Sunday, May 14, 2017

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY

 “You may forget the one with whom you have laughed, but never the one with whom you have wept.”~ Kahlil Gibran

Laughter can be cathartic, but a good cry is how I cleanse the clutter from my soul.

My penchant for sad movies where heroines die an untimely death began the day Mama took me with her to see the movie, Sentimental Journey. She was crazy about John Payne and I guess because she was Irish, she believed that Maureen O’Hara was her distant cousin. Mama apparently kissed the Blarney Stone at a very early age.

I was six-years-old but I clearly remember that day in the theater. Mama started to sob about five minutes into the film and I, lacking the capacity to understand her tears, cried along with her. She would pull out two Kleenex tissues at a time from her pocketbook, hand one to me and then blow her nose with the other. 

Mama loved going to the picture show and it didn’t much matter if it was a drama, comedy or musical. Whatever was showing at the Carolina Theater (with the possible exception of Roy Rogers and Trigger) was the movie she would stand in line and pay a whole quarter to see. For many years, I went with her. 

Together we saw Pinky, Johnny Belinda, Imitation of Life and Little Women, of course. Tearjerkers, every one of them. Occasionally, she took me with her to see a murder mystery. After seeing Edward G. Robinson stab a woman with scissors in the film, The Woman in the Window, I woke up screaming for weeks.

But Sentimental Journey set the emotional bar for Mama and me. For the rest of her life, anytime that movie was mentioned either in conversation, a recorded version of the song, or even if the movie was replayed on television, Mama would look over at me with a knowing smile. That long ago day in the theater with her when I was just a child continued to be our shared moment in time, one that lingered between us for nearly fifty years. 

Once when I was living in Los Angeles, she sent me a newspaper article about the movie. It was a tiny thing, not much more than a blurb, but I still have it. It’s tucked away in my memory box, yellow now with age. The day I got it, I opened the envelope and lifted out the two-inch square newspaper clipping and thought, “What in the world is this?” Then I read the heading: SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. It said that Turner Movie Channel was planning to run the movie again at such and such a time.

I skimmed it and then read the note Mama had attached which read: “I saw this in today’s paper and thought of you. How could I not?”


Oscar Wilde said, “Memory really is the diary we carry around with us.”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Black Friday, USA

Babe and I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my son and his kids and also my ex-husband and ex-husband's new wife. Are we the picture of modern family or what?

After swallowing a mouthful of turkey and dressing, I said, "WalMart's got Cuisinart Handichoppers for five bucks on Black Friday. I'm going to buy a few for Christmas gifts."

My son the lawyer, stared at me like I needed a brain transplant.

"Mom, are you nuts? Don't even think of going to WalMart on Black Friday."

The grandkids from hell giggled. My son stared at me. "Do you have a death wish?"

"I most certainly do not," I quipped while the grandkids laughed even louder. "I have a wish to buy Cuisinart food choppers and I'm gonna."

He cleared his throat as though practicing his judicial expression. (He'll make a scary judge one of these days.)

"I'm handling a law suit right now brought on from last year's Black Friday sale. The poor woman got crushed and wound up in the hospital with multiple head wounds and a gunshot to her foot."

"She must have wanted a food chopper even worse than I do."

"Mom! These so-called sales inspire barbarity in people. Stores stock only a few advertised items and once they're gone, they're gone. Black Friday is just another word for stampede."

My eyebrows knitted together to form a big punctuation mark while I strained my brain to remember how many little choppers were on the shelf when I scoped them out. I saw four on Tuesday, but assumed the Wally World Worker Bees planned to restock before Friday.

"Tell me something son, did the nice folks slaving away at WalMart at least send her flowers? I think they should have, don't you?"

He gave me a look that said, I am pretty sure you did not mean to ask that stupid question, so except for this scary look I'm throwing your way, my lips are sealed.

Batting my eyelids, I tried to think of a way to move the conversation as far away from the subject of Black Friday as possible.

"Back in the day," I began, "the word crush meant something far different than it does today. It had nothing to do with holiday bargain shopping.

"Like, I had a crush on Paul Newman after sitting through his first movie fifteen times. Lucky for me, stalking wasn't an issue then, not that I was stalking him mind you, unless writing him letters every day begging him to divorce Joanne and marry me, qualifies."

Six pairs of drooping eyelids at the Thanksgiving table screamed Tryptophan Overdose.

"On prom night, I was afraid my orchid corsage, pinned to the left strap of my blue tulle formal gown would get crushed if I wore a coat over it. So what I remember most about my prom night is that I was so freakin' cold my skin came close to matching the color of my gown."

"What's a tulle?" asked one of the grandkids from hell.

"Some girl thing," his brother replied in a sleepy monotone.

"I decided to pin the orchid on my wrist so that when my date and I were dancing, it wouldn't, well, you know."

Babe looked at me like I needed serious therapy. "Crush your freakin' corsage," he finished the sentence and then rolled his eyes.

"Score one for Babe," I chirped. Heartened that nobody had yet fallen headlong into the sweet potato soufflé, I kept tripping down the road back to the Fab Fifties.

"Back then, the style was to wear five crinoline petticoats underneath a full skirt and starched stiff as a, uh, as a board. It took a lot of planning to avoid crushing them when sitting down for too long."

I saw that only one pair of droopy lids had made it to Siesta City, so the ol' wordsmith in me kept pulling crushing examples from my memory bank.

"After a few months when Paul Newman had not written me back, I had to admit he was not interested in divorce or remarriage. Well, you can imagine: I was totally crushed."

Fueled by boredom and candied yams churning in their overfilled, flatulent bellies, they fled the table en masse and tried to get through the small door at the same time. Alas, they crushed each other like leftover Christmas cookie crumbs.

The mass family exodus was a crushing blow to my ego.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

In The Moment on St. Simons Island

You see a painting of a St. Simons Island marsh and your senses are awakened to all that surrounds you. Sidney Lanier’s poetry glides effortlessly through your mind. The ocean air becomes a pungent mixture of seawater and new milk. You slap at a mosquito that is curiously, not there. While gazing at the marsh, a breeze caresses your skin to bring you intimately in the moment on St. Simons Island. 
You are a child playing in the water on East Beach on a hot July afternoon. You wade out up to your knees and feel the warmth of the ocean spatter-paint your legs with salt. Your toes curl under into the sand as the next wave pushes ever closer. You cup your two small hands together, scooping up water to splash on your legs. You draw in a breath of alarm as something alive scurries over your tiny feet. Something, that curiously is not there.
You are in the moment on St. Simons Island.
Outside Christ Church, you stand with the artist in old St. Augustine grass damp now with dew. The antiquity of this holy place, tightly bound with souls of the faithful departed, seeps into the very marrow of your bones. Christ Church is hallowed ground. You close your eyes and history surrounds you. You feel the embodiment of those who have walked in this same deep-rooted grass long before you were born.
Anchored off-shore in a small boat, you are immersed in the silent world of the sea. You listen to the sails gently flapping in the wind and you hear the mirth of porpoises at play. Beyond the buttress of rocks, you see the St. Simons Lighthouse, the brick cottage, the white gazebo. Soft strains of past summer concerts by the sea float melodically through the air. You hear yourself humming in this moment on St. Simons Island.
You are crabbing under a bridge using chunks of leftover ham as bait. Surrounded by your children or grandchildren, you hear, I caught one! followed by squeals of happy laughter. You smile at the conquest and recall the exquisite taste of blue crab meat and you wonder who will have the honor of picking the blue crab bounty.
You hear a Black Grackle call Uh Oh as you stroll the footpaths at Fort Frederica and watch small children climb on top of cannons that once protected this island. A woman wearing a baseball cap snaps a photo with a state of the art digital camera, but the picture you see is not the one she takes. Yours is one of General Oglethorpe giving the order to “FIRE!” You see a young soldier light the fuse and you smell the kerosene-soaked torch in his hand. You hear the cannon roar and you are swallowed up in the past during this moment on St. Simons Island.
You are playing golf at Retreat, walking on the velvet green carpet that rolls over and under itself. Mullet jump high in the air at your approach. An alligator slips quietly into the water, the sun bounces off your nine-iron as though sending a message from above.
Strolling peacefully through the Avenue of the Oaks, you resist an urge to climb one of the ancient trees and hang upside down by your knees. You feel the curly, parasitic strands of grey moss that drape and droop from its fat limbs. You step back in time and hear the approach of a horse and buggy as it travels down the historic Avenue of Oaks. 
When your fingers reach out to touch what is left of the Tabby Ruins at Retreat Plantation, you are mindful of the passage of time, the struggle for survival, the life force of endurance. The amplitude of being in the moment on St. Simons Island is breathtaking. 
Now it is nightfall and the sun has surrendered its hold on the island for another day. From where you stand, you catch the yellow hues glowing through the windows of Lovely Lane Chapel. Inner warmth cradles you, inviting you to surrender your dark nights of sadness so that you can begin again tomorrow.
Moments spent on St. Simons Island means your life will never be the same again.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

CHRISTMAS AT THE WAFFLE HOUSE

 “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake
Christmas morning and not be a child.” ~ Erma Bombeck

My husband, Babe suggested that we sleep in on Christmas Day. Our grown children were in South Carolina with their little ones, so St. Nick had no logical reason to drop down our Georgia chimney. We decided to sleep as long as possible since the kids were coming to visit after the live greens were wilted and the fat man had flown back to the North Pole.
Early Christmas morning as I dreamed of sugar plum fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care, my two hungry cats turned my stomach into a pincushion. Dragging my sleep-deprived body to the kitchen, I searched the pantry for a can of non-smelly cat food. Since it was a holiday, I would treat the kitties to turkey ala Fancy Feast instead of mystery fish parts.
As I was leaving the kitchen I saw Babe sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. He looked like he was in a trance.
“Whatcha doing, Babe?”
He looked at me like I had glitter for brains. “What do you think? I’m waiting to open presents.”
I sat down, leaned over and kissed him smack on his smackers. He grinned. “Can we open ‘em now,” he asked. “Can we? Huh?”
“What are you, five? All right, let’s do this thing.” My Starbucks was kicking in so I could handle pretty much anything.
Later, after expressing our gratitude for socks, ties and perfume we didn’t need, we were hungry for something out, food that didn’t need cooking in my kitchen. We got dressed and hurried to the car.
 “Where to,” Babe said playing taxi driver to his lone passenger.
 “Waffle House,” I replied. “They never close.”
The diner known to every man, woman and child South of the Gnat Line was packed, the parking lot jammed with cars, motorcycles and pickups.
A family of four got up to leave just as we arrived, so before it could be cleaned of leftover waffle crumbs, we commandeered the abandoned table.
“Cheese omelet,” I declared to Donna, the server dressed in a red T-shirt with Merry Christmas, Y’all stamped on her bosomy front. “And leave the coffee pot.”
Donna looked at me like the aforementioned brain glitter was leaking out of my ears. “Not gonna happen, Girlfriend,” she said. “Not today.”
Undaunted about that missing front tooth of hers, Donna grinned and then winked at Babe. He ordered one of everything on the menu and then winked at her.
I looked around at the assorted groups of people having Christmas breakfast at the little house of pecan waffles and enough fat fuel to power us all to Uranus and back.
Taking up two tables and hanging off the end, a group of bikers dressed in red leather were smacking on waffles, hash browns and milk. Milk?
A young mom and dad next to us were trying to keep their pajama-clad children from killing each other. My guess is that earlier Dad had said, “Let’s eat out at the place that’s open 24-7.”
Mom had replied, “You had me at eat out.”
I noticed an elderly woman seated near the back of the diner. She was wearing a red wig that didn’t fit and she was too thin. Her eyes matched her wig. She ate alone and looked sadder than anyone in the place. It broke my heart.
Donna refilled our cups, spilled some on the side. “Oops,” she chirped and Babe winked at me. There was a lot of winking going on that morning. ‘Tis the season …
Old friends stopped by our table to offer holiday wishes. It had been much too long since we had seen them, and I wondered where the time had gone.
My omelet arrived loaded with cheese and too much animal fat. Babe dug into his eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and hash browns and then asked Donna to bring him some whole-wheat toast. Go figure.
Between bites, I became more aware of pajama-clad kids and exhausted parents, evidenced by a Dad’s blood-shot eyes or a Mom’s droopy ones. I thought about when my children were that young and how we were up late on Christmas Eve searching for misplaced nuts, bolts and missing screws for all the unassembled toys from Santa.
Had it been that long ago when instead of cats jumping on my stomach, tiny hands shook me awake with, “Let’s go see what Santa Claus left!” Where had the time had gone?
We never went out for breakfast on Christmas Day when my kids were young. I made waffles and bacon and then yelled for them to put down their toys and come eat their breakfast. Family life is different now, but that’s not a bad thing.
As I looked around at all the kids in pajamas eating breakfast at the Waffle House it brought a smile to my face.
Donna, proudly showing off that Merry Christmas, Y’all T-shirt, made me happy and it made me glad to be exactly where we were that morning.
And when Babe ordered every item on the Waffle House menu and the paramedics did not need to be called, I smiled and asked him if he'd saved room for fruitcake.
He swallowed a mouthful of hash browns and said, “The Waffle House doesn’t serve fruitcake. Even on Christmas. But we’ve still got a few slices at home, don’t we?”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hop, Hop, Hopping Around for Good Luck

How did Hoppin’ John get its name?
One theory is that it originated from the Creole name for pigeon peas, “pois a pigeon,” pronounced “pwah peeJon.” Close enough for Southerners to say Hoppin’ John from that point on.
Some believe it originated with a children’s game similar to musical chairs where kids hop up and down at the table, hence the name. Duh. The Grandkids from Hell love to jump up and down at the table as though they’ve swallowed Slinkies … even when it’s not New Year’s Day.
Babe claims that in Pennsylvania people eat pork and sauerkraut to clean them out in preparation for the coming year. Yuk. Homemade colonoscopies might pass as Yankee logic, but I’ll settle for kids jumping up and down at the table like Jack (on Crack) in the Box.
Believing that it will ward off bad luck, Southerners adhere to the tradition of eating pork, collards and Hoppin’ John on New Year’s. I am Southern to the bone, but I was not always a believer. I am now.
In 1960 I said to my mother, “No Hoppin’ John for me and certainly no collards. I hate greens.” So I ate no peas and rice or collards on that first day of the year over fifty years ago. Big mistake.
Mama roasted Boston Butt pork to a fair-thee-well and had her collards swimming in ham pot likker like Esther Williams. I didn’t believe for a minute that a year of good luck depended on certain veggies eaten on January first. But I never met a pig I didn’t want to take home to Mama, but after downing three pork sandwiches — my one nod to tradition — I was struck with the bellyache from hell. I thought I was dying. A stomachache was only a hint of what was to come. Had I but known, I’d have seriously considered mainlining leftover collards.
Obviously I didn’t die, but the very next day my dog blitzed a can of Alpo, looked up at me, and croaked. It is true that she was old, but her death was still a shock. I was a kid and that dog had been begging for table scraps all my life. Her high-speed exit made me think that she, too, should have eaten collards.
Susie Q was buried in the back yard. Mama and I watched and cried while passing each other the Kleenex box. Daddy was a policeman and the gravediggers were prisoners from the jailhouse. He wore a dark suit and tie and stood at the gravesite with his hands clasped in front of him. I said, “Daddy looks like a preacher,” and we laughed through our tears.
On January third, I set the kitchen on fire. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happened. That afternoon, I’d been craving French Fries. After pouring lard in the frying pan, I realized we were slap out of potatoes. 
Forgetting that I’d turned on the burner under the lard, I grabbed my pocketbook and walked to the Piggly Wiggly for a five-pound bag of potatoes. I was dilly-dallying back home pretty much like Prissy in Gone With the Wind, when the sound of sirens stopped me. Turning the corner, I saw not one red fire truck, but three of those bad boys parked end to end in front of my house. Smoke billowed from the kitchen door and open window while neighbors gossiped and gawked on the sidewalk.
Mama’s kitchen was toast. All of the cabinets had be repainted; the new wallpaper smelled like a campfire. Mama stayed mad at me for twelve months.
I dreaded January fourth. Would it bring even more bad luck? I wondered if the calamities I’d dealt with for three days were only teasers. Turned out that’s what they were. 1960 was the longest year of my life. A new piece of bad luck pounced on me every day of that year.
Bottom line? I learned to respect traditions, why they were established in the first place and why we must honor them no matter what. These days I think nothing of hogging down Pork, collards and Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. In fact, I totally look forward to that particular meal.

I promised myself then that every year while my jaws can still go up and down in chew mode, I will cover my sassy southern you-know-what by gobbling me up some Hoppin’ John, collard greens, pork and even some of that boring Yankee delight, sauerkraut. All cabbages and their cousins are my BFF’s come January first.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WRAP IT UP!


“The best gifts are wrapped in love and tied with heartstrings.

In this special season of giving I invite you to join me in creating a living symbol of what Christmas is all about
By pulling together, we can build a huge Christmas tree designed and adorned by the power of love. We can trim it with people of all sizes and colors, and then light it with the brilliance of their imaginative ideas.
The gifts underneath the tree are plentiful because there is more than enough to go around.
Peace of Mind is in the large white box and Health is wrapped up in pink.
Talent is bursting from its confined package like multicolored confetti!
Faith, Hope and Love all bask in the glow of gold and silver, while a bright yellow box of Enlightenment opens up right before our eyes.
Contentment? It is packaged in many different colors and designs.
At the top of our tree, a brightly shining star illumines each gift, each life and each open door. That star is called free will.
The largest gift of all is an unfilled box of Christmas Spirit. If we put ourselves inside that box, we can fill it with food for hungry people, solutions for drug and ecology issues and freedom for those living behind walls of fear, hate, and ignorance.
Charles Dickens wrote, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Let’s do it! Let’s wrap up that thought with love, tie it with heartstrings and place it under our tree so that everyone in the world can have a Dickens of a Christmas!

—Cappy Hall Rearick

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Myles To Go Before We Eat




Myles Standish, Captain of the Mayflower, is the reason for holiday stress.

In August, he invited the Indians to a Labor Day party, got them roaring drunk so they would tell him where the wild turkeys hung out. Promising more firewater, he then conned them into teaching Pilgrim women how to grow, harvest and cook maze, squash, pumpkins, and Boston Baked Beans.

By the middle of October, Myles was thinking, PAR-TAY!

Picture, if you will, Captain Standish reciting Julius Caesar aloud, mooning over Priscilla Alden and watching football. (Pilgrims vs. Indians).

His wife, Barbara, is in the kitchen thinking about wringing his neck instead of the fifty-pound-turkey. Overwhelmed by twenty sacks of potatoes to mash and pumpkins the size of wagon wheels, she’s not happy. The experimental spaghetti squash exploded in July and her zukes grew to the size of Labrador Retrievers. She has wheat to thrash and dough to rise and roll. The colossal turkey has eighty-five pellets in its butt, thanks to Myles who introduced firewater and firepower to the Indians.

Preparing for the first Thanksgiving feast, Barbara mutters to herself and quivers.

“Would it have killed him to ask me before he invited every Indian in the new country? I’m supposed to entertain strangers dressed in animal skins. Gimme a flippin’ break.”

Baby Lora is walking now; son Charles is into teenage angst, and young Myles is a nerd. Big Myles mostly muses.

“Husband,” Barbara shouts. “Pu-leese stop musing and get in here.”

He stomps into the dirt-floor kitchen. “Now what, Babs?”

 “What are ya, blind? I’m knee-deep in unshucked maze and pumpkins that need to be stewed. Baby Lora messed up her last clean nappy while you were mooning over Priscilla. She married somebody else, Myles. Get over it.”

The zukes are growing faster than the speed of light and the sweet potato pies are bubbling over in the oven.

Myles poses like a Fifteenth Century Mr. Clean. “Blimey! It’s Disaster City in here. Other than whining, what have you been doing, woman? Our guests are expected today. What is so difficult about preparing enough food to feed a small continent? What else would you be doing?”

She looks around for something sharp. “I’m hormonal, Myles, so I would rather take a nap and leave instructions for you to wake me up in 1776 in time for the Fourth of July fireworks.”

“Are you daft, woman? What is this nonsense you spout?”

She sidles over to a knife resting under a sixty-pound zucchini. A vague smile crosses Barbara’s lips as she and the knife focus on the bad-tempered, albeit intrepid Mayflower Captain.

“Myles,” Barbara croons, “Why did you invite the entire Wampanoag Nation to dinner?”

“There you go exaggerating, Babs. Dr. Phil calls that non-productive behavior.”

“Do not,” Barbara snarls, “repeat, do not speak to me about non-productive behavior. I push my tush while you sit around and muse.”

He throws up his hands. “There you go again.”

“What do you mean?” She tugs the knife out from under the seriously heavy zucchini.

“Merely a reminder that the entire nation was not invited. Only the families of Squanto, Samoset and Chief Yellow Feather.”

Barbara hides the knife within the folds of her grease-spattered skirt. “Husband, do I dare ask how many family members the savages will bring?”

Myles lights up a cheroot and blows a smoke ring. “About ninety. What? Why the long face? Is entertaining a few of my friends too much to ask? I have a colony to run, you know.”

Ninety people? Ninety? Are you are out of your freaking gourd? Who is going to look after your wild offspring, do the laundry and cook the stinkin’ pumpkins? I’m not Martha Stewart.”

“Babs, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Seriously, what would you rather do?”

“Be pummeled to the ground with a 20-pound sack of flour until I pass out, that’s what.”

“There’s no need to get your bloomers in a bunch over a little dinner party. Chill. Call the Butterball Hot Line. They know all about turkey stress.”

Barbara stares. “Maybe they’ll send a wagontrain of cooked food with an army of servers.”

“Babs, Babs, Babs. The Butterball Hot Line is designed to get you through turkey angst, not to spoil you.”

“Myles, this is a good time to tell you that I have a raging case of PMS, a migraine and a knife. I am on my last nerve and I don’t give a flying fig about the Butterball people.”

“Hey! Don’t go all nutterootie on me.”

Barbara closes her eyes and wraps her fingers around the hidden knife. In a low voice, she hisses. “Get out of my kitchen, Myles!”

The intrepid Captain Standish retreats like a cowardly lion from Barbara’s disarrayed domain and returns to his sanctuary. A quirky grin sneaks onto his lips to slowly spread across his face like warm cranberry sauce.


“Woo-Hoo. For a minute I was afraid the old lady would bail and then who would cook that fifty-pound turkey? Not me. I have a colony to run.”