Monthly Archives: March 2020

A Curse in the Morning


One early south Georgia morning

I know. That’s a startling title. But you’ll see why I used it in a minute.

In the old days, while I was cooking breakfast Charles often was the one who went upstairs on school mornings to call the children. Being a very upbeat cheerful guy, he would climb the steps singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day…” He was always mystified at the utterly negative responses he got, not only from our two, but later from our grandchildren as well.

As adults our children still laugh about how awful it was when Daddy came up the stairs singing or whistling. “Why did you have to be so cheerful?” they ask.

Until recently he still didn’t understand. Then one day he came in the kitchen chuckling.

“I just read Proverbs 27:14 which says, ‘He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.’ All this time I wondered why my good cheer didn’t rub off on the kids. Now I guess I’m learning good cheer is not always an appropriate attitude.”

Dear insightful author Eugenia Price wrote a book years ago titled “No Pat Answers” in which she addresses the problem of how to relate to folks who are unhappy. It doesn’t help a very sad person, she said, to have someone slapping him on the back and telling loud jokes, or recounting to him what he needs to do to fix his problem. Instead, it’s better to be sad with them, help them bear their sadness by sharing it. Maybe that means even the short lived “sadness” of extricating oneself from the cozy bedsheets should be met with a similar mood.

Back to the title “Curse in the Morning”—Some folks rise every morning with energy and enthusiasm viewing even cloudy or foggy mornings as “beautiful.” Others are slower to reach high gear and just need a little time to coast toward being cheerful. Some like eggs sunny side up, others want only a bagel or nothing. Some start their day with a whistle, others long for blessed quietness or, in the case of teenagers, a loud radio, not loud parents.

According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time for mourning and a time for joy. To use a homonym, there’s also time for “morning” and time for noon.

So what is a cheerful soul to do when meeting faces of gloom and doom? I guess you spend your whistles and buoyancy on the pets. Cats and dogs are always ready for good cheer. They’re always ready for breakfast too! Anyway, they can’t read Proverbs and don’t know about that “curse in the morning” so, for them, anytime is a good time for joy.

Lest you read this article as putting down optimism, know that one of my favorite verses is “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) The Lord wants us to rejoice but also to be compassionate towards those who can’t.

I love sunrises. Songs of birds and whistles of cheer are uplifting to us any time of the day–well, maybe not in the middle of the night. Is that the consideration here? Maybe some folks just don’t switch from night to day as quickly as others.

I think I’ll grab a cup of coffee and go talk to the cats.



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A Turtle Came Visiting


Kaison and the turtle

Our children are learning new words: coronavirus, quarantine, social distancing, sanitizers and pandemic, words a few weeks ago were not on the tongues of any of us. But now that the weight of this disease has fallen upon our planet let’s look for some positives.

We thought we were leaving for Ireland on Friday, a long expected trip with our Birmingham children and grandchildren. But the coronavirus changed all that. Suddenly our priorities are turned to finding toilet tissue and sanitizers,  canceling hotel reservations and trying to get refunds on cancelled flights, and–taking care of children on prolonged school vacations.

That’s where the positives begin. This morning on national television, I heard a father of six or seven, a retired athlete, expressing his thanks for the special opportunity of spending quality time with his children. I feel the same way. The days will stretch long as the weeks go by. But we’re going to have just as much fun as we can!

So far, we’ve done leaf rubbings, a scavenger hunt, and created art work to send to Aunt Jackie who has to stay home. We’ve played several games (I’m holding some in reserve!), climbed trees, and spent lots of time swinging on the porch.

Inevitably boredom does settle in and it takes a lot of energy for an old great-grandmother to keep things lively. So there for a bit I was at a loss. I was considering whether we might set to and clean the splattered floor or maybe cut the mint for making a jelly fusion. Suddenly there was a rustle in the deep monkey grass beside the porch. The children began cautiously investigating and then let out piercing screams of terror, then delight. There was a turtle in the grass.

Now, this is not just any turtle, as I explained to the two. I know this turtle by name. This tortoise/woods turtle has lived at this house as long as we have. Charles smeared one dollop of red paint on his shell when first he appeared six years ago. At rare intervals he will show up, sometimes eats cat food, basically turtles around as if curious and maybe a little lonely. Red, as we call him, had not been to see us in a long while but he showed up on a very good day, perfect timing.

The children welcomed Red ecstatically. They wanted to pick him up, then squealed and jerked back, asking me to pick him up, which I did. Soon they were taking turns holding him and wishing he would stick his head out. We let Red visit on the porch for a while so we could observe his movements. We talked about his interesting shell of a home and about his only defense being to draw into that home. As we waited quietly, a very hard thing for Kaison to do, Red finally edged his head out and then put down his leathery legs and began to move.

The whole episode from wild discovery to wistful turning loose was far better than any movie.

Today Kaison said, “I wish I could find Red again.”

“Red will come when he gets ready,” I told him. “You probably scared him so he’s gone into permanent hiding.”

Not long after that, we heard screams and babbling. The children ran to the house fearlessly carrying Red. They had found him near the blueberry bushes. I didn’t feel sorry for the old turtle. He had definitely asked for it this time. I could only think he was lonely and bored and needed some excitement like the rest of us.

Red had another good visit on the porch during which he hid his face for a while before clicking about and showing that turtles are not as slow as they’re given credit for. It was with great compassion and some sadness that the children delivered Red to a space of lawn from whence he could find his way home. We watched as he slowly realized he was free and began his journey.

At a time when friends are advised to stay home, when churches can’t have meetings, when schools are closed and restrictions abound, a turtle came to visit. I can only think that God daily watches out for bored children and tired great grandmothers.

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Kids and Kids


One Mother with Kids

Amanda sat at our breakfast table enthusiastically and with body language describing the antics of her new kids, goat kids. The babies were born just a few days ago but are already leaping and cavorting with amazing energy around their pasture. In fact, I saw the kids only an hour after they were born and watched them nursing hungrily and playing with each other. Amanda’s own “kids” greatly enjoyed cuddling the new offspring.

“The most amazing thing, though,” continued Amanda, “is what a very good mother Hershey is.” Hershey, a beautiful black nanny, knows how to place her young and keep them safe while she grazes and browses. When she’s ready for them she gives a call that they instantly recognize and up they leap.

How does she do it, Amanda wondered out loud. “If only I could get such total and instant obedience from my children.”

I thought back to many years of owning goats and remembered so many times seeing babies “planted,” as I described the situation, beside the trunk of a tree or in a safe corner of the barn. I called these little settings of kids “goat nurseries.” More than once, a mother not only “planted” her baby but hid her kid so well, we spent hours hunting for it. There were other signs of a mother’s love and care. If one strayed and found itself on the wrong side of the fence that mother didn’t rest until, by repeatedly bleating and nudging, she corralled her young back to its proper place. I’ve seen a loving nanny goat patiently walking with her two or three kids, stopping every few feet to let one or the other nurse.

But, Amanda and other young mothers, you, too, are showing yourselves to be very good mothers.

When you can’t be with them, you “plant” your children in safe care. You teach them day by day. You keep in touch with teachers. You scan the homework papers. You discern what illnesses need a doctor’s attention. You nurse their bumps and bruises. You urge them to brush their teeth and you celebrate each lost pearly white and its new tooth. You make quality time for each one with their different emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. You feed them. Oh, my, do you feed them! It may be pizzas, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and hotdogs. Or cabbage and roast beef, or chicken and rice, and oh, lots of delicious fruit. And broccoli and carrots and corn on the cob.

You correct and push and prod them to do their best. That’s a hard daily job.

Maybe they don’t leap up at your call and rush to obey you every time. But they listen far more than you give them credit for. Could even be, they’re listening when you wish they weren’t!

You are thrilled over their every achievement. You celebrate lavishly every birthday. You plan fun events. You know all their sizes and their various preferences and you shop diligently for the best clothing buys. If you have five children to shop for, that can be quite an undertaking.

You stand strong on such things as cleaning their rooms, minding their manners (of course they’re not perfect, you realize that!), washing dishes, quite a number of things nanny goats don’t have to worry about.

A big all-important thing that you do is to go to church with your children on Sunday and other times. When they see you worshiping God, they will often want to follow. Which is not to say that all is calm and sweetly peaceful in the pew. Our youngest great grandchild requires much shushing as he draws pictures and tries to explain them or attempts to fly a paper airplane. I love to see young families in church. When a mother takes one to the bathroom the whole troop of three or four follow her up the aisle and two thoughts flash through my mind: “How blessed she is!” and “Bless her heart!”

Sometimes it sounds as if a nanny is laughing, whether at her young or at herself. Whether or not she is, it’s a good thing for any mother to recognize the humor in family situations and lighten everything with a good laugh. Did you hear about the little girl who exclaimed concerning a half moon, “Mommy, look at the moon! It’s broked.” Or there was the child who interrupted his spanking by turning to ask “Did that hurt your hand?” And there was a Ruth Graham story about her daughter Anne giving her younger sister a biblical lesson. Ruth discovered the two when little sister Bunny cried out. When asked what in the world was going on, Anne explained that she was teaching her sister to turn the other cheek. She would slap one cheek and Bunny was to turn the other one. Bunny wasn’t enjoying the lesson.

All else aside, young mothers do have a huge challenge, and we need to take every opportunity to encourage them. Amanda is wistful about the care of her children as she starts a new job. She’s worried about not being as close by when they might need her. Her comment about Hershey’s being such a good mother reminded me of how much we need to pray for all our young families, the mothers and the fathers. Their job raising up their “kids” is more important than any other! Raising kids and coping with a job away from home makes life more challenging. The key is to lean on God day by challenging day. And I’m glad Amanda’s Nana (me!) can be a safe place for her to “plant” her young ones at times.

Kids and kids, alike and different, and so cute together!

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Time With Miss Marjorie


Camellias in Miss Marjorie’s crystal basket

When I think of elegance and fun wrapped in the same package I think of “Miss Marjorie.” Marjorie Mayfield was one of several ladies I looked up to when my husband and I joined First Baptist of Cairo in 1968. She wouldn’t have considered me one of her “close friends,” yet she made me feel like one. She exhibited a spirit of quiet joy and it was simply a delight to spend time with her. Though she was a grandmother at that time, she was as vivacious as a teenager, her face alive with interest in everything.

Whether it was a New Year’s Eve party at the Mayfields’ house in town or a Sunday school party at their farm, Marjorie was a charming hostess. On one occasion Charles and I went on a hayride to the Mayfield farm. It was a Sunday school class outing and there must have been thirty or forty of us. That was my introduction to the farmhouse and beautiful grounds near Calvary, Georgia. Charles had been many times to see cows and horses needing veterinary attention but that was my first time to visit. A giant live oak between the house and the swimming pool was circled by a generous table Mr. Judson had made. The best thing on that table laden with vegetables, sandwiches, salads, and cakes was Miss Marjorie’s egg salad. I’ve never tasted any egg salad anywhere that even compared. Miss Marjorie and Mr. Judson seemed personally interested in each of us, inviting us with genuine persuasion to come anytime to swim, to visit, to enjoy the country sights and sounds.

One year we were invited to the Mayfields’ home in town for a drop-in New Year’s Eve party. “Bring little William with you,” Miss Marjorie insisted, her brown eyes sparkling. “Little William” was about four then and looked forward with great anticipation to this party. Soon after we arrived Miss Marjorie came to me inviting me enthusiastically to try the eggnog. When I said, “Oh, William loves eggnog,” she looked doubtful but urged me still to follow her to the beautiful crystal punch bowl. “Maybe you better try it first,” she suggested but I, being a good mother, gave the treat to my son first. Miss Marjorie had turned away and missed seeing William splutter and make a sour face. This was not the dairy product eggnog we loved; it was laced generously with something quite strong.

Miss Marjorie was a passionate history buff. She wrote our church’s history for its centennial celebration in 1974. She visited charter members and other longtime members, gleaning as many of their memories as she could. She studied church records and pored over ledgers. The result was a beautiful copy including many pictures. I was thrilled to be chosen to serve on a committee to write a pageant using her history as a source. It was a great honor to work alongside this imaginative lady.

Many times the phone rang and I would hear Miss Marjorie’s bright voice inviting me to bring the children swimming. Those were such pleasant afternoons with the children (my two plus a couple of their friends and sometimes some of Miss Marjorie’s grandchildren) happily diving, doing stunts, and playing Marco Polo. Miss Marjorie always put on her suit and she and I swam a few minutes, then sat in the shade of the live oak tree chatting away. She shared wisdom in such a humble, non-assuming way that it was as if we were the same age. I can still hear the click of the old windmill, feel a summer breeze, smell gingerbread cookies, and taste the sweet tea she always made.

One of Miss Marjorie’s passions was recycling. It troubled her when she saw young people disposing of pieces of tinfoil after only one use or throwing away plastic containers. She was always dressed beautifully and enjoyed giving good parties but it was very important to her to use resources wisely. Even now when I wipe a piece of foil for future use, I think of Miss Marjorie. I feel her unhappiness when I hurriedly toss a reusable item.

Along with her conservatism was a sweet generosity that extended beyond entertaining or giving of her time to her church. I was so amazed one afternoon when Miss Marjorie came to visit and presented me with a charming small crystal basket, a beautiful candy dish. It wasn’t Christmas, my birthday or anything. As my little son would say, it was “just a plain old day.” Yet there was Miss Marjorie giving me such a unique gift that I’ve enjoyed ever since.

After Mr. Judson died Miss Marjorie was still bright as a sunny morning but, in time, she began to falter some. One of the first times I noticed any problem was the day she invited me to go shopping with her in Tallahassee. She offered to let me drive her car but I wasn’t eager to drive another’s vehicle and climbed into the passenger seat. I promptly realized my mistake. Miss Marjorie drove over curbs, ran a stop sign, raced through speed zones and generally scared me so I wondered if my children would have their mother any longer. When we stopped for gas I said as nonchalantly as I could that, after all, I thought it would be fun to drive her car. She was the passenger from then on.

It became our joy to take Miss Marjorie to church every Sunday. We noticed her speech changing. She referred to any item as “that thing” so it was hard to follow her train of thought. She called one of her sons her brother and sometimes spoke out in church. She was still a considerate and merry person as she moved into a different world where her memories were garbled and she couldn’t make good judgments. I was very touched by the way Miss Marjorie never forgot the name of Jesus and often whispered His name.

She was the first Alzheimer’s patient I knew closely. I hated the disease that took her away even before she died. Since then I’ve known many beautiful people, men and women, who have faded into a different world even while their bodies were whole.

But Miss Marjorie would want us to remember the good and the beautiful, the merry and the bright. As I drive near her country home my mind restores the sights and sounds of those good days when, unknown to her, she was my mentor. I hear the windmill creaking as it made its turns, hear the occasional low moo from the nearby pasture, smell the leafy ferns over by the outdoor dressing room, hear the mourning dove or a raucous crow. When I drive by her big two-story house in town, now occupied by another wonderful family, I remember her gracious teas and how she always looked so nice but was slightly flustered as if she’d packed too much into each hour.



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