Thursday, September 29, 2011


Happy birthday, new teenager (Friday, September 30, 2011).  You rock!

Keep that boundless enthusiasm.

Whip up some magic when you can.

Be helpful in choosing Brother's footwear.

Always be diplomatic.

Celebrate your unconventionality.

Never look Chesapeake Bay Mom directly in the eye on "off" days.

Stay absolutely adorable!  We love you.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Roses are smiling in gardens fair,

Filling with fragrance the balmy air,

Wonderful beauty and joy to share,

Roses are smiling at you

Words from "Wedding of the Flowers," a children's operetta performed by my 7th grade class at Botetourt Elementary School in the early fifties.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I'm not pretty when I'm mad; I'm not pretty when I'm crying, or any other time.  Here's the funny part:  I actually won a beauty contest.  After that, incredibly, people began to spread the word about how "pretty" I was.  I call it the "Miracle of the Pageant."  I believe the textbook term is "Suddenly Pretty Syndrome" (SPS), which has a genetic component - a goofy little character on the double helix turning "on" every other generation; so my children are safe, but I fear for my grandaughter.

The missing pixels in the clippings presented here forgive my crooked teeth, pot belly, and of course the hump on my back, not to mention the wart on my nose.  I was not just your average beauty queen, and I darn well knew it.  I entered hoping for a scholarship and when I won, was at a loss to justify my wreckless behavior.

Overcoming basic shyness as well as a stunning black eye received by swimming into the fist of my high school principal in the pool on the senior trip, I triumphed in spite of the bruise obscuring one eye (pancake makeup).  All I needed to complete the look was a peg leg and a parrot on my shoulder.  I went on to an undistinguished ranking at the state pageant, which was won by a three-time finalist who danced a ballet accompanied by herself playing all the instruments in a string quartet (recorded over).  I ask you, what chance did a poor hunchback with crooked teeth have?

After the competitions ended, suitors came from everywhere seeking a date with a verified pageant winner, authenticated by judges and wearing the seal of "Suddenly Pretty."  They were predictably unimpressive.  After all, I knew their angle and deplored it:  Dating a suddenly pretty beauty queen to claim another scalp for your belt is abhorrent...and thank you.

Monday, September 19, 2011


After 48 years of marriage, I am entitled to draw a few conclusions about the man to whom I pledged fidelity.  I conclude he is never satisfied with anything, including me, once obtained.  More specifically of late, any parking place in his sites.  Moses had easier time in the desert than Husband lost in the parking selection process.

I have come to expect it now:  the slow-rolling, almost-stopping, last minute fickle rejection of one slot after another in an almost empty lot for the promise of some elusive, Shangri-La auto pedestal of perfection.  Makes me wonder how much arduous consideration will be required for our burial plots, which we had better see to soon.

If they gave out awards for discriminating parking, Husband would have no competition.  The trouble is, I cannot follow his reasoning, and so I am at once surprised and perplexed when we finally arrive at his chosen place.  For instead of being closer to the entrance, sometimes we are farther away.  If asked, Husband will offer that a small tree offered shade or shelter from the North, or that there is a blind spot in the black ops surveillance, and institutional spy cams, or something else I failed to appreciate.

I have learned the path of least resistance serves me better than questions begging to lay blame on his compulsive ritual.  Whenever I feel my mouth engaging, I go to default:  The 50's on XM Radio, where I am perennially 16 and full of feelings.  It is a great place where Fat's Domino is "Walking," Elvis says "Love Me," and Bobby Rydell calls me "Wild Thing."  In the words of the Big Bopper, "Oh Baby, You Know What I Like!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


(The bible I carried down the aisle)

We were married the Saturday after Friday the 13th, 1963, and as if that weren't bad omen enough, husband's brother had a freak fender-bender the day before (or was it a freak who had a car accident?).  Though uninjured, Brother-in-Law - who wasn't planning on attending the wedding - nevertheless required Father-in-Law to skip the affair as a special favor to him.  Father-in-Law was all too obliging, as Mother-in-law, though relatively unconcerned about the accident, took special care to choose a wedding-appropriate "Mother of the Groom" ensemble of basic black. 

(Husband Giving Me the Raspberry)

Love conquers all, I thought, and maintained a steady course.  Obviously these people weren't as enthusiastic about our union as I had hoped, but I tried not to take it personally.  It would take many more variations on that theme before I fully realized my inherent unacceptability.  All that weighing of worth is entirely subjective criteria with humans, depending on what's impressive to them.  It isn't like birds, where bright plumage and a snappy trill would do the trick.  Had that been the case, I should  have "wow"ed them. 

In any case we endured the service and sped off on our Blue Ridge honeymoon in Husband's '51 Ford sedan, which still sits in the barn.  Alone at last.  The mountains were pretty and we were in love.  We came home via Appomatox Court House, where the South surrendered, and oddly where we ran into Mother-in-Law (she was coincidentally on a woman's club trek).    What are the chances, I thought, that so adept a damper should snuff out the sizzle of Love's free romp through the fields of Lee's defeat.  Check and checkmate, well done, worthy opponent.

All acrimony aside, all we have are memories now, so I should pretty them up I guess.  They were great people who helped our family learn how to live by example and who, though flawed, maintained a love of the higher life of the mind.  We still strive not to disappoint here on Waverly Lane.

(One of Our Magnolia Blossoms)

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The school bus is often the first school experience most children have, at least mine was.

When I started first grade, the big noisy, yellow bus squeaked to a halt at our drive, and a tousle-haired "school patrolman," in belt and badge, presented himself as protection on my walk across the road that lay in front of our home,  to the bus door and my seat.  The student patrolman occupied a high position in the hierarchy of the bus,  right after the driver, who was usually a man or woman short of temper and long of determination.  Given such unyielding and impartial overseers going by the book with grim, plodding procedure, most of us aspired to satisfy the objective of such zeal...i.e., choosing a seat, sitting down, and shutting up.   Usually this happened right after the patrolman shouted at us "Choose a seat, sit down, and shut up!"

On our way to school, there were the sights along the route - the things that seemed to repeat on our many trips to the grinding torture that was our early education.  There was one of my classmates' mother, who was held in special regard for her indifference to stop signs.  She was the wife of a retired army colonel and was recognizable by her large Jeep woody wagon as well as her head dress, which consisted of a black kerchief tied in Aunt Jemima fashion.  She was very nice and one of a kind, but bus drivers everywhere knew to slow to a crawl in her vicinity.  It is the reading between the lines, the use of logical deduction that separates those days from today.

Our last stop before school was in the village near a local cafe, which had living quarters upstairs.  Every morning our bus took in riders at the business and as they loaded on, a lady stood near the entrance to the living quarters with a fully-grown girl who obviously had mental and physical deficiencies.  They seldom failed to appear unless the weather prevented.  Clutching her doll, she always stood smiling at the edge of her world and waved excitedly to the children, some of whom laughed at her, on the bus in the other world.  She continued to wave with glee as we moved past the feeling of a little pain, a little pity, to our more fortunate destination.

Schools were segregated at this time, and I recall with a sense of shame how some passengers on the bus would rush to the windows when spying black children walking by the side of the road and shout unkind words at them.  I most recall the eyes and posture of the pedestrians treated to such unkind ridicule and I am profoundly shocked at my own failure to be incensed.  It speaks to the same low profile I maintain on many issues today.  Reason is no weapon in a duel with prejudice; moral rightness can be negotiated through illogical debate and dogma.  Sadly the "choose a seat, sit down, and shut up" philosophy has had an enduring influence, but I'm working on it every day on Waverly Lane.