Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Waving Girl


Brenda with the Waving Girl in Savannah

If you visit Savannah, Georgia you will meet the Waving Girl. That is, unless you are there strictly on business and never go down to the historical waterfront. If you take the wonderful bus tour or the river cruise, you will see her statue and hear some version of the Waving Girl’s story. There are, I learned, some variations in the story.

Florence Martus (1868-1943) was the name of the lady who, for whatever reason, took it upon herself to greet all ships entering and leaving the Port of Savannah between 1887 and 1931. She lived on a tiny island named Elba on the Savannah River with her father, ordinance sergeant of Fort Pulaski, before moving to another small island named Cockspur. She waved a white handkerchief (really a tablecloth or scarf) by day and a lantern by night to every ship that passed. All versions seem to agree on these details except that some say she grew up on Elba, then moved Cockspur, some the other way around.

But why did she take on this self-appointed job? Why did she stand out in all kinds of weather, day or night, to wave her white cloth or lantern?

One version says she was just lonesome living on a little island with her father and her dog. She probably had very few, if any, friends, no social life. She must have been fascinated by the ships sailing to all corners of the globe. Once she realized that sailors would respond with a wave, three blasts of a whistle, or some recognition it must have become a game to her. Maybe she felt she was giving the sailors a break in their tedious long trips. She could brighten their day.

Another version, unsubstantiated, suggests that she fell in love with a particular sailor who might have come ashore and had crab soup and cornbread with her and her father. Some storytellers even tell of gifts sailors brought to Florence, the most unusual being a llama from New Zealand. If you do the math you will realize that this dedication of Florence to waving at every ship started when she was twenty-one. As a romanticist myself, it seems quite reasonable that some certain sailor won Florence’s heart, maybe promised to return. So she would have watched for him day after day.

Whatever story is true, one has to wonder how she could be alert to every ship’s coming and going. She waved to every ship, her commemorative plaque by her statue at the waterfront reads. The answer seems to be her faithful collie standing by her side. The dog barked when any ship came in sight, it is believed, and then she would hurry out to wave her signal in greeting. Since she did this for forty-four years, we have to believe there was a succession of collies, each with its own special place in the lady’s affection.

Sometime during the forty-four year era Florence moved to Cockspur Island to live with her brother, keeper of the Cockspur Island Light, the smallest lighthouse in Georgia. According to a cross reference that light ceased being an active beacon in 1909, but Florence kept on waving.

No matter how the stories conflict in detail, the statue of The Waving Girl and her dog, sculpted by Felix De Weldon, stands on the plaza of Savannah’s riverfront to remind everyone of this lady who displayed faithfulness, perseverance and dedication. De Weldon was also the sculptor of the Iwa Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. The statue is larger than life size so it can well be seen by all who pass on foot, by bus, or by ship. The lady’s skirts, her hair and her cloth seem furled in a strong breeze. Her faithful dog stands by her side looking alert and fully engaged.

The statue was dedicated in 1958. It is said that even today sailors blow their ship’s whistle when they pass the Waving Girl. Alan Jackson and other singers croon their versions of Florence’s story.

Some tourists see the statue as an interesting photo shot and probably move on to other interests. Others never forget the Waving Girl and the mysteries of her story.

Florence Martus would be amazed, I think, to see how her simple, day by day routine affected so many.

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The Maple Tree


It has to go. We’ve known it for awhile. Even back when Mamma was alive, she talked about the need to take the aging tree down. But, though if it had fallen, it would have crashed right onto her room, she still didn’t want to lose it. In subsequent years my brother Charlie has had to deal with our outcries when he mentioned taking down the maple at Stone Gables.

But this week it has to come down.

In many letters from home years ago I read Mamma’s seasonal descriptions: “The maple tree is starting to change color,” “The tree is in her glory,” or “You should see the tree now–the most beautiful it has ever been.” And in the spring, “The maple is budding,” “The maple is like a beautiful blush over the roof.” Even in winter she would mention the maple’s gray stark branches or maybe write something like “Even the maple looks cold today.”

When we drove up and around the last curve approaching Stone Gables, the maple, blazing red and gold in the fall, or blushing rosy in the spring, was our first welcome. The tree was behind the house but it was tall and the colors were beautiful, including the green of summer, over the gray slate roof.

Its shade made a welcoming place in summer for shucking corn and in the fall chopping cabbage for making a crock of sauerkraut. In the fall my sister and I had the most hilarious times playing in the colorful fluffy leaves on the ground, making playhouses, and even sewing leaves together for some fanciful creation. The tree was one of our “bases” when a bunch of us played Hide and Seek.

The area beneath its shading canopy became a favorite parking place. We remember so many models of cars that motored to a stop there under the maple tree. There was the 1934 Packard that was pretty stubborn sometimes and required a push-off by several of us kids with the driver running beside ready to jump in when the motor came to life. Actually, it was usually in the place of honor in the garage, but still the push-off would have occurred right there near the maple tree. There was Orman’s green Studebaker, Stan’s 1950 Oldsmobile, Pat’s little blue Volvo, and on and on until now when we park our mini-van or Charlie his Suburban and unload to enjoy time at Stone Gables.

There was a low limb on the maple tree just the right distance from the ground for hanging a canvas baby seat for little ones to swing in. The same limb, later on, served as a good place to hang a headless chicken for bleeding out before Mamma attacked the defeathering job in a tub of hot water. Charlie, in my memory, was the one who had to chase the chicken down on a Saturday afternoon. That limb worked well, too, as a place for hanging a mop to dry.

One summer when Mamma was ill and unable to go outside much, a hummingbird built its nest in the maple tree. Contrary to hummingbirds’ usual habit of building very high, this one built on a limb just over our heads, low enough we could take pictures to show Mamma. She took the greatest delight in having such a tiny nest develop outside her room. I was convinced God sent us that hummingbird to cheer us during a dark time.

The tree has to be a hundred, and then some. It has lent shade, beauty, comfort and joy to four generations. If a single tree can be so important in the memories of a family growing up and expanding, how much more important each person who walked, worked, and played through those memories.

My brother Charlie now heaves a sigh of relief as an ice storm threatens. The maple is gone and will not fall on the house. Maybe we will plant another maple tree to lift its crown above the old stone house.

Joyce Kilmer was a lover of trees, too. He wrote “Trees,” one of my favorite poems:

“I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”


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Forward March, But Forget Not


A very special benefit: Mattie with her dog Kate

January is way past, February is under way, and March will soon be marching! We’re rapidly climbing the slopes of 2019, moving along–whether plodding, dancing, or marching, we’re moving. It’s very important for a marcher to be facing forward. No solider marches while looking over his shoulder. No band member keeps in step while looking behind. But, though we need to focus on the future, and be ready for change, we also need to “Forget not all His benefits…”

Psalm 103:2 (KJV) says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

The psalmist goes on to mention several benefits, namely the forgiveness of sins, healing, redemption from destruction, and the crowning with loving kindness and tender mercies. He then mentions that the Lord satisfies one’s mouth with good things so that one’s youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These are huge benefits. When you start a new job you want to know what your benefits are. Do you have health insurance, do you get a paid vacation, do you have sick leave days, is there a chance for bonuses? But the benefits from God Almighty are not related to a job. They are related to the life of one whose Father “owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Thinking back over 2018 I can recognize having received each one of these benefits.

Forgiveness of sins was a day by day benefit. I didn’t rob a bank or beat my husband. I didn’t murder anyone, steal costly diamonds, or run away with the mailman. But I didn’t do everything I could to alleviate suffering and sorrowing, I didn’t always lean on the Lord for understanding, and I was selfish and inconsiderate. I said no when I should have said yes and yes when I should have said no. Day by day the Lord forgave me. And all that is on top of the huge forgiveness He washed me with years ago when I asked to be His child.

Healing? Oh, yes, I’ve experienced that. After a very disturbing bout with atrial fibrillation, my heart is now behaving pretty normally. Doctors, nurses, medication, a C-pap for controlling sleep apnea, all helped. But I know Who really was behind it all. I’m also aware that many with diseases have not been healed–yet. Some have only been healed by going on to Glory. But His healing is timely and on His terms.

Then concerning redemption from destruction I can thank God for a safe haven during Hurricane Michael and for saving Charles and me by only a few feet from ending up under our falling giant red oak. I’m thankful, too, for strangers who helped Charles yank me through a closing door of a London train. But beyond that, I’m so thankful for my Redeemer Who saves me from certain destruction in hell, allowing me instead to look forward to the glories of heaven.

Those first benefits I’d class as really necessary–forgiveness, healing, redemption. The next two are wonderful extras. They’re like thick butter on your bread with brown sugar too, or the beauty of colors instead of gray and black, or sunshine after a week of cloudy days. I’m talking about loving kindness and mercies, not just sprinkled sparingly, but crowning us–overwhelming blessings! Like, for us, exploring Grand Canyon with our children and grandchildren, or grilling hamburgers with friends, or enjoying a beautiful sunset, or discovering a rosebud about to open. Family reunions, surprise mail, a hug, a cardinal on a gray twig–wonderful benefits! And mercies? Wow! How many wrecks have we barely avoided? From how many tight spots rescued? How many times did a guardian angel hover over us? Were we kept from saying what we really didn’t want to say, were we comforted in sorrow, were we given second chances? Yea, and many more!

Plus, there were the times when we or our loved ones were not rescued from harm, for whatever reason. But God was there too.

And the final benefit mentioned in this psalm is that “He satisfies our mouths with good things.” Now that could mean crunchy fried chicken, chocolate cake, or a messy hotdog on the Fourth of July. Or it could mean hot yeast rolls with butter or a New York strip steak, or bacon and eggs after a tramp in the woods. Or it could be anything extraordinarily wonderful, maybe just knowing you’re loved and wanted.

“So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…”

Now, wait a minute–I turned 76, my dermatologist declared those ugly brown blemishes as “experience spots,” I’m having trouble putting my socks on, and we were automatically given good seats on a tourist bus where a sign read, “Yield to senior citizens and mothers with small children.” I don’t think we’re getting our youth back, certainly not to fly like an eagle, not that I ever could do that!

But now there’s this. I’ve never been happier. I love my husband of 53 years. We flew to Europe together. We laugh at the simplest things. We know how to have a good time better now than we ever did.

And we’re promised heaven!

So we’re marching–but forgetting not His benefits.

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Kaison wanted one of those “little bitty oranges.” I explained that they were kumquats, not as sweet as oranges, but really good if you eat the whole thing at once spitting out the seeds. He wasn’t believing me so I demonstrated. “Open one for me, Nana, I just want the inside.” And of course he didn’t like the inside at all! They’re only good to eat if you pop the whole thing in your mouth. The peeling is actually sweeter than the juice.

I had never heard of kumquats until we moved to our old farmhouse in South Georgia where a former owner had grown these citrus fruits and left several trees behind. I was immediately enraptured by this wonderful fruit as well as by the marvelous satsumas. We moved there in the spring so it was fall before we began to realize what a treasure we had.

There were two kinds of kumquats, meiwa and nagami, although at the time I didn’t know their names, just that one was round and sweet, the other olive shaped and very tart. I began making marmalade every year, using an orange marmalade recipe, pain-stakingly deseeding the tiny fruits, then slicing thin. I took great delight in sharing little half pints with family and friends, especially those in North Georgia where we’d never known kumquats.

Though it is a cool weather citrus fruit, the trees will freeze, we found to our sorrow. One very harsh winter we experienced temperatures in the single digits several nights in a row. Though we covered the trees with old sheets, they froze, every last one.

We replanted a tree bearing the round sweet ones, as well as a couple of satsumas. The olive shaped ones (nagami) were so tart, we didn’t try one of those again. No one told me the tart ones were best for marmalade, that indeed the sweet ones aren’t even recommended for jelling. Tell that to my colorful jars of jelly! The trees grow fast but don’t produce much for about three years. I counted the little green orbs the first two years and watched jealously as they ripened. By the fourth and fifth years we  were picking the fruit in November and December in grocery bags, baskets, and buckets. They are quite prolific!

Kumquat plants originated in South Asia. There are about five varieties worldwide now, more prevalent in Japan and China where they have been cultivated since as early as the 12th century. First referred to as “gam kwat” in Chinese literature, they were introduced in Europe in 1846. The kumquat trees grown now in the U.S. are mainly in the southeastern states and California.

The trees bloom twice in the summer and set fruit in the fall. The blooms are tiny and white and fragrant. Usually, in our experience, the first blooming does not produce fruit. But sometimes we had fruit from both bloomings making for a nice long harvest time, even into January and February if the weather wasn’t too harsh. We waited as long as we dared every year before picking all the kumquats because they get sweeter the longer they stay on the branches. But also we waited because we so enjoyed picking kumquat snacks straight from the tree. It’s much easier to get rid of seeds while in the “orchard” than at the table!

As a snack food, kumquats are valuable. They are low in calories but rich in beta carotene, Vitamin C and other good things, like antioxidants and Vitamin E which promotes healthy skin. But there are other fun ways to use them.

Kumquat branches are beautiful as Christmas decorations. The little orange globes shine out amongst their foliage and other choices of evergreens. They look so fresh and festive! I love to lay a branch of two or three atop other fruit in a basket or bowl.

The marmalade is very good in a jelly roll. It is also wonderful in author Jan Karon’s “Orange Marmalade Cake,” the signature recipe of her character Esther (was it Esther
Bolick or Esther Cunningham– Bolick I think). Everybody in Mitford depended on Esther’s cake at community events. There’s another kumquat cake recipe which is much easier. I’m sharing it below. You’ll also find my marmalade recipe below.

I’m so glad we could start a new “tiny” orchard at our present house. Charles planted a row of citrus, including kumquats, satsumas, and an orange tree at the south end of our house, protected from the north wind. The very healthy plants will be three years old next season so maybe we’ll actually have a crop instead of just sparse walk-by snacks. In the meantime, the gracious lady now living at our old place has shared an abundant crop of satsumas and kumquats. So, again, I’m making marmalade for gifts, as well as to spread on our own toast. I’ve discovered that grinding the halved and deseeded fruits in a blender works much better for making marmalade than the way I used to slice them. It’s better on the hands and the puree makes for a smoother spread.

As to how long the fruit will keep, it will stay fresh at room temperature for just a few days, but will keep in the refrigerator for weeks. The canned jelly keeps for up to five years on the shelf. I make batches of the puree measured ready for jelly making and freeze them indefinitely so I can make marmalade anytime I wish.

But back to my little pickle eater, Kaison. He will eat pickles better than candy. But he was disappointed in our “little oranges.” Like many things in life, appearances are not everything!

Enjoy some kumquat recipes!

Kumquat Marmalade

3 c. processed kumquats (halved, deseeded and either sliced thinly or ground in blender to a nice puree), 1 c. water, 6 1/2 c. sugar, 1 pkg. Sure Jell

Place 3 c. kumquats and 1 c. water in jelly pot (needs to be a large pot). Stir in Sure Jell. Brng to a boil that will not stir down. Add sugar. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil one whole minute. Set off heat. Skim white foam off top. Using fruit funnel (I like my own funnel made from the top of a gallon milk jug), fill jars and seal. Makes 6 or 7 half pints. Can be used whenever orange marmalade is requested in a recipe.


Kumquat Cake

1 lemon cake mix, 1 small pkg lemon instant pudding, 3/4 c. oil, 1/2 cup pureed kumquats, 1/4 c. milk, 4 eggs, 1 tsp. lemon juice

In a bowl combine 1st five ingredients and beat well. Add eggs 1 at a time beating well. Add lemon juice. Pour into greased and floured bundt cake pan and bake at 325 degrees 45-50 minutes. Check at 40 minutes. Remove from pan and add glaze.


1/4 c. chopped or pureed kumquats, 1 c. sifted confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons melted margarine, 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients and pour over top of cake on your favorite cake plate.






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