Girl From Goat Pasture Road

Musings of Susan Swicegood Boswell

12 Days: Merry Christmas, Mrs. Bledsoe

jerry-bledsoeI have written this series of “12 Days of Christmas Blogs” for several years now, but I have a confession. Honestly, I’m worried. What if I’m all out of Christmas stories? The major moments of Christmas past, it seems, I’ve already penned. Before a panic attack sets in, I force myself to sit still for a while and try to calm my mind.

When I do, I find there are moments of inspiration floating by all around me. I simply need to take the time to notice and look a little deeper…

In the publishing world it is Tuesday, but in real time, it is the previous Saturday night. (I like to get a head start on these blogs before I get behind.) I am curled up on the old sofa in our little art studio- “Perry’s”Studio-  it is more aptly named, as there is precious little of “me” in this space. Perry’s studio is filled with  all the things he loves: colorful metal signs, old jars and handcrafted boxes, interesting things he’s found at tag sales and flea markets, and me, perhaps. Inside, it’s as warm and cozy as a cinnamon roll. The heck with LED lights and Hallmark, there’s a candle burning on the desk where he sits pasting together homemade Christmas cards. On a nearby table, a kerosene lamp, illuminates the other corner of the room with its neat slit of light. Beyond the confines of the studio, it is 2016, but in Perry’s world, it’s more like 1926. A CD is playing which I rather like, called Christmas on the Range. It is a collection of vintage Christmas carols, sang cowboy style, with my favorite- “Rootin’ Tootin Sandy Clause” – playing on the CD equivalent of what used to be a turntable. My running joke with Perry is that he only listens to dead people’s music and tonight, he does not disappoint.

To lure me into staying out here, my husband has procured a bottle of Peach Brandy. I briefly wonder what else he has out here. He pours me a drink in a vintage 1920’s stemmed shot glass from the bar of our old friend, Al Thomy. Al passed away several years ago, and his family was kind enough to give us a few mementos of which to remember him by.

As if we could forget…

It’s been a difficult day, a day spent at the hospital for a family member who is in a bad place personally but in the best possible place, considering the alternatives. I need to remember to be thankful for that and hand the rest, along with my worries, over to God.

No one wants to spend Christmas in a hospital, but if you must, you appreciate the little kindnesses and the extra touches that give these generic spaces personalization and a sense of peace and joy. There are many folks with loved ones who are sick this Christmas and I am so thankful for our doctors and nurses, EMS workers, the policemen, fireman, ambulance drivers, the folks running the cafeteria and answering the phone… all these folks who help keep our emergency systems operational and among the best in the world.

Done with card-making, Christmas on the Range comes to a screeching stop. He sets up an old television set- one with a built-in DVD player- on a shaky little table about 5 feet away from me, near the closest, accesible electrical outlet. The television screen is about 6” wide and I cannot quite make out the figures. Perry is unfazed regarding the less- than- steller screen quality or the tinny sound. He inserts into the tray one of his favorite Christmas DVD’s, The Angel Doll, by NC author and actor Jerry Bledsoe.

I remember meeting Jerry last year at an event for O.Henry Magazine. That’s a photo of us above with me grinnin’ like a Cheshire Cat. In addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, Jerry once worked for the Greensboro News & Record, as did our friend Al Thomy. I am certain the two of them were probably acquaintances, if not friends. As Perry and I chatted with Jerry that evening, we learned that Jerry’s wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the hospital near our house. We talked about the Christmas lights on our street and about how folks like to drive through this area in the evenings on their way home from the hospital. We also talked about his book (and subsequent movie) The Angel Doll, which Perry showed to his high school students at Christmastime, before his retirement, just a few years back. Jerry told us an interesting story- that he had received a letter from a family who had written to him, saying that they had followed the tradition of The Angel Doll for many years since losing a loved one. Jerry wanted to help, to spread the joy despite the difficult situation he faced within his own family with his wife’s sickness. Jerry had connected with the family’s story and planned to join them for Christmas Dinner.

Remembering, I wonder about Jerry’s wife and her breast cancer. I hope she’s doing alright…

In the quiet of Perry’s studio, I am, for the moment at least, at home. Life moves us in that circle, health and sickness, life and death, joy and sadness, from yesterday to today and on to tomorrow. The magical moments, which are the very heart of Christmastime, are there after all, scattered in the air like pixie dust- so tiny that you’d miss them if you blink. I take a deep breath, inhaling air, heady with kerosene and cinnamon, and focus my sights, past the lantern and the old collectibles before me and on to a place, just a little deeper…

Deep Purple Dream


In case there is a morsel of doubt, it’s true. I’ve turned into my mother.

My mother, God bless her, never met a stranger. In her elder years-after she was widowed- I often took mom on various outings about town, just to have something to do. If I happened to leave her alone a few minutes, she would strike up a conversation with the first person she encountered. I’d return from my brief absence- having retrieved my forgotten loaf of bread or completed my restroom visit- only to discover that I had become the center of a conversation in which my mother revealed everything she knew about me to a complete stranger. She did the same thing when she went out with my sister.

“Oh, this is my youngest daughter, Susan” mom would begin brightly to her new friend. I would nod politely while eyeing the ever- growing line at the cash register. “She’s an interior designer in Greensboro… and yes, her husband is the art teacher. They have one son, Brennen… She IS a wonderful daughter. My other daughter, Janie, lives in Thomasville. She and her husband have a beautiful place at Ocean Isle Beach… yes, she is the teacher…” and on and on it would go until the line reached the back of the store.

Mom was bold and furiously friendly, blissfully ignorant of social boundaries. I recall the time mom ran into Dean Smith at the airport. I was digging through the depths of my pocketbook when mom wandered off. When I looked up, she was standing at the baggage claim watching Dean Smith search for his luggage on the revolving gurney. Dean was there, casually cool, trying to be a regular Joe looking for his duffle bag, while my mother examined him like a specimen under a magnifying glass. Really, she was bent all the way over, inspecting (it would appear) his shoes or somethin’ low. I practically had to peel her off him.

Since I have become my mother, middle age has emboldened me to do all sorts of foolish things that somehow remind me of my mother. I recently had the opportunity to meet my childhood crush, Donny Osmond at a local trade show, the High Point International Furniture Market. Donny and his wife have a furniture line called DOH- Donnie Osmond Home. It just so happened my BFF Angela was overseeing the design work on the space adjacent to his showroom. Being the excellent friend that she is and knowing about my childhood infatuation, she procured the means for me to meet him on the day of his appearance at DOH, hawking his dining room suits and upholstered beds to other middle-aged women like myself.

When the day finally arrived, I swathed myself in the most purple of outfits (true fans know Donnie’s favorite color is purple) and arrived in the showroom at the specified time. I entered through the back door and moseyed through the vignettes in search of his Highness. Our mutual friend, Brandi, manages both showrooms. Knowing my intentions, she spotted me there wandering the showroom alone, came over and inquired if I had met him yet.

Pulling my by the arm, she hauled me to the front. “Where’s Donnie?” she asked his publicists, who were standing up front nibbling cubes of pineapple from the Edible Arrangements bouquet.

“In the bathroom,” they replied. I implored Brandi that there was no hurry; I certainly didn’t want to bother Donny Osmond while he was on the toilet. Instead, I picked at the grapes and strawberries and made small talk with the receptionist.

This was not a hard thing for me to do, of course, because I am my mother’s daughter.

Five minutes later, Brandi reappeared. By this time the grapes and strawberries were gone. “Where’s Donny?” she asked the publicists again. Donny and I had not even met yet but I already had the feeling he was avoiding me. Brandi stormed off and found him, sitting in – what they referred to as an office-  but really, it looked like he was in a small storage room.

He was avoiding me for sure.

I follow Brandi inside. “Donny,” began Brandi, “This is Susan. She is one of your biggest fans. Her friend Angela is in charge of the floor design crew that set up our showroom.She helped decorate our showroom.”

That’s when our eyes met and I’ve gotta say, well, he looked tired.

He’d had some work done, but he was still trim and handsome. Smaller than I had somehow envisioned. Still, he had than mane of thick black hair and the wide smile of Chicklet teeth I remembered from his television days. He extended his hand for a handshake.

Now, you know there was no way I was going to be satisfied with that. Not after waiting forty years to meet him. “Can I have a hug?” I asked as I moved in. (Trump has nothing on me; really, I gave the poor man no choice.) Poor Donny was cornered in the storage room by a very nervous and excited woman swathed in purple, still holding the toothpick from her sampling of the Edible Arrangements.

That’s when mama really took over. I began babbling… thanking Donny – of all things- for being part of my youth (I did NOT say fantasies) and for his family’s positive influence in my growing up years. I told him how much my family had enjoyed watching his and Marie’s television show. Of course, since I babble when I am nervous, I went on and on… Donny looked confused for a moment until he understood what I was getting at.

“Yes,” he said. “It was a more innocent time…” He shook his head, looking a bit sad and even more tired. I agreed, even though the memory of my twelve year old thoughts was not so “Sweet and Innocent.” I nodded like an idiot.

“Ugh huh..”

Then somehow, in this brief conversation, I got him to tell me where he was staying. Coincidentally, it happened to be the hotel owned by my employer. As the company’s longtime interior designer, I had, of course, decorated his room. I may have asked him which floor.

No, I am certain, I did ask “Which floor?”

Poor Donny. I am my mother’s daughter; there was no hiding from me. He assured me that his suite was very nice. And that his wife was coming the next day.

“How con-veen-ient” I thought, but instead, I nodded like a normal person and tried not to give my weirdness away.

I didn’t mention my past history, that I had been a type of Donny Osmond stalker once before, though not in the way you might think. As a preteen, I made obscene phone calls to my friend Crystal Orrell, pretending I was him. “Hello Crystal,” I began in my deepest Donny voice. “This is Donny Osmond. Is your refrigerator running?”… or something like that. No, I couldn’t be content like a normal person stalking Donny Osmond, I wanted to BE him. I wondered briefly if this was related to my brief fascination with trying to be like my male cousins, trying to pee standing up.

It didn’t work. Not the peeing, well yes- that did work- but not very efficiently, I mean the being Donny Osmond. Crystal’s mom called my mom and I got in a wee bit of trouble.

Really, as we stood there both inches and worlds apart, Donny looked like he was eyeing the exit in case he needed to make a fast getaway. I didn’t want to bother him- I might be bold but not impolite. I needed to leave and so, of course, I asked for a photo. “Let’s take a selfie” he volunteered; that was fine with me. There really wasn’t room enough in that room anyway for a photographer.

We vogued, right there in the storage room office. I held the phone out and he- well.. let’s just say he pushed my button.

The next day, I learned that Donny was scheduled to make another appearance with an art vendor I am acquainted with. I was there to say hello again, looking spiffy in my other purple outfit, black boots and a gold metallic belt. This time, since he was bringing his wife, you bet I was bringing my husband.

“Ugh, I don’t want to meet him” Perry whined. “That’s weird.”

“You’ve GOT to meet him, honey”, I said. “You’ve just got to.” (“This is my youngest daughter’s husband the art teacher,” I heard mother say.)

We found Donny perched as if he’d like to fly away, beneath  a row of abstract paintings. I waited in line, hubby in tow, making a point to catch the eye of the gallery’s owner with whom I knew from years of doing business together. Janice started to make the introductions, “Oh we’ve met”, I assured her. She looked back and forth at Donny, me , perplexed.

“Yes,” said Donny. “We met yesterday at the …”

(You cornered me in the storage room is what he was thinking!)

I pulled Perry up there and introduced him to Donny. “The artwork looks great,” I offered, and just to prove my point, I craned my neck at the soft, pastel colored artwork lining the gallery’s walls. There was a very aggressive looking woman standing nearby, probably from Florida, with tanned skin, sparkly jewelry and stand-up bangs. Like me, she was wearing a LOT of purple. I could tell, she wanted me to be brief. She stood next in line  looking like she could just eat Donny Osmond up.


“I was hoping to meet Debbie,” I suddenly remarked to Donny, making casual conversation. I couldn’t believe it; we were already on a first name basis. Not Mrs. Osmond, not your wife, but Debbie- like she was my long lost college friend or somethin’.

“Oh she’s around- over there she is…” he said, and he pointed to an attractive, petite lady talking with a small group of women. There, he’d thrown me off the scent! I ditched Perry and Donny, walked right over to eye my competiion. I stood behind them, giving the other ladies the evil eye til I could introduce myself.

Debbie Osmond was gracious and lovely. We talked about our kids, about my son getting married and about her nearly empty nest, which I knew about already because after all, I am a stalker.

I had googled her.

Afterwards, Perry gave me a hard time. He thinks it’s hilarious… that I impersonate Donny Osmond, that I tried to pee standing up, that I have stalked Donny Osmond and now his poor lovely, unsuspecting wife.

What can I say? I am my mother’s daughter. (The youngest… the interior designer… whose husband is an art teacher… who has a son named Brennen…) 


Fortune Teller

angels1  When our old friends Kimberly and Chris decided to throw a big Halloween Party for their two boys a few years ago, I was their go- to person to portray the role of the fortune teller. Always up for a new adventure, I eagerly donned a long flowing skirt, ruffled blouse and layered all the bling I could find around my neck. I tied a colorful silk scarf, peasant style, around my forehead. Dramatic kohl black eyeliner and a long dark wig masked my blue- eyed blond. As I gazed into the mirror, I hardly recognized myself.

Miraculously, I found my old Ouija Board and its plastic controller. A relic from my teenaged years, the Ouija Board had been a big hit at slumber parties where giddy fourteen year olds boldly called forth the spirit of Elvis and other long lost celebrities during impromptu séances. I packed a deck of cards and the iridescent gazing ball from my garden. Voila! My outfit and props were complete.

After the hotdog dinner, I placed my wares inside the tent which had been set up in a dark and remote corner of their big backyard. The wind whispered through the tall pines and broad oaks as shadows danced like ghosts across the precision- cut lawn. We placed a candle in the middle of the table to illuminate my face and that of my young patrons. Miss Susannah was ready for her first customer.

One by one, Kimberly escorted the kids inside. They approached me tentatively, their eyes filled with excitement and apprehension. I played the role to the hilt. When I read the children’s’ palms, everyone had long life lines that showed happy marriages and beautiful children. With dramatic flair, I fanned the cards across the top of the table; a three of spades could foretell the same future as the Queen of Hearts. I sprinkled tea leaves into a cup of water where their black amorphous shapes revealed only to me, the shape of their future. I gazed into the crystal ball, pretending to see what they could not. I worked in tidbits of information that I had been told about the kids, details about sports or summer camps or their latest crush. It all went off without a hitch until Kimberly brought in my last customer.

At first, I did not recognize the boy. Even when Kimberly said his name, I could not recall anything significant about the boy. “This is Kyle’s friend Ryan,” she said. “He and his mom got here late. He’d like to talk to you.”

“Ah, come in Ryan” I said with a heavy accent and motioned for him to have a seat.

I read his palm. I sought his fortune in the tea leaves. Unlike the other boys, I could tell my words had failed to impress him. Ryan chewed on his lip; something else was obviously on his mind. “I wanted to ask you about my dad…” the boy whispered softly.

Suddenly, I remembered what Kimberly had told me about this boy.
Ryan’s father passed away a few weeks prior, suddenly and unexpectedly. Kimberly and Chris had not expected him or his mother to come to the party. My heart skipped a beat; for a moment, I did not know what to do. Across from me was a vulnerable real-life boy and I was a fake fortune teller. The boy’s eyes looked at me for some kind of reassurance; I have never felt so small or so embarrassed at perpetuating such a sham. I started to confess, to explain the truth. I wanted to tell him I was not really a fortune teller and that I didn’t know anything about his dad.

Then, I remembered my own experience. It wasn’t long ago that I, too had lost a father. In a chance and singular encounter with a fortune teller in Key West, I too had asked a stranger about my own father. I hadn’t cared so much about the number of children I would have or the length of my lifeline. All I wanted and needed to know in that instant was that my dad was ok. For a minute, I connected to this boy’s pain and told him what I thought he needed to hear. I told him what a kind person had told me almost ten years before.

“Oh Ryan,” I began, disregarding my props and my accent and speaking straight from my heart. I told him what I hoped someone would tell my own son, should the tables ever be turned. “You know, your father loves you so very much. He is so happy that you have asked about him! I know your heart is heavy and that you miss him so much. Always remember, that even though you don’t see him, his spirit is always with you, looking over you and your mom.”

I’m not sure if my answer was the right one or if it gave this boy any comfort. I’m not sure if I should have continued to act the part or if I should have come clean to the poor innocent and injured boy sitting across from me. I hadn’t meant to play a cruel joke. I guess I felt that it was important that Ryan believe in something at that moment of feeling so very lost and alone.

Ryan is a grown man now. I’ve lost track, forgotten to ask about him over the years. Still, I hope he has remembered my words and that he has known the loving and continued presence of his father in his life along the road to adulthood. I hope for his sake, that my prediction came true.

Every Day Heroes

My hero, Fred Kirby, with my brother and sister, Tony and Janie, and some kid that is not, but should have been me!
My hero, Fred Kirby, with my brother and sister, Tony and Janie, and some kid that is not, but should have been me!

Who are your heroes? As a little girl, my hands down hero was a singing cowboy named Fred Kirby. A staple for all baby boomers throughout central North Carolina, Fred Kirby and the Little Rascals aired for years Sunday afternoons on our local Charlotte station WBTV, Channel 3. They were all local stations back then.

Fred Kirby sang all of my favorite songs. Who can forget Jimmy Crack Corn, The Big Rock Candy Mountain and his classic, Atomic Power?

“How we-ee-ee-ee-ee LOVE the Little Ras-cals,Little Ras-cals, Little Ras-cals…”

In addition to those classic scenes playing his guitar and singing, Fred Kirby rode his horse Calico while his side-kick, Uncle Jim, entertained us with his classic buffoonery. The show also aired short clips of “Our Gang”, The Little Rascals. Who can forget Darla and Alfalfa, the Buckwheat and throaty voiced Froggy? Who can forget the classic and completely politically incorrect episode when Uncle George broke out of the nuthouse and chased the Little Rascals around for their candy saying “Yum, yum. Eat’em up!”? In the end, the Rascal’s are saved by little Spanky who shot Uncle George in the arse and out the window with a roman candle?

My hero, Fred Kirby, had a long career in the entertainment industry and entertained generations of children before and after me. He faithfully wore his cowboy hat and red cowboy shirt with white fringe and made summer and weekend appearances for years at a local attraction in the mountains near Boone NC called Tweetsie Railroad. It was a highlight of my preschool years when mama and daddy took me to Tweetsie to see Fred Kirby in person and ride the train. Numerous times a day, the old steam engine, Tweetsie, wound its way for several miles through the Appalachian mountains where it would invariably be attacked by Indians. On the day we made this classic trip, one of the Indians decided he was going to pretend to scalp my mama. It was classic “Mur-Louise” when she fought back and hit him in the head with her pocketbook. Ultimately, we all came out alive when the cowboys came to our rescue.

These days, there are very few characters on my television set that are worthy of being cast as heroes. Even our old friends Batman and Superman are squabbling between themselves. I have to ask, really, is it worth those paltry millions to further confuse the next generation of kids as to which of these guys are the good and which are the bad guys? Doesn’t that generation have it bad enough?

More importantly, I find there’s simply no need to look for pretend heroes when there are real life heroes in my daily life that inspire and amaze me. Let me tell you about a few…

There’s my neighbor Janice who has faced numerous difficulties including the tragic loss of her son, Deebs, years ago. I recently learned that every year, she and her ex-husband visit her son’s elementary school and tell the children her son’s story. Every year in May, she courageously reopens those wounds and has to find the strength to heal again. For her courage to continue to stay open to love despite the pain it costs her, Janice is my hero.

There are my cousins Glenn, Julia and Alex who after the loss of Glenn’s mother (my Aunt BJ last summer) are now courageously fighting Glenn’s aggressive stage 4 cancer. Cancer has totally changed their lives but they are committed to doing everything possible to wage war on this brutal disease. The stress it puts on them as individuals and a family is great but they do it with faith and grace. For this and the love they continue to share with others during their own difficult times, Glenn, Julia and Alex are my heroes.

There are my friends Linda and Tracy who over the last five or six years suffered unexpected, mid-life breakups of their marriages. Through their experiences, I have learned that divorce is much more than the breakup of a marriage. It is the dissolution of a family unit. It is a complete loss of trust between individuals. It is the death of a dream. To watch them come out of those dark times to create even stronger, better and more authentic lives is nothing less than awe- inspiring. Linda and Tracy are my heroes.

There is my young friend who was a drug addict. After many years, she found the strength to come clean and she lives her life today in recovery. As a single mother, today she works two jobs to support her family. She is dedicated and tough. She is compassionate and makes time to help others. This friend knows who she is. She is my hero.

My list of heroes could go on and on. Today’s real-life superheros do not need to don a cowboy hat or wriggle into spandex to assume their magic powers. Everyday, they get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and bravely do battle.


Check out these old clips and information:

Fred Kirby on You-Tube:
Little Rascals’ Uncle George (enturity)
Little Rascals’ Uncle George (clip)
Little Rascals’ Where Are they Now? (My mom and dad used to tell me that one of the Little Rascals became a Doctor at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem, but if that was true. I do not remember which one…)


ballet_shoesAs a child, I dreamed of becoming an elegant ballerina but it was one of those things in life that was not meant to be. For years, I begged my mother to let me take dance lessons like my childhood best friend, Debbie Koontz. My parents refused by saying that the dance studio was located too far from our house on Goat Pasture Road and besides, dance lessons were too expensive. Mother also did not feel that I needed instructions in dance since she had already discovered my “talent.” Our family had inherited an old upright piano from my paternal grandmother and I had played it out of sheer boredom for most all of my life. While I could easily capture any melody by ear, my form was stuck in the basics of chords and one finger pecking.
Consequently, instead of dancing, mother signed me up for piano lessons even as Debbie Koontz took the dance lessons I wanted for myself. When we spent the night together, Debbie would show me all the steps she had mastered, the shuffle steps of tap, the jazz hands of jazz and the holy plies of ballet. I remember coveting Debbie’s beautiful recital costumes, full of sparkle and froth, as well as her pale pink satin ballet slippers. It was like a mark of womanhood when Debbie went thru the dancer’s rite of passage and finally received her first pair of toe shoes.


More than forty years had passed since my last sleep-over at Debbie’s house and I had still not forgotten how badly I had wanted to be a dancer. Upon learning that a friend of my son’s was taking adult ballet lessons in nearby Clemmons, I shared with her my childhood story. “Come to class with me,” his friend Devon encouraged. “This class is not for people who have danced all their lives. Everyone’s a beginner. Besides, there is a mix of ladies in there. In fact, one of them is a mom like you.” My eyes lit up. What a great idea! I could do this. I briefly considered my health. I was not in the best shape. “Ballet for adults” is obviously not without its risks. In addition to the potential damage to my self-esteem, there would also be a risk of physical injury. Regardless, I became something of a risk-taker on the verge of my golden years and I figured if I had the chance to mark something off my bucket list, I was going to do it.
On the evening we were to attend the class, I was a bit late leaving work. When I got home, I couldn’t decide what to wear. “What to wear?” has been the eternal question that has plagued me for every event in my life. When I die, would someone please remember to etch those words onto my tombstone and make this final wardrobe selection for me? I called Devon to ask for advice. She suggested I wear yoga pants and thick socks. I perused the drawer of my casual pants. Hmmm, I wasn’t 100% clear on what she meant by “yoga pants.” I owned one pair of grey sweat pants that were slightly flared at the bottom like yoga pants but they did not seem very danceable. Since it had been a warm day, I thought maybe I should wear something cooler. I didn’t have a lot of suitable clothes to choose from. Finally, I found some beige capri length pants and paired them with a white v-neck tee and my metallic flip flops. I didn’t own a full length mirror but I could tell from the view of my upper half in the little bathroom mirror over my sink that I looked decidedly “un-ballerina-ish.” I needed some drama. I needed to look like the girls on So You Think You Can Dance. Maybe I needed to channel Irene Cara on Flash Dance. I remembered an orange and lemon sherbet- colored scarf that was buried in my closet and so I dug around until I found it and wrapped it around my neck and shoulders. I felt I looked a bit more like a dancer although certainly not a ballerina. I noticed the clock said a few minutes after 7 PM. I had to leave right then or I would be late!
I drove like a mad woman to Devon’s house. In my rushing, I forgot to bring my socks so I called ahead to ask Devon to bring me a pair of hers. As she slips in the car and buckles her seat belt, she gives me the once-over out of the corner of her eyes. I can tell I have missed the mark on the wardrobe. Sensing her disappointment, I begin explaining the confusion over the pants and the scarf. Devon seems more concerned that no one will be able to see my knees which I consider a blessing. I realize that Devon is wearing a black leotard beneath her yoga pants and that I have failed to understand the complex layers of a ballerina’s wardrobe. Then, she confesses that the only clean socks she could find were either toe socks or tube socks. My mind flashed back to the multi colored toe socks I wore in 1976; every toe was a different color. Thank God she decided to forego the toe socks but I can tell that the purple and pink- banded tube socks she brought me are not going to match the sherbet hues of my scarf.

We arrive at the dance studio with seconds to spare. I enter, feeling awkward, and begin looking for the other mothers. The instructor asks me if I plan to dance and I assure her that I do.
I had not dressed up for nothin’.

I spot some glittery costumes and accessories in a basket but Devon discourages me from inspecting them too closely. Instead, she instructs me to put on my mismatched tube socks. I decide that rolling them down might be more comfortable and make me look less like a deranged football player. Although my knees do not show, if the instructor is quick, she can catch a good four inches of my lower calf. At Devon’s suggestion, I remove the scarf.
“Gosh, there are a lot of mirrors in here,” I think to myself as I gaze around the room. The barre on the wall was mounted so high, I asked Devon incredulously if we would have to put our legs up on it. Honestly, I could have hung upside down on it like a monkey bar. My next thought was that before we got started, I needed to find a bathroom. Even though I am a newbie, I know that incontinence and ballerinas do not make good dance partners.
The instructor suddenly calls the class to attention before I have a chance to use the restroom and we make our way to the dance floor. I am concerned because there does not seem to be any other moms in the group. There are five students in the class, Devon, myself and three other high school girls. “Where’s the mom?” I whisper to Devon and she gestures towards one of the girls I thought was in high school. The “mom” was thirty, at most. She wore the same wan expression atop her waif- like body as all the other dancers. “Geez, am I the only one here with breasts?” I thought. I try not to look at myself but there are so many mirrors, I cannot help myself. The other girls look like real ballerinas in their black leotards and pink ballet shoes. I look ready to go grocery shopping.
The music starts. Our instructor, Mary, explains about the correct posture for ballet. From her instructions, I ascertain that my bottom half needs to spread out like a castrated frog while simultaneously relaxing my shoulders. Mary begins shouting a series of rapid commands. It is very hard to follow and so I try to imitate Devon’s movements. Mary shouts “Plie, grand plie, demi-moore plie and relevez,” and combines the moves with a confusing number of various feet positions numbered one through five. Then, while our feet play “Twister,” our arms are supposed to do an elaborate series of Vanna White moves that range from “Here, behind door number 3. Your brand new car!” to something like “I’m gonna cover my head with this tiny umbrella!”
It is overwhelming but I try my best to keep up. I am not a quitter, unfortunately even when it is in my best interest to do so. Obviously I am traumatized and delusional; I think I am doing okay, until we perform the coup de grace.
We line up at the short end of the studio. Mary changes the music to something that sounds like the composer was “hepped” up on too much caffeine. She commands us to perform a series of moves whose locomotion will propel us thirty to forty feet across the room to the opposite wall. The moves are like gallop- squat- hop- slide… gallop- squat- hop- slide. Mary looks at me sympathetically and suggests I forego the arm movements which I wasn’t trying to do in the first place. Suddenly I realize that I am on my own, unable to hide amidst the other girls. This is like a race and I am losing, big time. I lurch behind the other girls, sans arms, like a headless rooster. Then, in addition to being unable to master the movements, I make two mistakes. I simultaneously catch my reflection in the wall of mirrors and see the faintest twinkle of amusement in Mary’s eyes.
I finally see how truly desperate this situation is…
I complete my gallop- squat- hop- slide to the other end of the studio, yards behind the other girls. Suddenly, I am overcome with emotion. Then, I need to pee. The former happens to me on very rare occasions while the latter is becoming more frequent. I try to hold both feelings in but something between hysterical laughter and hysterical tears wells up inside my throat while the other end is welling with something else altogether. My eyes redden and my face contorts unattractively. Mary looks at me as if she is afraid I am having a stroke. For a minute, I actually hope that I am having a stroke and I hope that Mary feels guilty for smirking at me just before I die.
I am not spared a quick death.
I make it home and tell my husband of my latest fiasco. We’ve been married a long time and he is no longer surprised at anything I do. Then, out of nowhere, the emotions I had swallowed in the dance studio begin to rise again. I grand plie into a full- fledged hissy- fit with real tears and a very ugly cry. Hubby looks concerned. Bless his heart, he really does.
“Oh my God,” he exclaims. “This sounds exactly like an episode of I Love Lucy.” Perry has seen every episode of I Love Lucy at least forty times, no lie. I have not seen them and I have no idea what he is talking about. “There was an episode where Lucy wanted to be a dancer,” Perry continues. “At the auditions, she rearranges all her clothes to look like the other dancers by pulling the neckline down over her shoulders and her pants legs up. Then, she tries to copy the moves of the other dancers…” His voice trails off and we both fall into a wave of hysterics. “Yes, that’s it, exactly!” I say. How had I failed to cast myself as Irene Cara when I was really Lucille Ball?
In hindsight, I would still love to be a ballerina but I’ve decided that I should literally move on. Maybe I will try salsa? Or square dancing? Both Lucille Ball and I are simply too loud and colorful to be good ballerinas, even if we could manage to master gallop- squat- hop- slide while simultaneously showing the car behind Door Number 3!


big heart Out of the blue, my friend Mr. Edmund would ask “Susan, what is this thing called love?” He was 93 years old at the time, which was still very young for him as opposed to some folks who are dry and crumbled at 40. His question alluded to a song made famous by Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter. Even after so many years of friendship, I knew his query was primarily rhetorical and one that he liked to answer himself. “It’s a mystery!” he said brightly and indeed, even after his passing, it still is.

I have a pretty bouquet of roses on the table from my sweetie and a belly full of chocolates. I made Perry his favorite cake Sunday night and showered my kids with Starbuck’s coupons. Both Valentine’s Day and my friend Mr. Edmund have come and gone while I am left pondering  “what is this thing called love?”

I recently told a friend a story about Perry’s and my honeymoon. It was 1985 and we travelled from North Carolina to Maine and Cape Cod, two fresh-faced little college kids who dared go where not many Southerners had gone before us- across the Mason Dixon line. After two weeks on the road we were broke and homesick and stopped for a night’s stay at a little motel on the New Jersey Turnpike. The place was one step above a truck stop, hell it may have been a truck stop for all I knew, and I remember the woman at the registration desk looked scary with her frizzy bleached blonde hair. The cloud of smoke that surrounded her did not look like a halo. Our room had a broken window and some plumbing problems. I shored up the door with a chair; I’m still not sure it wasn’t a front for a brothel.

It turned out that our questionable surroundings were not our biggest problem. It was time for dinner and Perry suggested we go to McDonalds. We’d only been married just a few short weeks and I didn’t want to burst his bubble but the truth was I’d never been a fan of McDonalds in the first place. We’d eaten at McDonalds with increasing incident due to our decreasing funds and I was sick of it. I simply could not stomach another Big Mac. Now, I’m not a person prone to hissy fits or at least I wasn’t then but for reasons unbeknownst to me, I threw my husband down on the bed and began screaming dramatically “I am NOT going to McDonalds. I HATE it! I HATE McDonalds!.” I still recall the look of surprise on his face and my clenched fists.

After that, we didn’t go to a McDonalds for a very long time…

It’s been nearly thirty two years since that day and in that time, my husband and I have weathered our share of ups and downs over things much more challenging than a hamburger. We’ve spent our fair share of time being both the bug and the windshield. These experiences have taught me that love is not for sissies and that it requires a generous dose of patience. You learn that even when you know someone for most of your life, there are always new things to discover about them. Most of those things you will find endearing but there are the occasional things that will drive you as crazy and unmercilessly as a dripping faucet. I’ve learned that for love to last it needs plenty of space to breathe in and how laughter can be the saving grace that stops you from killing the person who seems put on this earth just to drive you ape-shit, particularly if hormones are involved on one or the other’s part.

During those early years of our relationship, I remember how our love- just like life itself- seemed simple. Over time, it became as weighted down as that mattress in the truck stop and more complex with a growing family, mortgages, careers and the things that hurt us that can be hard to forget, even when they’ve been forgiven.

We travelled a long way from home in those early years but we have come further today than I would have ever imagined. Love changes a lot over time as it trades in the sharp corners of its youth for something more rounded and flexible and less prone to breakage over something as simple as a piece of charbroiled meat on a white bun.

Love on the other side never fails to amaze me at it’s vastness, how it comes to permeate your home and your closet and your outlook on life. How it scatters on the floor like the toenail clippings I know my husband did not vacuum up last week and how it spreads out your front door and into the neighborhoods and lives of your friends and co-workers. How it’s like travelling on a trip where you need one person to drive and another to read the road map.

The Life, Love and Folly of a 90 Year Old Man

IMG_1435 “Susan, are you writing this down? It’s going to be a bestseller,” he says emphatically. “I’ve got the name all picked out. It’s called The Life, Love and Folly of a 90 Year Old Man.” He pauses to observe my reaction. Edmund Koury, Chairman of the Board of Koury Corporation and Edmund Koury, my good friend announced this to me several years ago around the time of his ninetieth birthday. He has decided I need to write his life’s story and by the looks of things, I’d better get on it. He smiles a mischievous smile and chuckles, obviously amused with himself.

If it were not for a birthday cake indicating otherwise, you’d swear he was younger than he was by a decade or more.

In wintertime, he dresses in layers. The blood thinner he takes tends to make him feel cold all the time and gives him the appearance of having perennially bruised hands. Mr. Edmund often wears brown corduroys and a sweater vest over a blue shirt. He is colorblind and blue is one of the few colors he can easily discern. His hair is thick and white and his eyebrows often unruly, but on this day both have been trimmed by Gilbert Hutchins of Hutchins Barber Shop on Clifton Road. At Mr. Edmund’s recommendation and penchant for value, Mr. Hutchins now cuts my husband and son’s hair as well. “Now, Gilbert charges 9 dollars but tip him 3 bucks and no more,” he told my husband firmly. So that is what they do.

Mr. Edmund has the olive complexion of his Lebanese and Syrian forbearers combined with some French on his maternal side. While he bears an air of distinction, in his younger days he looked like a movie star. Today, deep lines crinkle out from his brown eyes like sunshine but they darken with remembrance. “We’ll get to the “love” part later, “ he says and begins dictating. I scramble to find an envelope or something to write on because you could never tell when he would start telling a story. “Now here’s the “life” part…It was my mother’s prayers that brought me back from the war…”

I never wrote that book about him but every year he’d add another number to its name. The Life, Love and Folly of a 90 Year Old Man became “a 91 Year Old Man”, then “a 92 Year Old Man” and so forth.

All I can think is how he would have turned 94 in October…

The Koury family is synonymous with the development of Greensboro. I’ve been fortunate to be an employee of the company for nearly 20 years and a design consultant for much longer than that. Mr. Edmund’s father immigrated to Greensboro from Lebanon around the turn of the century along with various cousins and brothers. They initially came to escape Muslim persecution of the Koury family’s Christian sons. His father was a peddler who sold cloth and housewares to farmers and country folk in the area. Eventually, the business grew into a dress store in nearby Burlington which Edmund would later manage for his father when he became ill.

Edmund was popular at school, becoming class president, yet he mostly kept to himself preferring not to socialize much with his classmates. His family’s dark skin and middle eastern customs didn’t fit so well among a WASP North Carolina textile town. Later, he served his country by fighting in the infantry division of the Battle of the Bulge. At the end of the war, appendicitis kept him from leaving Germany with the rest of his battalion. He stayed behind to work as a prison warden in a Mannheim POW camp where he met a German widow and unexpectedly fell in love. Less than a year later he waved goodbye to Hilde Kohl. She waved and blew kisses to him from a second floor balcony, accompanied by her young daughter Dagmar and mother who was severely crippled by arthritis. Back home, he finished college and partnered with his brother Joe in several successful businesses including a small textile company and Kirkman Koury, a residential construction company, which eventually  morphed into Koury Corporation, one of the most successful commercial real estate development companies in the state.

One basis for our unlikely friendship was that Mr. Edmund was a great storyteller. The story of Hilde was one of a few that was tinged with regret but mostly, he had a stoic acceptance of things that were not meant to be. He would often recount war stories which I listened to with fascination, especially since my own father had served in the same war as a marine in the South Pacific. Having lost my father decades prior, I would have given anything to ask him the questions I asked Mr. Edmund. One story he told occurred during a cold winter evening when he and his radio man became separated from the other troops. They had been scouting for places to set mortars. It was bitterly cold and dusk tinged the sky. They spotted a shed on the bleak horizon and headed off to take advantage of any shelter it might offer for the night. Upon arrival, they dropped their heavy packs and surveyed their surroundings. Peering out the back door, they saw three German soldiers approaching the shed wearily in the snow. Mr. Edmund and the other soldier drew their weapons and prepared to blast the door when it swung open. Instead, the German soldiers opened another door which led them to an adjoining side of the barn. Seemingly unaware of the American soldier’s presence just a few feet away, the Germans talked among each other before falling asleep. Mr. Edmund and his companion did not make a sound or sleep a wink that night, afraid they would be discovered. After they heard the Germans snoring, they quietly made their way back to their camp before sunrise. He always ended this story by saying it was his mother’s prayers that brought him back from the war. Years after his mother passed away, her rosary still hangs on the wall in his kitchen.

Mr. Edmund loved Dancing With the Stars. It was an ongoing joke that he only watched the show because of their nice shoes. He was fond of the latin dances, especially the dramatic Argentine Tango. His favorite dancer was Cheryl Burke while mine was Derek Hough. I looked forward to his analysis of the dancers’ performances each Tuesday morning after it had aired the previous Monday night. He loved big band music and remembered seeing Frank Sinatra in Raleigh during the early years. He said he couldn’t believe how the girls went so wild over such a little man. He thought Cole Porter was one of the best songwriters of all times and I would have to agree with him. I have always liked Night and Day but had never heard of Begin the Beguine. “What is this thing called love?” he’d sometimes ask rhetorically and answer himself with “It’s a mystery!” He loved spending Saturday nights in front of the television with Lawrence Welk and watching old movies on the Turner Classic channel.

We also shared a love for Middle Eastern foods. After he discovered how much I loved the food I’d eaten on a trip to Greece, he made it his mission to teach me about Lebanese delicacies such as kibbeh, meat pies, stuffed squash, homemade hummus and baba ganoush. He brought me a cookbook written by his cousin Marie. I’d try out the recipes over the weekend and bring them in for him to sample a bite sometimes on Monday mornings. He taught me to enjoy good olives and a fine Manchego cheese, along with fresh figs and nuts purchased from the Jerusalem Market located a few miles down High Point Road. If you stopped by his office in the morning, you couldn’t leave without a handful of almonds or walnuts which he procured by the bagful from Costco.

I am not sure if he drank Scotch or Whiskey but I know he had a gentleman’s appreciation for a good drink, good-looking cars and good-looking women. I’m also not certain about the order of his preference. He continued driving his “Sunday Car” an ancient Riviera, I believe, that rolled over the roads like a tank along with his SUV (which he called an SOB) well into his 90’s. His driving skills were legendary among my co-workers and despite their warnings, he would occasionally insist I accompany him to some place or another. I always tried to meet him and even begged him to let me drive the car for him but there was no way he would allow a woman to do such a thing. He found my lack of confidence in his driving skills amusing and would often pretend while driving that he couldn’t make out stop lights and road signs ahead. The last time I saw him we joked about riding around together and he referred to me as “white- knuckled” which was true.

He looked forward to birthdays and special celebrations that he could use as an excuse to entertain and share the company of others. Up until last year, he would have me  gather together his nieces, an old friend or a favorite neighbor for the occasional grand luncheon at one of two of our tenant’s restaurants on the other side of town. Sometimes, he would tell me to invite my sister or a girlfriend and he would insist on sending everyone home with to-go boxes filled with enough food for dinner.

He was humble and kind and treated the greatest and least of people with the same consideration. He was especially sympathetic to other immigrant families and went out of his way to give them opportunities to get ahead. He knew his employees and their families by name and expressed special concern about their health and well-being. He believed inhaling salt water up your nose  was good for congestion and in the importance of physical exercise. He could walk circles around most everyone at the mall throughout his late 80’s. If he would see any of us walking to the Post Office or somewhere he’d grab our arm and make us walk laps a few with him.

Last fall, he suffered a major setback when he was in an automobile accident. No one else, thankfully was hurt. Under the careful watch of his brother’s family and dedicated caretakers, he managed to get through several difficult months of rehab and come back home. Last Tuesday, he passed away peacefully at this same home he had shared with his mother. He sensed her presence as he neared the end, asking his caretakers to check on his mother “in the next room.”

I recall that when I dropped in to visit him just after New Years, I asked him how he was doing and he nodded sadly, replying “I’m ready to cross the river.” He had said those same words to me with every setback he’d suffered over the last four or five years and as usual, I refused to placate him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Edmund, it’s just not your time…” I’d say before turning the conversation on a lighter note. “Besides, anyone can see you look too good to cross the river.”

This never failed to bring a smile to his face.

Mr. Edmund was a bright spot in my life and I believe I was the same for him. It has been one of the great joys and privileges of my life to call him my friend. So many people just seem to grow up and grow old but Mr. Edmund retained his youthful spirit and a passionate outlook on life. The Life, Love and Folly of a 93 Year Old Man… This says it all, really. I can attest that he lived a great “life”. He cared deeply for others and was “loved” and respected by both his Koury family and his other family- the employees that worked for him at his company.

“Folly” is not a word one hears used much anymore. It’s impossibly old-fashioned, a throwback to silent movies and vaudeville shows. It’s a word in keeping with an old man who refused to be defined by his age or his position in life. Whether it was folly or something more akin to wisdom, I cannot be certain. It is, however, something I hope to keep with me in my own travels towards the river. It is a reminder that while all of us must age, growing old is entirely optional.

Rest in peace my friend.

Hanging on by a Thread

thread 2

The universe weaves a magnificent tapestry and we are the thread. It’s multi-dimensional and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on Earth. No two stitches or colors are the same. The shuttle moves in and out, strands overlapping and then moving apart. When one thread runs out, another begins seamlessly in its place. If any part were missing there would be a hole but there are none. The tapestry is perfect; the tapestry is divine. We sacrifice our mortality for being woven into the whole, the strands, equal parts life and death.

This is God’s work and we sense it, we search for it, we believe in it through faith.

John Lennon said life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans. Cocooned in the fabric of our tiny little lives, it is easy to forget we are part of a divine creation. We live most of our days in the routine of familiar comfort. We get out of bed. We feel stressed about work. We cook dinner. Clean the dishes. Get married. Go to college. Have babies. We think we’re fat. We clean up dog poop. Life goes on and on and on and it can be so distracting,  we forget that life is so fragile until something comes along to shake us from our complacency.

It could be a lump. A diagnosis. An accident. Or simply hearing someone say they are growing weary of this world. Those are the moments our awareness shifts and we hold on by a thread because all we can offer seems so very small. A visit. A card. A hug. Maybe a meal. Such small insignificant things.

My friend Mr. Edmund is 93. Four months ago, he broke his leg, ruptured a disc and went through rehab. The worst of it is not so much these recent setbacks but more that he’s so very tired, just plain worn out. “Susan, I’m ready to cross the river,” he says when I visited him last week. He’s lost nearly all his old friends and family, his parents, his brother and sister. I know this game, we’ve played it before. “I’m so sorry you feel bad, “ I say “but it’s not your time. You look too handsome.” Eventually I get a smile out of him.

Of course, I don’t know this. I want him to feel better and I am so thankful to have him here. These little conversations mean so much to me. I admit, he is looking a little pale this day, sitting in his old recliner with a blanket pulled up to his chin. We talk about regular life stuff, like how my husband and I are taking dancing lessons, about the holidays spent with our families, about my son and his fiancee and my pets. Mr. Edmund swears he wants to come back as one of my pets, in another life, that is. He thinks they have it that good.

Later, I reflect back upon scene. One minute we are talking about dying and the next I’m talking about the Foxtrot. It seems so easy in that moment, like life and death are one and the same. Western culture tends to think of life and death as mortal enemies. We forget life is not the thread anymore than death- they are one human experience twisted into a single strand.

Life and death, are of course inseparable. Not only in a single life but in our connection to all the lives out there. This is the tapestry. I know about everlasting life. I know my name is written on God’s hand but I confess, I can’t help but worry about the details sometimes. It’s hard doing needlework. Maybe like me, God’s eyesight isn’t so good anymore. Does he need a magnifying glass or need to borrow some readers? It’s so difficult to read the directions sometimes and I think sometimes how in my hurry to get to the next thing, I’ve just glossed over it and missed some of the important details.Who knows what is really being written about us there on God’s palm?

Age of Innocence: New Years 2016

wonder years

I was a child of the Wonder Years, coming of age in the South after integration and near the end of the Vietnam War. The insular rural community I called home fostered both innocence and ignorance. My parents’ and their parent’s lives had been mostly hardscrabble; they fought to  support their families and hold onto their small farms through the Depression years. Perhaps it was my growing awareness but the world’s events seemed far away back then and did not begin to infiltrate my world until the late 1960’s.

My mother’s family had grown up working shoulder to shoulder with a black family who sharecropped their land during the depression years; both families needed each other and the black and white children grew up playing in the fields together, retaining a certain degree of color blindness throughout their early lives. As our community had moved from agriculture and as textile and furniture industries began to boom in local small towns, it brought a kind of WASP homogeneity. Old prejudices were revived and reborn, morphed into a communal consciousness which was spread through osmosis. Whites ranked higher than blacks; men ranked higher than women and adults ranked higher than children.

It seems to be human nature that even people who have nothing want to believe they are better than someone.

An undercurrent of fear began to permeate our world in the late’60’s, and it reminds me of the fear that is so prevalent today. Back then, a black and white television with aluminum foil rabbit ears brought tumultuous images into our living room each evening. Our country was losing its young men in the jungles of Vietnam. Assassinations of great leaders became prevalent: Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy, Martin Luther King. We lost countless innocent lives in the turbulent Civil Rights movement and for a purpose that seems so fundamental to the beliefs expressed in our country’s Constitution, it hardly seems worthy of being questioned, much less fought over.

The world seemed to shift on its axis.

I remember one night when I was 5 or 6  riding home in the back seat of the car with my parents. Seat belts were not required back then and I was small enough to nestle into the angled space between the back seat and back window, watching the stars and moon through the glass. We were driving along Jubilee Road, one of the more prominent roads in our community that was paved instead of gravel. We came across a road block, where shapeless forms walked around in white robes with hoods covering their faces. A fire burned in a clearing. It seemed huge, maybe 12-15 feet high on a slight hill with what looked like boards nailed together in the shape of a cross. I crouched behind mama and daddy in the dark as a man came to Daddy’s window, talking to him in a voice I immediately recognized as a prominent man of the  community and a supervisor at The NC Finishing Plant where daddy worked. I had heard this man speak at the Union Hall Meetings, had taken paper sacks of candy and oranges that he distributed from Santa during their annual Christmas Program, heard his clear tenor lead us in jubilant renditions of “Joy to the World.” I’m not sure what my parent’s told me about the event then, but I was practically an adult before I understood this was a cross-burning and this man I knew was part of the Ku Klux Klan. I do remember the curiosity it spiked in me that this grown man would be hiding in a creepy costume in the middle of the night scaring people and I wondered what on earth had happened to cause such a scene. In hindsight, I am glad I knew the whereabouts of my father that night and that he had not chose to participate.

Around this same time or maybe earlier because my memory of this event is fuzzy, there were some curious incidents closer to home. Occasionally items would go missing for no reason: equipment, tools or gasoline would vanish from our gas tanks. People didn’t lock their doors at night then and robbery was uncommon as no one had much of anything worth stealing anyway. One night when all the menfolk were away at the Union Hall meeting, my teenaged sister saw a Peeping Tom through the blinds and recognized it as the face of a black man. Mama loaded us into the car to go down to my grandma’s and on the way, saw the black shadow of what she assumed was the same man now smoking a cigarette across the road in the yard at my Aunt Polly’s house.

All of us kids were stuffed into in the small bathroom at the center of the house and ordered not to come out; this was myself, my older cousins Patty and Bobby and my sister and perhaps my brother, all stuffed into a bathroom the size of a closet. All the women including my grandma were toting shotguns and once in a while we’d hear the boom as the shot blast somewhere into the dark. Later, we’d learn our cousin Jimmy had been at home at his mama’s house that night and with one phone call, he came out with his shotgun blasting in the direction of the cigarette. The man hollered and took for the woods with my cousin in pursuit.

Soon the other men returned from their meeting and followed the commotion with hunting dogs, something I’d only know later through watching movies and reading books as a “posse”. Years later, I asked some of the family about this event because in my mind, it was all being done to simply scare the man, like a bunch of grown men playing cowboys in the woods. I was assured, however,  both the pursuit and the shot were real. It’s hard telling what my kinfolks would have done to that man had they gotten their hands on him. Due to past troubles, they felt fairly certain they knew his identity, and while he was not killed, it’s likely that he was injured or perhaps scared into a few weeks of “bedrest”.

What does this have to do with today?

My Christmas Eve was not untouched by this sort of prejudice when a family member cited Donald Trump’s business success as an endorsement for his presidency and another family member chimed in how “Trump says what everyone is thinking.”  I know you’re not supposed to talk religion or politics in social situations and especially at Christmastime but I wasn’t going to sit there and let anyone believe Trump is talking for me. Trump reminds me of that man behind the white mask I witnessed as a child. He clothes his prejudice behind a mask of success and bravado, spewing ignorance and fear from his lips and through his actions. This person does not speak for me and I shudder to think the negative impact someone like that could cause in our relationships with the world. I’m not a political spokesperson and I am not savvy enough to present my viewpoints in any sort of debate, but as I told my relatives that night, just because someone thinks something doesn’t mean they should say it. Even as a red-neck hillbilly, I know enough about the world to know that is not what I want in a leader.

I apologize if any of you reading this disagree with my political leanings; I don’t want to get into the pros and cons here about any particular candidate or party system. This is my blog and I’m free to express my viewpoints and insist on a respectful dialogue. But I’d be lying if I did not confess that I long so for that age of innocence, even if it was imagined and not as innocent as I remember.

It’s nearly impossible to approach the New Year without some form of hope or another and I believe joint hopes work like prayers and assume their own kind of power. It is my hope that in 2016, we all look within ourselves and others and realize that when fear is leading our thoughts and actions, God is likely absent. God lives with faith and light and compassion to our neighbors; God would not have us live in fear but rather in love. I hope you remember here in the shadow cast by the Christmas season that Jesus came to us, himself a helpless refugee and how he suffered at the hands of those who feared and ridiculed him. I hope we can all find the courage to speak out for what it is that we believe in and have respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree. I hope we do not blindly follow propaganda that is untrue or does not align with our hearts. I hope we always remember the value of a human life, the value of all human lives. No one should wear the smug crown of righteousness; those who choose to live rigidly in their convictions leave no room for the light to seep in.

I wish you health, love, peace of mind and happiness in the New Year. I’ll see you in 2016!



The Girl From Goat Pasture road




Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: