prepared to return to Columbia, the precious tot came running up and, with a big smile, held up this miniature plastic chalice. I think he sensed my grief and wanted to cheer me up. I later placed it in a bathroom window beside Ethan’s picture, a reminder of his eagerness in offering it to me at such a low moment. Even in the grimmest of circumstances, there is beauty and love.

Ethan’s father Paul gave me a perfect segue into this post last week when he sent me a link to a Radio Lab podcast about things. I don’t know whether he sent me the link because of the reference to object permanence or because of my proclivity to surround myself with things that have special meaning to me. I have rocks, shells, and jewelry that once belonged to someone dear, were given to me, or were once in a special location.

According to the podcast, things remind us of events, people, locations. They evoke emotions, good and not so good. Some are imbued with the essence and energy of those who touched or owned them, and all could tell a story. Since objects can’t talk, it’s us to us to share their significance.

After listening to the podcast, I walked around my house and snapped these pictures in less than a minute. All are important—to me, that is. You already know about the blue plastic cup. Let’s take a look at the others.

See the sailboat? Paul made it when he was about 10 years old and gave it to my mother. She was delighted with this treasure and displayed it on a bookcase for years. After her death, I claimed it as mine, and I love it for the same reason she did: his little boy hands had created it.

The trio of wooden elephants reminds me of Dr. Peter Ekechukwu, friend and former colleague at Horry Georgetown Technical College. On one of his trips to Nigeria, his homeland, Peter selected the elephants and brought them back to me as a farewell gift. A trustworthy friend, he and I used to commiserate about our many challenges as department chairs, and when I left the college, he and his wife Angela prepared a feast for us, and even now I can smell the delicious bouquet of aromas wafting throughout their home.

The lovely lavender vase belonged to my grandmother, also known as MaMa Padgett. She collected small pitchers and vases and had quite a collection displayed in her china cabinet. A few years ago, her daughter allowed MaMa’s granddaughters to choose a favorite from the collection. I chose this one and two more, one for each of my daughters. Where did this one come from? What was it that caught my grandmother’s eye? I selected it because of its color and shape, and I like thinking that perhaps those were her reasons too. She saw it; she touched it. Now it’s mine to see and touch.

The huge shell belonged to my mother. Although she wasn’t much of a beachcomber, I think she felt a reverence for the sea and its bounty. This huge shell sat atop a bathroom cabinet and held fragment soap balls. I keep it on my dresser and display pearls in it. They’re pretty, and they serve as reminders that friction can create beauty.

What about you? Do you have a special letter? A piece of jewelry that reminds you of a loved one? What about a movie or theatre ticket? Some people even hang on to articles of clothing that they were wearing at a special event or during a time that they enjoyed.

Nothing big or major here. Just a few observations on life.

I’m at the beach for a few days and have relished every moment of my time here thus far. Despite being overly fatigued, my daughters and grandchildren have added much joy to my life. Here are some thoughts, not too deep but worth considering.

On the way to the coast, I stopped in Conway to visit with an old and dear friend. One of the many things I’ve always loved about her is her ability to hear about a situation and assess it “spot on” without all of the emotional fringe stuff.  Then too there’s the fact that she’s wise, spiritual, philosophical, and practical. If that sounds like an interesting combination, well yes, that’s what makes her so special.

Before we had our conversation, I turned the corner (more like a soft curve) and spotted two women walking down the middle of the tree-lined street, and I recognized them as my friend and her expectant daughter. Immediately I recalled a moment that happened 35 (?) years ago when I saw her cross Main Street from Ninth Avenue cradling this same daughter in her arms. Catherine was a baby, and her mom was taking her to daycare before work. Those were the days—the crazy days of childcare and working that somehow we managed to get through.

Decades later there were two blond, beautiful women ambling down a Conway street, one expecting a baby in less than two weeks. So in a sense, I was walking behind three generations although I couldn’t see the tiny one’s face or form – yet. Plus, they were in Conway. Conway. A city with a lot of history for these two and many, many others. You could almost sense the spirits of their ancestors hovering about.

Early the next morning my daughters and grandchildren were up and about making preparations for a couple of hours on the strand. I was in beach attire, and Colton, the little five-year-old kept playing (best word here) with my upper arms. “Why does your skin shake like this, Grandmama?” he asked as he flicked it back and forth.

“Leave Grandmama’s arms alone,” his mother instructed. “Do you think she’s enjoying that?”

Ah, the challenges of getting older. It’s neither fun nor attractive to have flabby arms, but what are my choices? Some people have surgery, but then there are scars to deal with. Plus, there may be more limited use of movement and strength. My intention right now is to keep them covered and focus on the wonderful things my arms have allowed (still allow). For starters, hugging people. I love that. Also driving my car, picking up things, and chalk painting furniture. I started to say “typing,” but I know there are people out there who might remind me of stronger souls than I who have learned to type holding a pencil in their mouths.

That same day I went for a walk on the beach, and four older ladies (75?) stopped me and asked me to take their picture. Happily, I complied. I snapped about four pictures, and hopefully one will be flattering of all four. When I handed the camera back, one of the foursome asked, “Can you even see her face?” She was referring to one of the group who did not want to have her picture made.

“Yes, she’s trying to hide, but she’s there.”

“Hey, it’s a memory,” I said. “Y’all are gonna love looking at it later and remembering this beautiful day when you were together and happy,”

“Yeah, listen to her. She understands,” one of the women said as I turned away to continue my walk.

That little five-year-old is now on the patio with me—no more writing for hours—maybe days. But life is good. I have great friends, arms to embrace this little fellow, and some good beach memories.

Doing my best to “seize the shining moments.” What about you?

The pressure’s on. As Valerie and I sat together waiting for the meeting to begin Sunday, she leaned toward me and said, “I enjoy looking at your “Pic of the Day.”

“Aw, you’re so sweet,” I told her. And she is sweet. Charming too. And funny and lovable.

She continued, “I’ve started taking some pictures too. And so has Elodie. I got a camera for her, and now we both look for pictures to take every day.”

Elodie is in elementary school and is 6 or 7 years old.  I was stunned and surprised and pleased all at the same time. It’s one thing for an adult to begin noticing favorite sights to snap pictures of, but it’s quite another for a young child to follow suit.  I found the thought of mother and daughter looking for scenes to snap heartwarming, especially since they had been influenced by me.

Encouraged by Valerie’s news, I prattled on. “It’s amazing how much more attention I pay to my environment when I know I’m going to post something each night. Even if no one pays attention to the photographs, they mean something to me.”

“Oh, we love them,” Valerie assured me.

By the way, I can’t do justice to her wonderful accent. Having been raised on an island near France, Valerie’s speech is enviable and makes everything she says twice as delightful. We all want to talk the way Valerie does, melodic and pleasing.

The music started, and our meeting began. Three days later I’m remembering our conversation and thinking of how marvelous it is that we have the technology to take pictures instantly. As long as our smart phones are charged, we can snap as many photographs as we want to and instantly delete the ones that are “not-so-hot.” Some have too much light, others are taken from a funny angle, and still others don’t do the subject justice.

But I think what I like best is that pictures, just like words, can be used to chronicle the events of our lives. I’ve kept a journal for the past 20 years, and while I plan to continue that, it’s even better to have an additional means of recording history, mine and yours and theirs. Plus, taking pictures forces me to be more mindful. Without a handy camera and a desire to look more closely at this wonderful world, I would have missed many breathtaking sights. Well, okay, all aren’t breathtaking, but all of my pictures tell some sort of story.

I’ve yet to snap one single picture today, but I’ll remedy that when I go on a walk soon. I hope Valerie and Elodie found something worth capturing and that my “Pic of the Day” will please them.
 

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No heavy duty thoughts tonight. Just a few insights and feelings that I had while working like a maniac in the kitchen Friday.

We were snowbound for a couple of days here in the sunny South this week, and at some point I started paying attention to recipes. A one-layer chocolate cake recipe grabbed my attention, and when I clicked the link, I saw the magic words “unsweetened cocoa.” How can a person go wrong with the real stuff in a recipe? I’ve made my share of chocolate cakes and have doctored them up to make them a little more delectable, but I knew that nothing short of bona fide cocoa could provide the rich chocolate flavor I craved. With the thought of my grandchildren arriving later in the day, I got out the big mixing bowl.

Lining up the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, and other ingredients required more work than opening a box of Duncan Hines mix and adding eggs, water, and oil. And yet, I found that I got into the task (?) right away. I listened to my iPod and started measuring the all-purpose flour.

As I added the baking soda, I recalled the words of my mother. “Always break the lumps up. If you don’t, someone might bite down into a bitter clump in the cake.” I heard her voice again as I began applying butter to the pan. Years and years ago, I couldn’t figure out how to grease a pan with Crisco without getting greasy hands, and again my mother came to my rescue. “Just use a paper towel to rub it on,” she said.

I doubled the recipe because of the number of people who would be sharing the cake, and when plundering through the pots and pans to find a second one, I found a pink heart-shaped dish that my daughter Elizabeth had given me. “Perfect!” I thought. It will be Valentine’s day in a couple of weeks, and we can start celebrating LOVE MONTH this weekend. Then I thought about Lizbeth and how much she has taught me about placing culinary creations on pretty plates and platters. “It’s all about the presentation, Mom.”

Cakes in the oven, I took a look around the kitchen and felt a little heartsick. The counters were covered with cocoa and flour, cracked egg shells were resting in the sink, and the boxes and bottles of ingredients were scattered everywhere. And the mixer and beaters…what a mess. How in the world did so much batter get on the mixer???

Immediately I thought of my Grandmother Padgett, a superb cook but a messy one. Standing there looking at my counters, I could visualize MaMa Padgett whizzing around her small kitchen. From the sink to the counter to the stove and back to the sink she’d go, leaving a trail of flour with every move she made. I can still taste her “angel biscuits” and pound cake, the latter often chock full of walnuts.

But back to Jayne’s kitchen. After the cake cooled, I used a chocolate glaze purchased right off of the Wal-Mart shelf. It didn’t feel like cheating since I’d cooked the rest of the cake without a mix or short cut. Was it a success? Let’s just say that the last image I had of my grandson Braden before he and his family left my house yesterday was of him chowing down on the two pieces of cake I had put aside for our dessert last night. Did I stop him? No way! I looked at him and thought of what my mother would had done if she’d seen a grandchild enjoying that last little treat. I just smiled and tousled his hair.

If you’d seen me in my kitchen Friday, you’d have thought I was alone. But I wasn’t. I had three of my favorite relatives with me the whole time, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the dozens of lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen, some about food preparation and some about life.

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