Category: Blog (Page 1 of 100)

News of The 70273 Project with a side of Jeanne’s Barefoot Heart

Living Vicariously

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lives together! (Note the beautifully smocked - if I do say so myself - dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lmulti-generational together! (Note the beautifully smocked – if I do say so myself – dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

Sounds of
Tiny hands slapping watermelons
and joining in with applause
until she knows an A+.
Boats making their way
through the deep water of our backyard.
Birds melodiously conversing
with birds of different feathers.
Wind chimes singing a duet
with clacking palm trees to the tune of gentle breezes.

The feel of
Really cold ice on her tongue.
The tickle of peach fuzz against her chubby cheek.
Heavily mayonnaises potato salad
squishing through her tiny fingers.
Ephemeral bath bubbles on her arms
Ocean waves stealing the ground from beneath her feet.

Scents of
Roses and peonies.
Heavy hot air of the Lowcountry summer.
A watermelon busting open.
Bubble gum flavored toothpaste.

Seeing
Her mother’s face when she enters the room.
The vast ever-changing ocean.
Her bedtime bottle.

Slowly
slowly
Sometimes taking one step forward
and thirteen backwards,
The shroud of grief is pierced
at least momentarily
and she reacquaints me with
wonder
delight
and hope.

~~~~~~~

Notes:
~ Ava Jeanne is a year older now than in this photo, but the computer wouldn’t cooperate and upload the photo i want to use.
~ My mother took her last earthly breath last fall, and still I grieve. Hard.
~ This was written as granddaughter Ava Jeanne took her 2-hour nap this afternoon in my lap. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be rocking her at this stage . . . but one thing I know for sure: I won’t get a second chance to do this.

Time for Q and A

a trio of sparkly pink hearts embellishing the beautiful arrangement of flowers my daughter Alison sent on the occasion of my first anniversary of what she calls my Second Chance Day

a trio of sparkly pink hearts embellishing the beautiful arrangement of flowers my daughter Alison sent on the occasion of my first anniversary of what she calls my Second Chance Day. Alison, a banker, ordered these flowers from one of her customers. I love that she supports her customers.

The post about my Heart Alert brought many questions on Facebook and behind the scenes – something that delights me because this is an important conversation about a serious women’s health issue that needs to be talked about. Here are the Questions and my Answers:

Q: How long did the diarrhea and nausea last?
A: Less than 5 minutes. It was like my body was stepping up its efforts to get my attention and get me moving toward help.

Q: Did you have any other warnings or was this the first and only clue that something was amiss?
A: There was an episode of the uncomfortable stretching sensation that woke me up 3 nights prior. I breathed my way through it and went back to sleep. Not one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, that’s for sure.

Q: In the comments on Facebook, Dana Boyle LaPointe asked this good question: Can you describe the stretching sensation . . . location? Anything else?
A: The uncomfortable stretching sensation was in the hollowed-out place at the base of my throat. (Where’s that World Book Encyclopedia with the overlays of the human body when you need it?!) It wasn’t on the left side of my chest where I put my hands when sending love to someone, and no pain or discomfort radiated down my arms. The discomfort remained localized at the base of my throat. You know those resistance bands used in fitness workouts? It felt like that. . . like 2 hands were pulling in opposite directions at whatever is in this place in my body. (Research ahead!)

Q: Did you go to Cardiac Rehab?
A: Yes, though I didn’t stay long. When I hadn’t heard from them in a month after my Heart Alert, I reached out to them. The hospital had given them an incorrect phone number for me. I signed up, went to orientation, and show up at the hospital’s gym, ready to go. I danced – I literally danced – my laps that day, so happy was I to be moving forward. I’d been afraid to walk (10,000 to 12,500 steps a day) or dance (every night at bedtime The Engineer and I dance to “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray.) because nobody talked with me about whether I should walk or gallop back into my life. I asked the people supervising Cardiac Rehab and the head of the hospital’s fitness department for parameters: how much could I walk? What was considered a low blood pressure? High blood pressure? Any particular sensations I should be aware of should they appear? What was a good resting heart rate, and what was an alarming heart rate? I got no answers. I asked the cardiologist who directed me to ask them. Because it took us about 40 minutes to get to the hospital, because The Engineer had to tend to Baby Ava for an hour by himself, because I couldn’t figure out what the goal was for me and my recovery, and because we have a well-equipped fitness room at home (complete with treatmill, which is all there were having me do there – walk), I turned in my notice. I was gracious about it, explaining to them what I just told you, and thanked them for being there. I got no response. None at all. I have talked with others who went to Cardiac Rehab in different states, and most of their experiences were drastically different, and they recommended I find another Cardiac Rehab (there is none here).

Q: Of course I couldn’t close this post without sharing the question every member of my family – daughter Alison, son Kipp, daughter-in-love Marnie, and The Engineer each asked me in one form or another (after a respectful amount of time, of course): Did you see St. Peter? How ‘bout Lucifer?
A: Yes, these clowns are my precious family, and I adore them! Truthfully, it never crossed my mind that I might die. Not once. It has definitely changed the way I live, but the notion that I could’ve died didn’t land for a very long time, I guess because there was too much going on!

If you have questions, ask away! You can post them here in the comments, on Facebook, on Instagram (I’ll be posting there tomorrow. Some people don’t like seeing posts on FB and IG at the same time.) And you can always email me: whollyjeanne (at) gmail (dot) com

Appreciate y’all so much.

Babymoon, Day 2

Today began with a visit to Lowcountry Whimsy, a delightful gift shop filled with . . .

Amazing Things

(Photo: Two smiling women – one wearing pink, the other wearing turquoise and a hat that says “Stand close to people who feel like sunshine” – stand in front of a sign bearing the words “Amazing Things.”]

To hear Jeanne read this post (3 minutes 57 seconds):

 

Beautiful Beautiful Things

[Photo: The same two women stand in front of a sign bearing the words “Beautiful Things”]

Magical Things

[Photo: The same two smiling women stand under a sign bearing the words “Beautiful Things.”]

We each fill (and payfor) a small bag filled with goodies that will serve as souvenirs for an indescribably fun weekend of togetherness as well as reminders of how we can live a life filled to the brim with intention and delight all the time.

[Photo: a small square of paper bearing the image of a red heart with gold and silver lines radiating from it.]

As we make ready to leave, Sylvia the owner of the shop, treats all 3 of us to a lesson in using Flying Wish Paper. First, you select a fireproof base. I choose a heart. Imagine that.

[Small square of paper with image of heart in the center covered with a small square of thin purple paper.]

Then on a sheet of tissue paper, you write your wishes and intentions. Things like spelling and grammar don’t matter one iota cause there is no spell check to wag a finger at you. Shoot, you can even write your words and intentions all over each other and in every direction like I did, and you won’t lose points over your lack of neatness and legibility.

[The small square of paper with the heart image serves as the base for the thin purple paper that is now on fire.]

Then you fold the tissue paper so it will stand up on your fireproof base card, and set it on fire. Yes, really. When the flame has almost eradicated the entire square of tissue paper, the tissue paper takes flight. Lastly you gather the tiny little bits of burnt paper, nesting them in the palm of one hand while shielding them with the other hand and take them outside where you gently blow them into the wind. Our plan is to use this paper on December 23 as part of our New Moon Ritual.

[Smiling woman in pink displaying a blue journal with pink band titles You Got This.]

In the Things I Thought I’d Never See category we have Alison picking up and looking through a productivity journal / planner. She was not coerced, she did this of her own free will. I joke about this because historically I’ve gotten eye rolls and audible sighs when I pick up my planner or share plans I’ve made. My baby girl is growing up! We did not purchase this journal, though, cause she already has a planner she likes to use. And I tell y’all what, she did such an outstanding job of planning this entire weekend, it looks like I’ll soon be handing over my crown.

[Unsmiling woman in pink rolling her eyes in jest sitting beside the woman wearing red heart-shaped eyeglasses. They sit in front of a sign for the Five Eighths Seams Fabric Store.]

Next stop: The Five-Eighths Fabric Store where one of us was obviously more excited than the other.

 

[Photo, top: 7 pieces of fabric are fanned out on display. One is covered in images of cats in hues of white, black, and tan; a pink fabric bears images of eyelashes; two pieces of fabric are covered with images of pink flamingos; one piece of fabric is musical notes and symbols on a cream-colored background; the next piece of fabric is an abstract design of circles (reminding us of my grandmother name: Bubbles) in various shades of pink; and the last piece of fabric is a pink base covered with multi-colored hearts resembling the Valentine’s Day candies.]

(Though she did pick out several fun, colorful, smile-enkindling fabrics that we brought home for me to use in Junior’s first quilt.) (Why yes, that is fabric with wings  . . . though some would argue it’s really eyelashes.)

[An opened bottle of Sparkling Grape Juice and two hands, each holding a paper cup practically filled with grape juice sit in front of a cup filled with trail mix.]

Tired and filled with joy, we come back to the hotel room early, popping the top off a bottle of sparkling grape juice then toasting each other, us, Junior, and offering gratitude for this astonishing weekend and the sense of wonder and joy it continually lays out before us.

[A quilt top made of pink fabrics surrounded by pineapples in yellows, golds, and pinks.]

Then Alison tucks herself in under the quilt I made her when we went for her frozen embryo transfer. Pineapples are symbols for fertility, and, as you can tell by the fabrics, she loves cats and pink.

[Photo: Another view of the quilt that shows the background fabric of cats in colors of greens, yellows, pinks, and browns.]

[Photo: The quilt is bound in the fabric that is used on the back of the quilt.]

Every quilt my grandmother made was created to be used, and without exception. she backed each one with flannel, binding them in what now has a name: self-binding. My family couldn’t love those quilts any more. In fact, fights have broken out over who gets to sleep under the one bearing my name because let me tell you, there is no better, deeper, dreamier sleep to be had then when snuggled and snoring under that quilt made just for me by Grandmother Ballard. Because of that, every quilt I make to be used (as opposed to being hung on the wall) is backed with flannel and finished off with self-binding.

This particular quilt is named Tantivy (tan TIV ee), a word meaning at full gallop, and the story about the name is another post for another day.

Babymoon, Day 1

Come February 2023, I’ll be Bubbles (my grandmother name) to a third Sprite! I’m calling her Junior for now ‘cause she’ll be named after me, though my daughter doesn’t plan to call her Jeanne. In case you’re wondering, I’m named after an uncle I never met.

New parents apparently celebrate upcoming arrivals by dedicating a weekend to a babymoon- a play on “honeymoon” – enjoying a last fling of freedom and gaiety before a life of diapers, feedings, and sleep deprivation begins. Since Alison is a single parent, I get to enjoy this special weekend with her, and it started yesterday. I’m telling you about it in past tense because by the time we got to our hotel room last night, I was too tired to open my computer.

a reserved space!

We kicked the day off with a 2-hour glamor shot photo shoot (a.k.a. sonogram) because to date, Junior insists on refusing to give the medical professionals the views they desire. They want to see her cleft palate, and she insists on putting her foot not in (that’ll come later), but in front of her face. They want to see her spine, she lays on her back. You get the, well, picture. Frustrating as it is, I can’t help but be a teensy little bit tickled by the early signs of Junior’s independent streak and authority issues. I sense her arrival will be more of a “buckle up” than birth event.

 

After photos and a bite of breakfast, Alison and I made our way to an old Charleston building now serving as offices for several attorneys. On a car-ined street, there was one available parking space right in front (and I do mean RIGHT IN FRONT) of the building. We we made our way to the back of the building, I enjoyed the old, old bricks and the determined green plant life – mostly ferns and dandelions – poking their heads out of tiny little nooks and crannies.

The conversation on the drive went something like this . . .
Alison: Mom, you know to be quiet, right. Don’t say anything.

Jeanne: Alison, you don’t have to worry about me. This isn’t my first psychic reading. Every September in the Way Back When, Mrs Fincher and I would buckle you, Kipp, and Blake up on the merry mixer at the Kiwanis Club Fayette County Fair, and go have a reading done by the woman with a card table set up in the parking lot.

Yes, my friends, behind the door we entered was the most delightful, inviting room where the most delightful Andrea conducted our psychic reading. The first word out of Andrea’s mouth was “mom”, and I felt it was wrong not to tell her that Alison is pregnant, but she’d gone to such great lengths to hide her pregnant belly, I knew things would go badly if I so much as looked in Alison’s direction, so I zipped my lips and let Andrea focus on me as the obvious mom. Daddy came to call first, wanting me to apologize to Mother for something, and honestly, y’all, I silently whispered to him that since I was paying for this, I’d sure appreciate it if he’d talk to and about me. He must’ve heard me ‘cause he shifted to another lane and talked a good long time about how he trusts me and how I’ve taken such good care of somebody (who is obviously Mother), that now it’s time for me to spread my wings and fly – spread my wings, he said multiple times, always with Andrea doing hand motions –  to work on something that’s important to me – which I choose to interpret as this book I’ve been writing on for umpteen plus one years now. He said he trusts me implicitly, and Andrea offered that he meant that it’s okay for me to take intuitive leaps in whatever it is I’m working on (cause thought i might have thought about the book, I knew better than to say anything about writing a book)!

The Engineer’s mother shocked the stew out of Alison and me by coming in with great fanfare (that’s not the shocking part. That she came at all is the surprising part.) She seems just as excited over Junior’s birth as she was over Alison’s birth. Andrea rather emphatically conveyed to us that there is something Grammaw (Mrs. Chambers’ grandmother name) really wants Junior to have – something she made or purchased, something that has been handed down. [She bought Alison a christening gown to wear home from the hospital when Alison was born. I’d never heard of such a thing or such a tradition, but Alison wore that dress home as did my son Kipp as did Kipp and Marnie’s 2 children who were born in Colorado. And that christening gown is in a box somewhere in the chaos that is their new and almost-remodeled home in Colorado. Amid everything else they’re doing, they’re searching for that little white gown and bringing it to  Alison at Christmas.] Yep, gotta be the christening gown.

There were many other things that came through via Andrea, including one female wearing a hat who died and traveled across the Atlantic before her death. Alison and I have an idea of who that could be until we get to the part about traveling across the Atlantic. Thank goodness we recorded the entire session.

 

After hugging Andrea good bye, we needed to walk (something Grammaw encouraged Alison to do via Andrea), and there were 20 minutes left on the parking meter, so we started walking, and what do y’all think is the first thing we saw as our feet hit the Charleston sidewalk?  Right: our first found heart of the day!

Not knowing the area and having nowhere in particular to go, we just walked straight down the sidewalk, stopping at the first shop that caught our eye: the Old Whaling Store offering the most aromatic handmade soaps and lotions for sale. We left with lotion for me and lip balm for Alison. As we pulled away from our front-row parking spot, there was a line of cars waiting to take our place – ha.

Y’all look at this tree we parked beside and tell me what you see. At first I saw a tear because I have a thing for tears and see them as reliquaries. Then in a literal blink, I saw a womb cradling a cherub.

We then made our way to the Bye Bye Baby store, our first shopping spree, which turned out to be mostly a looking spree, though Alison found more things to add to her gift registry and  y’all know I found a few things . . .

a few must-have gifts for Junior, and

a little something to remember what Daddy repeatedly told me through Andrea. Oh wait. I thought those black lines were WINGS. Only now do I see them as eyelashes. Well, here’s how it’s gonna’ go down in the history books: those are wings, and wet macular degeneration or no, I absolutely love my vision. I mean Vision.

Moving on . . .

In the house between shopping and our next step at Urban Nirvana for facials and massages, my daughter-in-love Marnie called to tell Alison that she wants to host a baby shower for Alison and Junior! Alison is so touched and so excited, she actually cried a little bit . . . then got right to work on the invitation list.

 

I haven’t had a massage since they added an “e” to the word, and let me tell you, it was wonderful. Okay, it was beyond wonderful. Ditto that for the facial. (And it was 25% off thanks to the early Black Friday sale, so there’s that!) I want some of the cute and comfortable little sandals we wore at the spa, and i might actually want to go back to wearing robes after a multi-decades long absence. (Silly me, a former version of Jeanne decided that robes take up valuable closet space and besides, I need to get up, get dressed, and get to work ticking things off my (always massive) to do list. Jeanne 7.0 thinks Pfffft on that and will be shopping for a luxurious soft, fluffy robe in the Relative Soon time.)

We kicked off the weekend with Storm Hair, we closed out day one with Massage Hair.

Spying a Chili’s restaurant, we turned in, parked, walked up, and were seated promptly at a larger table for four instead of one of those tiny little tables for two. When we left the restaurant, the line of people waiting was way down the sidewalk.

Straight back to the hotel we came, donning our pajamas and climbing into bed lest we fall asleep standing up. It was a day filled with the magic that comes from laughter, love, wonder, and loving, gleeful anticipation. What better way to spend Junior’s first all-girls three-generations outing, right?

~~~~~~~

Want to see more? Let’s get together on Instagram and Facebook.

Straight Lines to the Rescue

the fabric pull Kirk/Curt really likes

To say my life is a little chaotic right now is to become the poster child for understatement.

I haven’t picked up cloth and thread in about a year and seriously wondered if I ever would again. Then in the middle of yet another insomnia-filled night, an idea: I need straight lines. So today, while The Engineer headed to the DIY home improvement store, I browsed the quilt store, and because you’ve never seen how fast The Engineer can move through Lowe’s when I’m at the fabric store, I snatched – and I do mean snatched – bolts off the shelves if they made my heart sing. That was my only criteria. My. heart had to SING, y’all, cause I have no earthly idea what I’m going to make with this fabric, only that I am going to cut it in straight lines, step one.

As he was cutting, Kirk/Curt(?) – a man I’ve never seen before – kept saying “This is my favorite. No, this one if my favorite.” and so on. When everything was cut, he said he’d made a list of the fabrics I selected, then he came around the counter and snapped a couple of photos. “These are beautiful fabrics that are even more beautiful together,” he said, “and I don’t use the word ‘beautiful’ ever.” (For the record, I’ve never been complimented for my fabric pulls or my sense of color.) He took my money, then gave me his card making me promise to either bring in the finished quilt or at least email him a photo, something I promised faithfully I’d do . . . if he still works there 14 years from now when I get it finished.

His kind, encouraging words were so incredibly appreciated today, y’all, which just goes to show that you never know whose day you will brighten and steer back on the path of hope and promise with a few well, chosen, heartfelt words of praise. What say we make a pact to sow a daily kind, uplifting word garden to folks we know and folks we may never see again? Can’t hurt, might help,doesn’t cost a thing, and you just never know the powerful gift your words might deliver to someone at just the right time.

the audio version, read by Jeanne herself

Happy Birthday to The 70273 Project!

If you’re already a part of The 70273 Project Tribe, thank you. If you’re just finding out about us, I hope you’ll poke around a bit  learn a little more, then join us.

For personal reasons, I’ve been mostly dormant the past year, but that’s changing, and you can color me positively zestful. Or positive and zestful, your pick. Over the next few months, I’ll be revealing plans for what awaits us in the next chapter of the project. If you haven’t already, subscribe so you don’t miss a thing ‘cause I think you’re gonna’ like what’s ahead.

This morning I launched a Facebook fundraiser because some adventures in our future require financial support – especially in the area of storage and storage supplies. it’s time for our 850+ quilts (and counting) to slide out from under beds, leap out from closets, gather to accessorize with labels and hanging sleeves (if needed), and pose for their glamour shots. You’ll see all this ‘cause I’m limbering up my fingers (not popping knuckles, though) in preparation of  creating online galleries for each quilt, complete with photos and stories. Thank you for giving what you can and sharing the fundraiser with your friends. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a worldwide village to change the world into a welcoming place for all, whatever their differences and capabilities.

So Glad I Got to Know Her

a woman (my grandmother) playing the piano

 

To hear Jeanne read this post (4 minutes 12 seconds)t:

 

  • A full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory . . . and a father who refused to let her return after her first year, declaring that she needed to find a husband more than she needed an education
  • Teaching each of her grandchildren (except the one in NJ who played trombone) to play the piano
  • The Program (a.k.a. piano recital) on Christmas morning
  • Completely ignoring my pleas and letting my cousin Cynthia play the coveted “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” every. single. year.
  • Newbury’s in Atlanta where she’d send my mother to purchase the sheet music she pre-ordered by phone
  • Award-winning cakes made from scratch
  • Rolling the pink and white washing machine out into the kitchen, hooking the hose up to the sink faucet, and washing clothes, putting them through the wringer (my favorite part).
  • Her refusal to touch or consider using the electric dishwasher her children gifted her
  • Plants calling at least one-fourth of her kitchen home
  • Biscuits made from scratch three times a day, cut out with the top of an empty jelly jar turned drinking glass, dipped in flour
  • “Why of course they’re new, William.”
  • Leftovers in the middle of the table, covered with a clean tablecloth
  • New potatoes from the garden
  • Easter egg hunts
  • The piano bench that twirled up and down, adjusting the height for each individual player.
  • The piano bench turned stage for the Ooey-Gooey Game as seen on The Popeye Club with Officer Don
  • That ever-present smile that covered her entire face . . . most of the time
  • How she held my hand as we walked through her yard, using her free hand to point out and identify every flower, plant, shrub, and tree in her voluptuous, colorful yard
  • New Year’s Day phone pranks
  • Buttered sugared biscuits
  • Sticking our finger in the side of leftover biscuits, then filling the hold with sorghum syrup
  • Milk toast
  • Her adult children grumbling after every meal about how she used every plate and bowl she owned at every meal
  • Her waking us up to say, “It’s Saturday morning, so you just sleep as long as you want to.”
  • The glass of water and flashlight that spent every night on the floor beside her
  • Milk money left in the little bird house attached to a column on the front porch
  • Sitting on the front porch glider to shuck corn, shell butterbeans, or just simply count the cars passing by
  • The bubble-blowing fish adorning her bathroom wall
  • Making preserves and pickles every summer
  • The dark  pantry off the bathroom, always filled with all kinds of food
  • Her laugh that came quick and often
  • Sitting on the floor playing plastic Army men with Jerry and Scott
  • The floor-length powder blue long-sleeved dress she wore to my wedding 48.5 years ago
  • The rimless glasses she wore every day of her life
  • Hearing about the one time she went on vacation – to the ocean in Florida with her sister
  • The sound of the back screen door slamming behind us when we dropped by to visit unplanned, unannounced, yet always welcomed
  • Parchment-like skin that bruised if you looked at it too long and too fast
  • The treadle sewing machine tucked into a corner between the bedroom and living room, the whirring sound providing the walls needed to create a room she could call her own
  • Brown paper bags of fabric scraps from Mrs. Callaway who lived across the road being dumped on the kitchen table, sorted, and moved this way and that till at last an idea emerged and another quilt begun
  • The word “Jeanne” with a period after it, hand stitched in a corner of the quilt she made for me

Were she still drawing breath, we would spend today celebrating the 128th spin around the sun made by my maternal grandmother – Katie Belle Wesley Ballard. How very lucky I am to have known her.

a man (left, my granddaddy) and a woman (right, my grandmother) smile at each other on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary

My Trees of Shes: Aunt Rene and Aunt Lucy on Parties

 

 

 

Aunt Rene dances with The Engineer

My granddaddy had one brother – Uncle William – and three sisters – Aunt Rene, Aunt Lucy, and Aunt Mary. Aunt Rene was the fun one. When ever we were with Aunt Rene, life was a party. Aunt Mary was the school marm. She knew she was put on earth to make rules that children were to obey implicitly. Aunt Lucy was the veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on everything – including raising children, which was surprising, given that she had none of her own.

The three sisters were very close. When they weren’t in the same room, they were writing letters to each other. When Aunt Lucy’s husband died, she moved in with Aunt Rene, and the two of them spent all day every day sitting by the same heater, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same bed.

When The Girls hit their mid-nineties, they began to take more naps, and every time they woke up from a nap and found it light outside, they were sure it was morning, so they took their morning tablets. Which meant 2 things: overdose and time to find another place for them to live where others could be responsible for disbursing their medications.

We found a lovely assisted living home close by so we could visit often. As the annual Christmas party approached, Aunt Rene got more and more excited. We made an appointment for her to have her hair fixed,  her nails done, and went shopping for a new gold lame outfit.

The night of the Christmas party, Mother and I went to join in the festivities. We wiped The Girls sitting in the back corner of the room in front of the drink table. On our way to them, Mother made a wide right turn and stopped by to get herself a cup of wine, then we took our places standing behind them. Aunt Rene turned around to greet us, and did a quick double take. “Darlin’, is that alcohol?” she asked Mother.

Mother held the cup out in front of her, looking at it as though wondering what it was and how in the world it got into her hand. Thinking of nothing to say, she went with the truth: “Why yes, Irene, I guess it is.”

”I’ll be right back,” Aunt Rene told us, then took the cup of lemonade she and Lucy were sharing, and headed back to the drinks table where Mr. Joe, the facility’s maintenance man, was ladling out punch. “Mr. Joe,” Aunt Rene said, putting her cup down on the table and pushing it over towards him. “Put some Southern Comfort in my cup, if you please.”

”We don’t have any Southern Comfort,” Mr. Joe told her.

”I think if you’ll go look under that end of the table,” Aunt Renesaid, pointing to her left, “I think you might find some. I’ll wait.”

Mr. Joe obligingly went to the far end of the table, lifted the tablecloth, and looked around to see what was under the table. He came back shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Miss Irene, we just don’t have any Southern Comfort.”

”Well, in that case, I guess you better give me some more lemonade,” Aunt Rene sighed.

The music started, and we all knew that meant time for dancing. Aunt Rene sat up a little straighter, dialed her smile up a notch or two, and handed the lemonade off to Aunt Lucy,. She was ready for the line of men to form in front of her. That woman did love to dance. I knew that, and that’s precisely why when we first got to the party, I asked every able-bodied man to ask Aunt Rene to dance. To a person, they said the same thing: “I sure will take Miss Irene out on the dance floor, just as soon as a slow dance comes on.”

While Aunt Rene was out for her first slow dance, smiling to beat the band, Aunt Lucy decided she wanted to go to bed. “Where’s Irene?” she asked. “I’m ready to go to bed.”

”Aunt REne is at a party, Aunt Lucy. Y’all can go to bed when the party is over,” I told her.

Aunt Lucy got increasingly cranky and louder. I spied a post on the other side of the room, drug an empty chair in front of it, and told Mother to take Aunt Rene over to sit in the chair behind the post so Lucy couldn’t see her, then I took my place in Aunt Rene’s vacated chair next to Lucy. Being the self-appoint4ed family historian, I thought this a fine time to get some stories from Aunt Lucy.

”Aunt Lucy,” I started, “when you and Aunt Rene were teenagers, did y’all go on a lot of dates?”

”NO,” Aunt Lucy barked. “Now where’s Irene? I’m ready to go to bed.”

”Aunt Rene is at a party. When the party is over, she’ll come get you and y’all can go to bed. Now Aunt Lucy, when you and Aunt Rene were teenagers, did y’all like to go to parties?”

”NO. WHERE IS IRENE? I’m ready to go to bed.”

”Aunt Rene is at a party,” I reminded her. “When the party is over, she’ll come get you and y’all can go to bed. Aunt Lucy, when y’all were teenagers, did you like to dance?”

’NO. WHERE IS IRENE? I’M READY TO GO TO BED,” Aunt Lucy screamed at me.

That was the third strike as far as I was concerned. I whipped around in my chair and said in what my children call my meanest teacher voice: “Aunt Lucy, I’ve told you that Aunt Rene is at a party. I’m sitting here being very nice to you, and if you talk that way to me one more time, you’re going to bed all right, and I am going to be the one to take you. I’ll take you upstairs, get your ready for bed, and tuck you in. Then I’ll sit with you while you go to sleep, and when the party is over, Aunt Rene will come in and join you. You’ll already be asleep, so you can see her in the morning. How does that sound?”

In the sweetest voice I’d never heard come from Aunt Lucy’s mouth, she said, “Well, we didn’t party all that much, but when we did, we did enjoy dancing.”

My Trees of Shes: Aunt Rene, on Age

This year for Women’s History Month, I’m gonna’ be celebrating women in my life who make me a better woman. To get us started, meet my Aunt Rene (short for Irene). She was a mess, and today I tell you her view on age . . .

 

If you can’t or don’t want to play it out loud, here’s a non-verbatim version . . .

 

Here we see Aunt Rene flirting with the statue of a handsome man.

My Aunt Rene was a mess, which is the highest compliment you’ll ever hear at my Southern table. When Aunt Rene was rounding the corner headed to 100 (we think), my daughter Alison would often show up at family meals and events with a date. Aunt Rene would always end the conversation she was having, pull her gold lame jacket up on her shoulders, and walk in her gold lame shoes straight over to the date. She’d sidle up to him, flash her biggest smile in his direction, and ask, “Darlin’, do you have a younger brother?”

Yeah, Aunt Rene taught us how to flirt. She also taught us a little something about age: don’t tell anybody.

The first time I was with her and an adult bent down to my face level and asked, “How old are you, Sugar?” Aunt Rene put one hand on each of my shoulders and turned me to face her. She didn’t squat down with her hands on her knees, instead she used one of her hands to tilt my face up to look at her. “When somebody asks your age, don’t tell ‘em, Darlin. They do’no need to know ‘cause you see, when you give them a number, they’ll reach way down into their bag of stereotypes and pull out a description – a preconceived notion – of how people who are that age ought to act. Make ‘em treat you the way you are when you’re with them, cause age is just how many trips you’ve made around the sun. That’s just a number. Life is what matters, and life is how much sparkle and sass you put into every spin.”

Wind Phones

As self-appointed family historian,
I’ve spent my entire life researching in preparation
to write  this book about
what happened to my family in May 1933,
In an attempt to capture information I don’t have,
I pen letters to my daddy,
my Uncle Gene,
my Grandmother and my Granddaddy.
After a brief breathing break,
I take a clean sheet of paper
and channel them,
recording their responses
in letters penned back to me.
It never fails to be an amazing event,
but oh how I long to hear their back door
slam behind me
as I walk into their house,
always invited,
never announced,
to sit with them at their kitchen table.

I ache for one
(okay, 26)
(or maybe 512)
(at least)
more opportunities to sit with them
and ask questions about their loves, their lives.
How did you meet?
Why did you fall in love with each other?
What were your favorite songs, colors, books?
Did you like to dance?
Did y’all  laugh a lot?
What did you wear to your wedding?
Sometimes I’d just like to hear their smiles,
as they answer commonplace questions like
Whatcha doin’?
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Whatcha gonna’ do the rest of the day?
So many questions I long to ask
especially questions
about that horrific weekend in May 1933.
Were you terrified?
How did you comfort each other?
What thoughts ran through your minds?
How did you stay calm?
What were the emotional after shocks like?
and so on.

Today as I gather
my thoughts, newspaper clippings,
photos, letters, and other ephemera
related to what happened that weekend
and prepare to start writing for real this time,
I remember reading about a telephone booth
installed in a field in Otsuchi, Japan,
complete with a disconnected telephone.
In 2011, the small town of Otsuchi was
eviscerated by a double-whammy:
a tsunami and an earthquake.
They lost everything, including 2000 residents.

Itaru Saski was already grieving,
wishing to share just one more cup of tea with his cousin
who died before the tsunami came.
As others around him rebuilt,
Itaru followed the urgings of his heart,
nestling an old telephone booth in his garden.
Calling it the Wind Phone,
he issued an open invitation for others
to come and place
calls to their deceased loved ones.

On the heels of this memory,
I look around me, and I move as if a puppet at the end of a string . . .
My studio is home to a chair I sat in as a teenager,
reclining in its outstretched arms
talking on the phone for hours.
Next to it I place a mid-century modern
telephone table found in a thrift shop years ago.
I have “a thing” for mid-century modern.
Atop this table now sits the red phone I announced I wanted
on a trip to Asheville years ago.
I didn’t know why I wanted it,
I just did,
and it may or may not surprise you to hear
that it was the first thing I spied upon
entering my favorite shop.
Beside the phone is one of my son’s boots
turned pencil holder
and 2 journals The Engineer
gifted me three years ago.

The front of one journal reads
Fill your paper with the
breathings of your heart.

~ W. Wordsworth

The other journal wears these words:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust that you are
exactly where your are meant to be.
May you not forget the
infinite possibilities that are born of
faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle
into your bones,
and allow your soul the
freedom to
sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for
each and every one of us.

Magic!
And it all happened in the space of 4 minutes.
I’m not kidding.

Now, when the longing punches my heart,
I will sit in this chair,
tucked into the far corner of my studio
where no one can see me without trespassing
and use my personal Wind Phone
to find solace
and who knows –
maybe some answers, too.

 

And you know what else?
I hereby proclaim that One Day
I will install a public Wind Phone
– 2 of them, actually
or maybe 3 –
each with an open invitation
and free long (long, long, long) distance calling.
The thought excites me,
and I look forward to doing just that.
For now, though, a photo goes on my Vision Board,
and when the time is Right
and everything aligns,
the other public Wind Phones will most certainly come to be.

~~~~~~~

This just in:
my friend Margaret Williams
just sent me a link to
a text version of the wind phone.

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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