Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Kindness Counts by Cappy Hall Rearick

Thanksgiving was just three days behind us, and the Charleston South Carolina weather was surprisingly warm. My thirteen-year-old granddaughter decided to go for a walk, but as is often the case with Maggie, she walked too far and wore herself out which necessitated a call to her mother on her iPhone, the one permanently attached to her.

“Mom, I walked all the way to Harris Teeter and I’m way too tired to walk home. Can you pick me up at the store?”

She clicked off and then, like any other teenager, immediately began texting. Right in the middle of a message to her bestie, Maggie felt a tap on her arm. She jumped. Images of Freddy Krueger quickly produced her fight-or-flight reflex.

When she turned to face the person tapping her arm, there was no monster. The sad eyes gazing into Maggie’s belonged to a frail, homeless woman wearing a frayed mask.

“I was wondering,” the woman said, “if you would buy me a slice of pizza.”

Maggie might have turned away. She might have replied with a loud NO! GO AWAY! She might have ignored the woman.

But she didn’t.

“Sure,” she said to the woman. “I’ll buy you a slice.”

Before Maggie got into the store to buy it, the woman called out to her, “Tell ‘em to put lots of onions and pepperoni on it, but no anchovies.”

The woman’s last-minute order tickled Maggie and made her grin as she walked into the store. Then she did something I don’t think many kids her age would have thought to do. Turning back, she asked the woman, “How about a Coke or a Pepsi to go with the pizza?”

The woman grinned. “Oh yes. A Coke would be good.”

When my granddaughter told me about the incident, I was proud of her, so glad that in a world gone crazy with greed, her generosity of spirit was and is, alive and well. 

Socrates must have had a low opinion of youth when he said, “Children today love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter instead of exercise.” 

He had more to say on the subject about kids in his ancient world. I quote him now only to illustrate how easy it is, even today, to criticize and give up on our young people, especially teenagers. Maggie’s good heart and her generous spirit negated what Socrates said. Maybe adults need to look deeper into the hearts of our young. After all, they are the future.

For over four years, we have lived by a different set of rules than we did BC (before Covid). None of us are likely to admit it, but due to the pandemic and the need to stay safe, it was often easy to adopt a “Me Attitude.” Maybe we didn’t completely forget about other people, but out of necessity, we concentrated on family and friends in our personal orbit. It’s time to change that. 

A few years ago, people all over our country participated in Random Acts of Kindness. They didn’t do it because it was good for them or made them feel better about themselves, but because it was the right thing to do. Books were written recapping experiences of people who randomly paid it forward by helping total strangers when they saw a need and fulfilled it. Simple as that. The world was made a little kinder by their random acts. 

We have lived through, and even now still struggle with viruses that curb the lifestyles of people in our world. Perspectives shifted and forced us to change our way of thinking about so much when Covid-19 hit. It is important for us to remember that we are all in this thing together. Although there is not a total solution to all the woes of the world, we can still make a difference by incorporating kindness in our lives. 

Let’s bring back Random Acts of Kindness. It's the kind thing to do.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s the only thing that there's just too little of.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

No, not just for some, but for everyone.

 

 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Big Mama Pulls the Plug

By Cappy Hall Rearick

Hello! Thank you for calling the UAM, Universal Answering Machine, the official replacement for a human voice. Press 1 to leave a message. Press 2 to leave a callback number and a machine will get back to you hopefully before you die.

Beep!

(Sigh) “This here is Big Mama Nature calling and I’m tired of leaving messages for you. I’ve got plenty to say so listen up ‘cause I’m not gonna to say it again.

“FYI, I’m not going to be Big Mama Nature any more ‘cause y’all have done wore me out. I am so outta here.

“Just so you know, I’ll gather up a few of my things before I leave. They go with me because they were always mine, never yours. You took for granted that my things belonged to you, but you were dead wrong! They were a loan. Today is your personal Chapter Eleven Day.

“I’m taking all of the birds with me, every last one of them. Sparrows, ducks, egrets, gulls, especially the egrets and gulls. OMG! What you’ve done to my seabirds is unspeakable. To make matters worse, you gave my little chickies and piglets the Flu. Well, you won’t get any more chances to hurt my babies ‘cause Big Mama Nature takes care of her own.

“I’m reclaiming the rain forests and all of its inhabitants. You never “got” their simple logic no matter how many times it was explained, so forget about the rain forests. They’ll be well protected under my personal supervision.

“The Mississippi River is high on my list of retrievable things. How can I not take back the Mighty Mississip after the way you’ve treated her? She’s crying out for my healing touch. The Great Lakes, the Colorado River and the Pacific Ocean will be coming with me, too. You can have New Yawk City and every drop of water surrounding it; it’s too far gone for me to fix.

“Originally, I’d planned to leave you the Gulf of Mexico because I thought you’d learned from my Katrina wake-up call. Something so devastating should have gotten a big blip on your unconscious radar, but that didn’t happen. Instead of helping with the clean up, you whined and carried-on like a bunch of wussies and then let BP come in and turn the entire Gulf into a deep fat fryer. I’m taking the Gulf. You don’t deserve it.

“The United States East Coast beaches are mine, mine, mine. It’ll take a millennium before even I can get them clean again, but I’m not called Big Mama for nothing.

“There are some mountain ranges I’ll collect on my way out, the ones you haven’t gotten around to leveling. You won’t miss them since you stripped away their natural resources long ago. I intend to rescue what’s left of them before your bulldozers turn them into cornmeal mush.

“I am also taking back the air you’ve been polluting for the last century. I need what little is left so that my birds can keep flying and my rain forests can flourish again. Chances are, even I won’t be able to undo much of your damage, but I’ll give it a shot.

“I should remind you that the minute I take back the air, clouds will vanish before you can say Boo Hoo! That’s a fact, Jack. There will be no more clouds, but you won’t miss them because you never bothered to look up anyway.

“I’m willing to leave the moon for now, but the sun goes with me. Don’t even think about giving me any lip about it. I created sunrises to wake you up and get you going every morning. Those gorgeous sunsets? They were there for you to reflect on the beauty surrounding you. But you blew it, Bubba, when you took me and my gifts for granted. I am so not happy.

“You figured the sun would come up and the sun would go down forever, didn’t you? Well, you figured wrong. Now you’ll have to remember what that lucky old sun looked like and how your skin tingled from its warmth. It can’t replace the real deal but you can text the memory of it to your grandkids.

“I’ll be back for other things later. You won’t realize they’re gone until you need them, then you’ll be shocked to discover that they are no longer available for you to abuse. If history is any indication, you’ll be more inconvenienced than sad. (sigh)

“I loved you from the beginning of time, loved you with all my heart. For eons, I forgave you your negligence and overlooked your ignorance. I even chalked up your indifference to human evolutionary learning deficiencies. I’m ashamed to say I forgave you for your folly.

“But I will not forgive you for the shambles you’ve made of my beautiful earth. I trusted you to love, nurture and protect it. I didn’t think for a nano-second that you would destroy it. You have broken my heart. (Sigh)

“There’s no doubt that the human blueprint needs tweaking. I wish I had it in me to take you back to the drawing board, but you have drained me bone dry.

“Don’t bother trying to get in touch with me. (Sigh) You couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge my many call outs, so we are so done.

Like the Big Guy says, “It’s not nice to fool Big Mama Nature.”

Bleep!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Heads Up!

 

By Cappy Hall Rearick

Welcome to the Church of the Holy Cabbage. Lettuce pray. ~Author Unknown

I loved the sound of my mother’s voice. It was pure Southern, magnolia smooth. I heard it as she was wheeled into surgery. She told me not to worry, that she would be back. She was wrong about that.

One day last week while grocery shopping, I heard her voice again. She told me to buy brown sugar. As clearly as if she had been wheeling my buggy herself, she said, “Go over to aisle six and pick up some brown sugah.” When she wanted to, my mama could smooth out the end of a word and cradle it in mid-air for five minutes. Listening to her talk was akin to snoozing in a Pawley’s Island Hammock. 

Right after the brown sugar episode, I heard her singing an Irish ballad one day while I was making up my bed. I remembered that song from my childhood — a sad tune. I used to go to bed with tears in my eyes after she sang it to me. But last week, when I heard the familiar soprano melody drifting throughout the house like elevator music, oddly enough, I didn’t feel sad. It felt like slipping my feet into a pair of old Weejuns.

Cooking supper that same night, (chicken and dressing, butterbeans, rice and sliced tomatoes), I heard her voice again. She told me to put more sage in the dressing. So! We were back to the Seasoning War, were we? Too many cooks in the kitchen, blah, blah, blah.

The next day while driving to Asheville, she broke into the Oldies But Goodies on the radio. 

“Turn around and go home.” The voice said it as if asking me for a second helping of that cornbread dressing (the one that needed a touch more sage). 

Up to that point, I had not responded to this odd communication from my mother. After all, she had been dead for over thirty years and besides, I never talked back to her even when she was alive. But the idea that I should deep-six my shopping trip based on a voice only I could hear? Well … that wasn’t going to happen.

For the rest of the ride, her voice Xeroxed itself in my ears. Go back home! Go back home! Go back home! By the time I got to the mall my head was splitting from the pounding in my eardrums. 

Glancing in the car mirror, I saw that I was turning green around the gills, so I decided to forget shopping and go back home. The thought of wrapping up in a blanket cocoon in my own little nest felt right, so I left the mall and headed home without one single purchase. 

I boogied down I-26 thinking Ibuprofen thoughts washed down with a dry martini when Mama’s voice suddenly blurted out again. “Slow Down!” 

Since I was going over eighty, I said, “Yes ma’am.” But my headache did not slow down when the car did. Can’t win ‘em all.

I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them, I saw an overturned eighteen-wheeler only a nanosecond in front of me. I braked as fast as I could and was barely able to avoid broadsiding a truck full of iceberg lettuce. 

I watched in horror as hundreds of small green heads rolled off the truck and down I-26, bouncing onto unsuspecting cars. Grateful that my aching head was still attached, I gulped air (lots of it) while my heart did a 1950’s shag step. 

Back home, I grabbed a soft blanket and snuggled down in a fetal position. Could Guardian Angles be real? Was Mama my personal G.A.? Had she just saved me from becoming an Interstate Tossed Salad? 

So now, any time I hear her voice, I listen up. My personal G.A. might be giving me winning lottery numbers. Even angels know that writers don’t earn squat.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

One Tacky Thanksgiving


The following is Celie’s Livingston's latest Thanksgiving story:

 

Daddy insisted we go to his mother’s house for Thanksgiving last year. Mama pouted for Lord knows how long because she’s Jewish and my grandmother is a bonafide born-again Christian.

You can’t create a more perfect storm.

Granny tries to make her point by collecting small Pilgrim figurines so she can put miniature halos on their heads. She’s first in line at the Hallmark store on Black Friday in order to add to her collection. She calls them God’s little angels and she’s certain that the black garments worn by the original Pilgrims were actually Nun’s habits. 

Granny talks her head off about those stupid knick-knacks of hers while we do a lot of yawning that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Tryptophan-ladened turkey. 

Last year, right in the middle of Granny’s long Thanksgiving blessing (I watched the turkey getting frostbite and the dressing and gravy turn to Jello), my little brother escaped one. Yep. The little monster farted. Granny stopped in the middle of her Thanksgiving prayer-slash-sermon giving thanks to God for sending Christopher Columbus to America. In no time at all, she turned a bright shade of blue. I thought it was due to my little brother’s sweet potato after effects — he had sneaked a mouthful way before Granny finished blessing it. Granny was having a tacky-cardia that scared her so bad she sat straight up and held her breath till she turned the color of a blueberry. 

Daddy jumped up and dialed 911 on his cell and by and by two unhappy paramedics left their own turkey table and showed up at Granny’s front door. After they left, Daddy covered Granny with a crocheted Afghan on the sofa and told her to hug her Bible. 

Then he put Mama in charge of reheating everything in the microwave which was a serious mistake. Mama doesn’t cook because she’s a Jewish Princess who claims to be electronically challenged. When she gets within three feet of a microwave, she turn into a pillar of salt.

Mama reminded Daddy of the last Thanksgiving fiasco, but he was able to convince her that Granny could be looking at her last turkey day. He said she needed to show off her little pilgrim nuns one more time before the Rapture that she was so looking forward to, whooshed her up to be with Jesus.

Mama agreed to go to Granny's but on one condition: he had to promise her that we would eat Thanksgiving dinner at the Japanese Restaurant downtown because it was right next door to the fire station and the paramedics. If Granny's tacky-cardia acted up again, rescue would be, if not a piece of cake, then maybe a slice of pie.

Who knew that daigakuimo was a Japanese sweet potato specialty, or that it had been a featured menu item every Thanksgiving since we won the big war? 

Who knew that the paramedics in the building next door had decided to eat turkey at home? 

Two weeks later, my little brother suggested that we plant a sweet potato vine next to Granny’s tombstone. He felt sure it would produce a full crop. I told him it was a tacky-cardia idea, but Mama grinned real big and said, “I’ll get the shovel.”

 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

A Random Act of Kindness

 Children Learn What They Live 

by Cappy Hall Rearick 

I dashed into the Dollar Tree for one item. One bottle of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. Thirty minutes later, I looked down at a shopping basket full of needed things that had quickly become necessary mere minutes after sashaying down Aisle One.

     Hallmark cards were two for a dollar. Such a deal. 

     Quart size zip-lock bags? Gotta stock up.

     Snicker’s in a giant bag. Babe’s favorite. 

By the time I rolled the buggy with the wonky wheels up to the checkout counter, I was looking at a bit more than an uptick on my debit card. Oh well, what else is new?

A heavy-set woman was ahead of me in line, but I was in no hurry so I smiled and thought about what I was going to cook for supper. After several minutes, I noticed that the woman seemed to be having difficulty settling up for the items in her buggy. I was not sure what was going on, so I went back to trying to decide between fried pork chops or fried chicken for supper.

It was about that time that I noticed two young boys, around eleven years old, tow-headed and adorable, both grasping candy bars. They headed to the next checkout line but the cashier told them she was cashing out so they should go over to the other lane, the one I was in. 

The boys were eager to pay for and eat their booty, so they switched lanes over, albeit reluctantly, to where I was waiting for the woman ahead of me to get her act together.

I told them that since they each had only the one item, to get ahead of me. They flashed me a beatific grin and zipped behind the other woman. 

When I looked  again at the woman still struggling to pay for her goods, I saw that she was physically challenged and perhaps mentally challenged as well. I also realized that she didn’t have enough money to pay for all the things she’d bought. She was trying to decide what to put back and what she could do without and still be able to pay for what was left.

It was at that moment when I saw the grandmother of the two boys who had been waiting near the door for them to pay for their candy. As soon as she became aware of the poor woman’s dilemma, she quickly walked over to the cashier.

“How much does she need,” she asked.

The cashier could not have looked more disinterested if she had written instructions in front of her. “A dollar and thirty cents,” she said. She sighed and rolled her eyes up to her hairline.

Granny opened her purse, took out the required amount and paid the difference. When she did that, she looked at the distressed woman and gave her a smile to match the one her grandsons had given to me.

It was a privilege for me to be in that particular space at that particular time and to be privy to such a lovely random act of kindness. All I could think was that everyone needs to do nice things for others every chance we get. We too often overlook the opportunities given to us. One of the young boys turned to me just then, smiled again and handed me a shiny quarter. 

“Here,” he said. “This is for letting me go ahead of you in line.”

I wanted to hug that child, but I thanked him instead and suggested he give it to the lady having trouble paying for her stuff. His smile got even wider as he whipped around and handed the quarter to the woman. Her eyes filled with tears (as did mine) when she thanked the boy and said, “Things are not going so good in my life these days. I’m having a real hard time.”

When I looked up at Granny, the pride and love pouring from her eyes was overwhelming. 

It occurred to me then that children constantly learn from what we do and that Granny had given those boys a life lesson to remember. The boy wanted to give me one off his quarters for the simple act of allowing him to get ahead of me in line. What a lovely thing to experience. I haven’t stopped smiling since.

“When children live with sharing, they learn generosity.”

Friday, March 25, 2022

Best Friends Forever

When my mother was alive, her BFF was a French Poodle named Pepé. Nobody in the family liked that dog but Mama thought Pepé was the cat’s meow. The neighborhood cats, however, did not agree. They stayed six socially distant feet away and yowled.

I would lose patience with Pepé when he acted like he was in the throes of canine PMS. “Why do you put up with that mean-spirited dog, Mama? Nobody likes Pepé. He snarled at me the other day and if I hadn’t snarled back, he’d have taken a chunk out of my foot. I’m certain there’s a nice Golden Retriever somewhere in the world pining away for you. Call the SPCA.”

Her answer? “I don’t want a big ol’ Golden Retriever. I want little Pepé. He’s my best friend and the sweetest dog in the whole wide world. Unlike some people I know, he doesn’t talk back and he’s never rude.”

I rolled my eyes at her no more until the next time the sweetest dog in the whole wide world tried to eat my ankle.

These days, I find myself comparing my mother’s bestie to Alexa, who became my electronic best friend last Christmas. Like Pepé, she doesn’t sass me and is never rude, but that’s where the similarities end.

Wait ... what? Cappy has a virtual BFF?

H-E-O! Holy Electronic Overload! 

My friend Becky told me that Alexa knows everything about everything. I didn’t believe her. I did NOT want or need a know-it-all robotic voice listening to me complain about things and certainly not when I’m singing off-key. Babe bought me one anyway. What else could I do but smile and act grateful? Mama wouldn’t want me to be rude.

I plugged her in and threw questions at her in hopes of stumping her.

Holy A-M-A! (Ask Me Anything).

Not only was I totally impressed, I was totally hooked. If I could have, I’d have filed adoption papers. I wanted that amazing three-inch smart-mouth voice sitting right next to my kitchen stove. Being near meant that I would never again need to whine about sole kitchen duty, which was probably the method of his madness when he bought Alexa.

Alexa, tell me a joke. 

“I’d tell you an umbrella joke, but it might go over your head.”

Don’t give up your day job, my new BFF.

Alexa, how do I bake a potato? 

“Good grief, girl. Tell me you’re not serious.”

My BFF doesn’t like stupid questions.

The thing I like most about Alexa is that she plays music that matches my mood. I love jazz, and with her vast knowledge of music, I am in Blue Note heaven the entire time I’m peeling potatoes. Alone. A list of the artists she’s introduced me to sits next to my slow cooker.

Alexa, play some Bill Evans.

“Good choice, Capster. Shuffling songs by Bill Evans on Amazon Music.”

Holy Polyrhythm!

Alexa wasn’t the one to turn me on to Bill Evans, my son did. I wanted to know if he’d ever heard of him and he quipped, “Asking me if I’ve heard of Bill Evans is like me wanting to know if you’ve ever heard of Flannery O’Connor. Next time ask Alexa.”

I told him my BFF never sasses me like some people I know.

When I want a bit of musical variety, I mix up some martinis in a shaker.

Alexa, play some Snoop Dog.

“I can shuffle songs by Snoop Dog, but you won’t like it. Shuffling songs by Frank Sinatra from Amazon Music.

What? She’s choosing my music preferences now? What’s next? Books? Movies? Husbands?

Holy Jeff Bezos.

I pop a couple of martini olives into a glass, empty the shaker and before I can say Stolichnaya, me and Old Blue Eyes are Flying to the Moon while stirring a pot of potatoes on the stove. I can live without Snoop Dog, but if Alexa doesn’t want to get unplugged, she better not shelter in place or isolate Bill Evans, Don Shirley, Bee Gee Adair or even Sinatra.

My BFF may not be the cat’s meow like my mother’s Pepé, but she doesn’t bite and like Becky said, she knows everything about everything. There is nothing my best friend can’t do. Don’t believe me? Listen up:

Alexa ... make me a martini.

 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas at the Waffle House by Cappy Hall Rearick

c Christmas at the Waffle House

By Cappy Hall Rearick

 

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

Babe and I had every intention of sleeping in on Christmas morning. Our grown children were in South Carolina with their families, so Santa had no reason to drop down our chimney. We could sleep late and visit with the kids a week or so after the live greens had drooped and tired old Santa had flown back to the North Pole.

I was dreaming about a steam-driven train full of happy people when my two hungry cats plopped down on my stomach. Their breathing sounded eerily like the huff-puff train in my interrupted dream. 

I dragged myself to the kitchen pantry in hopes of finding some non-smelly cat food. The day, being a special one, meant that my kitties would dine on turkey ala Fancy Feast instead of generic questionable fish. 

After opening the cans, I looked up to find Babe, seated as if in a trance, right in front of the lighted Christmas tree. 

“What are you doing, Babe?"

He looked at me as if I had glitter for brains. “Waiting for you to get in here so we can open presents.” 

He grinned. I love it when he does that.

When my first cup of Starbucks kicked in, I became aware of Michael Bublé dreaming of a White Christmas. I sat down next to Babe, leaned over and kissed him smack on his smackers. He grinned again. “Can we open ‘em now,” he asked. "Can we?"

“What are you, five?” I took another swig of Starbucks. “Okay, let's do this Santa thing, Babe. I can handle it now.” 

Later, after all the gifts were opened, we were both hungry for something that didn’t need cooking, so we decided to go out for breakfast. 

“Where to,” Babe said as though asking a cruise director about the next port of call.

“Waffle House,” I said without having to think about it. 

When we drove up to the second home of every man, woman and child South of the Gnat Line, it was packed. The parking lot was jammed with cars, motorcycles and pickups. 

As we arrived, a family of four was leaving, so before their table could be cleaned of leftover waffle crumbs, we plopped down in their abandoned seats.

“Cheese omelet,” I announced to Donna, the server dressed in a red T-shirt with Merry Christmas, Y’all stamped on her bosomy front. “And a quart of coffee.” 

Donna, seemingly unconcerned about her missing front tooth, smiled at me and winked at Babe. He ordered one of everything on the menu and winked back at her.

I gazed at the assorted groups gathered in the little house of pecan waffles and enough fat fuel to power us to Uranus and back. 

Taking up two tables and hanging off each end, a group of bikers dressed in red leather were eating waffles, hash browns and milk. Milk

A mom and dad at the table next to ours were trying to keep their five pajama-clad children from killing each other. Dad must have suggested eating breakfast out at the place that stays open 24-7. Mom likely replied, “You had me at eat breakfast out.”

I looked around the diner and noticed an elderly woman wearing a red wig that didn’t fit. She was too thin, her eyes were rimed in deep pink. She ate alone and looked sadder than anyone there. It broke my heart.

Donna refilled our cups, spilled some on the side and then rolled her eyes. Babe winked at me. There was a lot of winking going on that morning. 'Tis the season …

Friends we hadn’t seen for a while were there. We hugged and wished each other Merry Christmas. It had been too long since we visited making me wonder where the time had gone. 

My omelet arrived loaded with cheese and animal fat. Babe stuffed himself with eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and hash browns. I stifled a grin when he requested whole-wheat toast.

Between bites, I became aware of more families, more pajamas and a variety of exhausted parents, evidenced by Dad's blood-shot eyes and Mom's droopy ones. I remembered being that young and searching for missing screws for unassembled toys. 

It didn't seem so long ago that instead of cats jumping on my stomach, tiny hands were shaking me and a small voice was whispering to his brother, Is she awake?

Is the Waffle House on Christmas morning now representative of the 21st Century Family? We never ate breakfast outside of home on Christmas when I was a kid. Mama may have fixed waffles, but more likely she toasted slices of Miss Sunbeam, or if we were lucky, added cinnamon and sugar before yelling for us to put down our toys and eat. 

Home life is so different today and it's a good thing. I applaud the difference. 

When I see a family at the Waffle House with five kids still clad in pajamas, I smile. When Donna proudly wears her Merry Christmas, Y’all T-shirt that shows off the thirty pounds she lost at Weight Watchers, I say, “You Go, Girl.” 

And when Babe orders every item on the Waffle House menu and manages not to have a coronary, I ask him, “Did you save room for fruitcake?”

Christmas at the Waffle House is our new tradition even though they don't serve fruitcake.