Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Sweet Daddy is having his 80th Birthday!

Dear Sweet Daddy,

I am sending this with much love and hoping that your party will be a wonderful celebration of your birth. I am sorry that I won’t be there to celebrate with you on the day, but am thankful that we will be there just a few days afterwards to celebrate with you. Enjoy your party!

I have spent a great deal of time pondering what to say to you in this letter. A letter to be put in a book for everyone to read. Many, many things come to mind, but have already been written up in blog posts or in the book I did for you in 2009. Or they are simply too personal to put in a letter for all to see.

The thing that continues to come to mind is simply I love you. I hope that you know how much I love you. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t simply love My Sweet Daddy. I’m not sure if I love you more than any daughter ever loved her Daddy, although I have said for years that I am the self-proclaimed Queen of Daddy’s Girls. I only know that I have loved you as long as I can remember and as best I know how.

You have been such a place of earthly comfort and strength to me. As a small child, anything I imagined to be dangerous to me was held at bay when you were close by. I had a fast-held justified true belief that if My Sweet Daddy were near, nothing could harm me. As I grew older and became a little more aware of what danger really was, I still had a sense of well-being when you were close by. My belief grew from knowing that nothing would harm me if you were near to knowing that within your power, you would help keep me from harm if I acted prudently. Even older, when I brought my broken heart to you, you offered comfort and safety and I believe your heart broke along with mine. I took comfort from your care and concern and with courage and perhaps a little craziness dared to love again.

I love you for so many, many reasons. But the one I hold highest above all is the one I believe you would care for the most. And that is this: You lived your life in such a way that you pointed me to One dearer than even my own Sweet Daddy. You led me to a Heavenly Father, with whom I was very comfortable, thanks to the strong concept of Father that I learned from you. Thanks to your life, teaching and witness, I participate in Life Eternal that began all those years ago when you led me to know not only God the Father, but to accept God the Son.

I end with this. Simply one phrase, one solitary phrase that doesn’t say nearly what I want it to say, but also says it all. I love you, Daddy.

Your Baby Girl,


Monday, December 6, 2010

Irene and Malcolm got Married on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving fell on November 29 in 1928. The West Tennessee sky was clear very early that morning when a man, with a funny look on his face got into the old '28 car even before daylight and headed to Memphis, which was 30 miles away. That was quite a long trip on a road that was little more than a path. Murray (also known as Mr. Jimmie) was certain there were not enough pies for the dinner that day. He intended to remedy that situation!

Back at the house, Irene (also known as Sister and pronounced, 'Sistah'), a young beautiful young woman who stood at just 4 foot 11 inches was beyond excited. This was THE DAY!!! The dress was perfect, the church decorated and the trains were running on time!! Though she was nervous, Irene was so happy that her eyes were shinning brighter than they ever had before. She was going to marry Malcolm that day.

In Memphis, Lizzie and Charlie Younger, the parents of the groom, were headed to the train station. The ride to Oakland was not really a joyous occasion for them, at least not for Lizzie. Her Buddy, youngest child of six, was getting married to a little slip of a girl. A girl from a country town. Of course, their only daughter, Arlowynne, loved her dearly and was fairly bouncing and rushing everybody around. Must not miss the train for this is "Buddy's" Big Day, and if she could have chosen, she Arlowynne would have chosen Irene! Arlowynne and Malcolm {Buddy} were just 18 months apart, and she had always watched out for her little brother.

Folks in that small southern town were getting ready for the Austin Girl's wedding.
Her brothers had done their best to scare Mac off, and it did not work. They tried
all sorts of trickery and this boy from the city would not be put off! Must love Sistah!
The youngest, 7 year old Genie, had been very ill and the pretty white suit that
Bertha, the Austin Matriarch, had made faily hung on his young skinny frame. He simply
refused to wear suspenders.

Friends of Malcolm, they were all Preacher Boys, would be here on the Jackson train. It was on time, too! This certainly must be the Right Thing to do.

The kitchen was bustling with the girls who had come to help. They were humming and
buzzing around. They all loved Miss Irene. She was so kind and pretty. Those
girls left their families scattered in their little houses in Mr Jimmie's cotton fields which
were all around Oakland. Mr Jimmie pulled into the yard with a car full of pies. All the pies he could find at two bakeries and they were all Pumpkin Pie! The girls wondered what Miss Bertha was going to say when she saw all those pies!!

When the Memphis Train pulled in, and the Youngers walked on the platform and Lizzie
stopped abruptly! Her beautiful eyes, which were always bright and her best feature, were clouded. She covered her mouth with her hand and behind it announced to Charlie, Arlowynne, Malcolm and another son, Dude that she had forgotten her new store bought teeth. She meant to put them in her pocketbook....but in all the bustle she forgot! She would
not.....absolutey NOT go without her teeth. There were no more trains that would
get there and back. There was, however, another auto in the Austins lot. Maybe Larry Austin or somebody could take one of them back to get the teeth. They worked it out and as fast as that old auto could was off to Memphis on a Teeth Run!

That little church was packed. The piano was played. The special music, sung beautifully.
The attendants filed in. Then Gene came in.

As he walked not too far in front of his beloved Sistah and his Daddy, the little white pants begin to slip down. Irene handed Daddy the flowers that had come from the side yard and stopped. She bent and pulled up the pants, kissed Genie Boy, and proceded
down the isle.

On one side sat Bertha, without a smile. She remained stoic. No smile would come to her. It was her way. On the other side of the aisle sat Lizzie with a big smile. Teeth proudly gleaming.

At the front of the little church, Malcolm was handsome and proud as he looked up the church aisle. There, walking calmly, was the most beautiful girl in the world....Irene! She was his "Girl of My Dreams" that he would sing to for 49 years. This was the woman who would support him in his Ministry, because she felt the Lord calling her to do so. This would be the mother of his only child. She was simply The BEST, and she was his!

November 29 comes and goes. I remain here while my Mama and Daddy have gone to their Eternal Home.

Thank God for the Austins and the Youngers. I am a mixture of both.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If you would, please...

I have a request.

You see, I am going to do something next week that I sort of dread. But I'm dreading it with the hopes that I will come away with answers, a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

After 5 years of:

*seeing doctors {8 by my count} who have poked and prodded me and asked me a myriad of questions, and been stumped by the answers

*being tested for all sorts of awful things, none of which I seem to have {thanking God for that one}

*taking all sorts of different medications {some appear to be snake oil, if you ask me}

*being frustrated out of my mind
*living with seizure type activities {that they say are not seizures} occasional loss of cognitive abilities, and periods of being unable to communicate verbally

* being diagnosed {or not diagnosed} as 'interesting', 'off' and 'that ain't right'

*wearing my big girl panties far more than I'd like

*causing many people who love and care for me to worry, and doing some worrying myself

*shedding countless tears and facing down terrible fears

and last but not least

*being loved and tenderly cared for by the Amazing Rocket Man...

I have an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida next week. I am to arrive at 7 am on Monday and will be evaluated by Dr. Elizabeth Shuster in the Neurology Clinic.

So, here's my request. Would you say a prayer for me, for Rocket Man, for Dr. Shuster and the nurses and technicians that we will be dealing with next week? For safe travel to and from Jacksonville and for some answers.

We would appreciate it a great deal.

I will try to make posts on our adventures as we go.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweet Neenie

Neenie doing what she called 'cogitating' on my couch

I'm reposting what I wrote last year on my personal blog in honor of Neenie's Birthday. Just add a year to the amount of time we've all missed her and to her age. The love we continue to share with her, the gratitude we all have for allowing that precious woman to be a part of our lives, the foundation she gave us...those things remain just as strong as they ever were. Happy Birthday, Neenie! Oh, and I wrote in pink because that was her favorite color.

Malcolm and Irene Younger.

She was the biggest little woman I ever knew. Slight of stature but she could fill a room with her presence. Regal in her composure, yet composed with humility. Her hands were gnarled and knuckles huge…but oh! my!...the things she could do with those hands. She tatted and made lace, she played the piano and organ, she sewed, she wrote lovely letters, she baked and she cooked, she painted and she did every sort of craft you can imagine. She touched my face with her hands and she made an indelible mark in my heart. She loved us deeply and she taught us greatly. She loved her Lord with an unwavering faith. She followed His commands and she prayed. Oh, how she prayed for us.

Neenie and my grandson, Sean Austin Teater. Her maiden name was Austin, so Sean is her namesake.

My maternal grandmother. Known lovingly as Sister, Irene, Mrs. Younger, Neenie, Aunt Sister, and Mrs. Whitehead. Her name was as big as she was little: Ella Alice Irene Austin Younger Whitehead! But for a long, long time…they just called her Sister. Only daughter born to her parents, she was the first-born of 8 (6 survived). I imagine that everyone who ever knew her loved her. Everyone I knew did.

Neenie and my grandson, Malcolm. Malcolm is named for my grandfather.

As I walk through my house, there is something in every room that reminds me of her. I have pieces of furniture that were hers. I have dishes, artwork, doo-dads, jewelry, books, bibles and clothes that were hers. Oh, and hankies. She loved hankies. But more than those things that she gave me, I have memories of her. And a relationship and love that endures beyond the bounds of time and space.

After church on a Sunday morning in Memphis, 1995. Wasn't she elegant?

She once said to me, "Mollianne, there are things between us that don't have to be said out loud. Because they are in our hearts, and our hearts know." That is where I carry her now. Reverently, humorously, delightfully and with a bittersweet memory of that wonderful creature that God allowed to grace my life.

Captain (Chaplin) and Mrs. Malcolm A. Younger, taken while he was in training during WWII

This day, the anniversary of her birth...102 years later, I hope that I live my life in such a way that she would be proud of me. She always encouraged me. The last conversation I had with her 6 years ago was about my upcoming college graduation. She was so proud that I finally finsihed my degree. She reminded me that we didn't have to say good-bye, because when she went to heaven, it was just a matter of time until I joined her there.

Charles, Gene, Bob and Sister-the Austin kids

Six years later, I still miss her. I miss calling her when I find the first crocus in the spring. I miss calling her to tell her I made her chicken and dumplings. I miss her when I find a card that she sent tucked away in a book. I miss her when I read poems that she loved. I miss her when I put one of her hankies in my Bible on Sunday morning before I go to church.

Neenie and her beloved daughter, Charlotte (my Mother)

Much of what I am and who I want to be has to do with her calm and gentle influence in my life. I am so blessed to have had such a grandmother. And the most wonderful thing she ever did for me was to raise my Mother. God must have just known that it would take the whole tribe to raise me, and he found a line of strong, elegant, capable women and put me in their care. I am so thankful for them. But I still miss her.

Four Generations of Eisinger females,
Irene Austin Younger, Bertha Eisinger Austin, Charlotte Younger Buster and Baby Mollianne Buster

She used to tell me that she loved me 'more and . Well, Little Neenie, I love you...More and More! If they celebrate birthdays in heaven, I hope that a choir of angels and all the people who loved you on earth are singing to you tonight. And I hope that there is vanilla ice cream to go with the cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

I graduated from high school in June of 1975. I graduated from college in May of 2003. Not everyone takes 28 years to complete a college education, but I did. I found myself re-evaluating some things in the spring of 2002 and knew that if I were ever going to finish my degree requirements and graduate, I'd probably better do it soon. I only needed 7 classes to complete my degree. I had not been in school for over 6 years at that point. Was I really content to be only 7 classes short of a college degree? For the rest of my life?

As I was contemplating all of this, a curious set of circumstances fell into place--almost like the planets aligned in the correct order. My401(k) was doing very well. I could cash that out and the funds would be available for me to quit my job and finish school. My oldest step-daughter was about to be a senior in high school, and then we would have her in it was sort of a now or never situation. I had a job that was beginning to drive me batty. I was certain that the church job I had was taking years off the end of my life. I loved my boss, but my goodness! I couldn't keep up with him. So one day in late April of 2002, I checked the class schedule for the following year. Guess what? The 7 classes that I wanted (not simply classes that would meet my graduation requirements, but classes I wanted) were not only being offered, but were also being taught by the professors I would have chosen to study under. 1 class in the summer mini-semester, 3 in the fall and 3 in the spring.

I re-enrolled, signed up for the classes, turned in my notice and by golly...I went back to school. This was it. It was now or never time. It was time to Man Up or Go Home (a motivational phrase used by one of Rocket Man's former favorite basketball coaches).

One more time, I bought my books, filled up my backpack, went back to a familiar room in Roberts Hall and was once again immersed in the education process. That summer mini-semester nearly killed me. Renaissance and Reformation in a month. We went to school 4 days a week and were in class for 3 1/2 hours. It was killer. Every night, I would read (scan and hope I caught what he wanted) as many as 600 pages for the next days' class. It was a class for seniors and graduate students. I thought I would die. I knew it was going to kill me. I loved it. I felt like I'd come back home.

The academic year flew by and I did my share of student whining, crying, procrastinating, paper writing, had test anxiety and did more than a few all-nighters. My papers were all written and turned in. All I had left to do was take those final exams and walk the stage to get my diploma. Only glitch in the whole thing was that my precious Neenie, my dear grandmother, was dying with congestive heart failure. She died the night after I attended my last class.

Rocket Man and I drove home to Missouri early the next morning, to celebrate her life and mourn her death with my family. I called back to the school and made arrangements to take my finals late. My professors were very kind and sympathetic. There would be time to take my finals when I returned home, and one of them was so kind as to send me the final via email. I took it and emailed it back to him. I will never forget how wonderful that felt. To be trusted and shown such compassion. I rode home after the funeral with my head in a book, but I don't think I really got anything out of that studying.

I took a deep breath, pulled on my big-girl panties and took those tests. I passed with flying colors. They were the types of tests that cramming for would have never helped, anyway. You either got the concepts and could write about them or you didn't. I got them.

There was last minute paperwork to take care of between finals and graduation. I had this silly fear that some lady in an administrative office would call and say that I was lacking a class in Breathing-for Credit or something. It was a 28 year recurring nightmare that after all that work, I had missed something.

But I got that paper that paper signed off by every necessary person and I got out the gown that I had purchased and tried to steam the wrinkles off of it. My parents drove to town, as did my son and daughter in law. I was actually going to graduate from college. I could hardly believe it!

May 11, 2003 dawned bright and clear. It was Mother's Day, and so wonderful to spend it with not only my Dear Mother, but also my precious children AND grandchildren. One of my stepdaughters was even with us for part of the day. We went to church and then out to lunch and my anticipation was building like crazy.

I had hummed Pomp and Circumstance for so long that it felt like my theme song. And,finally. At long last, here I was. I donned my cap and gown (and my honor cords...I was so proud) and found my assigned spot in the line. I didn't see a soul I knew, but it didn't matter. The line began to move and we snaked through the civic center. I reached up to check my funny hat, made sure my white tassel on the correct side and we emerged into the arena. I heard a familiar tune. Could it be? Was the orchestra really and truly playing....YES!


That turned into one of the longest afternoons of my life. Some man gave a speech that nobody listened to. Yada, yada, yada. Get to the good stuff, please. We graduated by colleges, and the College of Liberal Arts was 3rd. I read every name in my program as they called them out. I counted how many names until my college would stand en masse. Finally, our escort signaled for us to stand and I wanted to jump up and shout!!! The girl in front of me kept stopping to wave to friends and I finally put my hands on her back and gently pushed her. Excuse me? Let's go, girlie! I wanted to get to that stage. I wanted to be there when they called my name.

All of the sudden, I was up on the stairs. Check the hat. Listening. Listening. Closer to the Dean, who was beaming at me, as she knew me and my story. It had been 27 years, 11 months and 9 days since I'd walked across a stage and received any sort of academic diploma. Hurry up! Say my name. Say it right. Then, there is was. "Mollianne Buster Massey, Cum Laude." Walk across the stage. Check hat, again...dropped my grandmother's handkerchief on the stage but kept on walking. Look at the President, shake his hand and RECEIVE THE DIPLOMA! The wonderful young man behind me picked up my hankie and handed it to me. It was a good thing, because before I got down the stairs on the other side of the stage, I was in tears.

I stopped to have my picture taken by the professional photographer and looked up. My Mother and my Rocket Man were leaning over the rail, taking pictures and waving. I waved back and exclaimed, "It has my name on it! It has my name on it!"

Mollianne Buster Massey

Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude

A degree had been conferred upon me! Me!! With honors! Glory, Glory Hallelujah!

That road from Widefield High School to the 2003 Graduation Exercises of the University of Alabama in Huntsville was a long and winding road.

It took me 28 years, but by my case, slow and steady really did win the race.

I can't put words to the way I felt when I saw the look of pride on my Sweet Daddy's face as I showed him my diploma. It meant the world to be able to do something so positive and celebratory with my Dear Mother such a short time after she lost her own precious Mother, and on Mother's Day to boot! I cherish the beaming pride I saw in Rocket Man's eyes when he kissed me and said, "I told you that you are the smartest person I ever knew." Not many people graduate from college with their children and grandchildren in the audience. but I did! On Mother's Day, no less! Oh, how I treasure that day in my heart!

This story isn't complete until I say that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful and thankful for the support of people like John Cole, Andy Cling, Brian Martine, Craig Hanks, Dick Gerberding, Chris Hendricks, Ken McFetridge, Bob Austin, Jerry and Carol Mebane, my PEO chapter, my church family, my children, my parents, my classmates and a plethora of others who encouraged and helped me along the way. Most especially to my darling Rocket Man, Ed Massey, not only gently encouraged me along the way, but also sat through and helped me pass Pre-Calculus. My heart is full of gratitude every time I look at the diploma hanging on the wall of my office and know that it took a village to get me through school. Thank you, one and all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Lesson Learned

My senior year started out just like most everyone else's. Groups of kids gathered in front of the school, comparing schedules and summer adventures. I had spent a good deal of the summer with my brother and his family in Colorado Springs, so I had lots to tell.

The fall progressed with Marching Band and and parades and football games and play practice. I loved working on the sets for our fall production in Drama Class. I was in Chorus and Mixed Ensemble. I was active in church and our Youth Choir. We were all looking at college possibilities and I made a decision and was accepted at Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri. One of my dearest friends was going to go with me and we were very excited at the thought of going away to college together.

Fall moved to winter and Christmas break. I knew that my Daddy was talking to a church in the Colorado Springs area, and I thought how fun it might be to live there permanently. I loved the mountains and I already knew people there. We drove up to my Grandparents' house for Christmas and my folks flew out to Colorado Springs for Daddy to talk to the pulpit committee and preach in view of a call. It all seemed like a big adventure to me.

Until...the church called Daddy and he accepted the call. And we had to pack up and move at the semester break of my senior year. I was quite torn. What about Southwest Baptist College? What about graduating with my class? What about concerts and basketball games and more plays and assemblies?

What about them? Some dear adult friends went and begged my parents to let me stay with them and finish the year. They promised to supervise me and take good care of me. I'm sure they would have. Secretly, I was hoping that my folks would say it was okay. Outwardly, I was following the party line.

My folks did not agree. You see, they believed that the family unit was more important than the individual child. We were going as a family. Mollianne would adjust and be okay. They were the original 'No Child Left Behind' kind of people.

Our semester wasn't over until mid-January, and I went to school until the last day of the 1st semester. I checked out, turned in my books and walked through the halls one last time. I was no longer a Kennett Indian. Things would go on without me. I was going from a class of about 160 people to a class of 575! Lots of things were going to change for me in a big hurry.

Before I left the building, I snuck into the auditorium and sat in the dark. I tried to remember all the opening assemblies, Homecoming assemblies, MOD assemblies and concerts I'd participated in during my years at KHS. I wanted to drink it all in.

I drove my car home and helped Mother pack. We really had fun packing up things, throwing things away, donating things to the needy in our community. I learned a lot from my Mother about packing and moving (and that came in handy when I married and became a military wife). She told me all about the new house and people she'd met at the new church. We packed the cars, the trailer and the big U-Haul truck. It seems we went to dinner at the home of everyone we knew in Kennett, Missouri. My friends had a surprise going away party for me and all promised to keep in touch. We went to the last Sunday services and to the going away fellowship.

Then, we got in those packed up cars and started driving in a caravan. We drove as far as my Grandparents' house and we spent the night there. The next morning, we headed west. I made a sign and put it in my back window that said, "Pikes Peak or Bust". Driving across Kansas in January was quite an adventure. I was in my car-all alone-for the entire drive. My car was packed to the point that even the front passenger seat was full. I listened to my radio, sang my favorite songs and drove all the way to our new home.

I learned many lessons from my parents as I grew up. One of the most important, I think, was the lesson I learned about family. Occasionally, I wonder what life would have been like for me had they left me to finish my senior year with my class. Would things be different for me now? Would my life have taken a different path? Those questions don't matter, because I didn't stay. I went as a part of my family. To a new home, church, school, state and a whole new life. We went together. And you know what? It was okay. I was lonesome for things back home, but I made new friends. And I have kept up with the old ones all these years.

In the early years of my marriage to an Air Force officer, I watched many families stay behind while Dad went on to a new assignment so the children could finish the school year where they were. We never did. Because of the example set by my parents, my husband and I felt that the family unit was more important than friends or school years or school systems or even church families. There was never a question about staying behind. We moved as a family, every time. No exceptions. My children moved mid-year several times, and always made new friends and settled in to their new classes and church with relative ease.

Recently, there was a chance that my husband would be moving to Florida for a year to work on a contract at Kennedy Space Flight Center. Many, many people were shocked when I said that yes, I was planning on moving with him if they won the contract. I was surprised at my peers who said that there was no way they'd leave their grown up children and grandchildren for a year. I would smile and say that our family is different. Molli sleeps where Ed sleeps was my answer. I'd have missed my daughter and her family, but for me...the family unit-which now consists of Ed and Mollianne- is more important than any one member (or multiple grandchildren) of our extended family.

Yep! I learned many lessons my senior year...none more valuable to me than the lesson my parents taught me by their words and actions about the importance of family.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed

The year was 1973 and I was sixteen. Sweet Sixteen and never been kissed, as the saying went. I would have happily changed that status, but alas...I had no offers for that long awaited first kiss. As long as I could remember, my parents told me that I could date when I was 16. I still don't understand that arbitrary number, but that was the edict and my parents meant it.

I actually was asked out a few times when I was 15, but I had to turn those opportunities down, because I hadn't achieved the magic age. I remember quietly crying bitter tears into my pillow when that happened. I was afraid that nobody would ever ask me out again.

So, imagine how I anticipated that magic number. Sixteen! I could have cared less about driving... I wanted to go on a date. I had this whole Barbie idea of what dating would be. I might have even envisioned a poodle skirt and soda shop, although nobody wore poodle skirts and there wasn't a soda shop in town. I just knew that on my 16th birthday, the phone would ring and I would hear that question that would make me feel beautiful and worthy and whole..."Mollianne, would you like to go on a date this Saturday night?"

May 20 dawned and I woke up eager to greet the day. It was a Sunday, so we were busy that morning with church. I went out 'riding' with my best friend that afternoon. She was already 16 and we were going on an adventure. It turned out to be quite an adventure when she had car trouble and we were out riding on county roads. Thankfully, a nice man got her car going again and she dropped me off at home, just in time to get ready for Baccalaureate that evening. None of the churches in town had Sunday evening services that night, as everyone gathered in the sweltering gym to honor the graduating seniors.

When the service was over, I found my Mother and asked if I could walk home. I was beginning to think that I probably wasn't going to get that magic phone call and I was so disappointed. I hung my head and drug my feet toward home in the twilight, pulling my heart behind me in the dust.

I look back on that sweet and very innocent 16 year old girl with a heart full of love and tenderness. Such expectations of what life was going to be. So many wonderful and lofty dreams. She wanted so badly to be loved by just one perfect male, and yet she was unprepared for that sort of a relationship. If I could walk home with her, I would tell her to be patient and not waste her time waiting for the things that would come in due season. I would brush the hair from her eyes and promise her that she would have everything she longed for, but I would warn her that those things would come with a price. I would tell her to pick up her heart and hold her head high. I would tell her not to ever let her self esteem be tied up in another person (oh, the agony that would have prevented).

As I came up the alley to my house, I noticed that the lights were blazing. I came in the door and my Mom asked me to go get something in the living room. When I went turned the corner, the room was full of people. My Mother had organized a surprise party for me. I had played into her hands beautifully by feeling sorry for myself and walking home alone. There were all these shining faces, singing Happy Birthday to me and wishing me well and somehow, I felt just a bit better about being Sweet Sixteen and Never Been kissed.

I DID get that first kiss on New Year's Eve at a party when my family was out of town, visiting friends. I wish I could tell you the name of the boy who kissed me. I remember a lot about it. I remember that "American Pie" was playing and it was almost midnight. I remember that it was very sweet, although I'm sure sweet wasn't that he (whatever his name was) was aiming at. I remember that I liked it. I liked it a lot. I remember that I was probably 4 inches taller when I woke up the next morning. I remember thinking I'd slain a giant, because I'd finally gotten my first kiss.

I still hadn't been asked on a date, but I had been kissed!

Oh, and about the dreams that sixteen year old Mollianne held so dear...
Fifty-three year old Mollianne can say, with tears of wonder in my eyes, that they have all come true. Those dreams and so many more. Some of them were made possible by having my heart broken. Many of them came true because I worked hard to make them happen. All of them are great blessings in my life. The song that says; God bless the broken road that led me straight to you-could be my theme song. My road has been broken and I have lived through things that a sixteen year old couldn't fathom, but God has been faithful through it all and blessed me abundantly. And I am ever so grateful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Geometry was a bad idea!

I have burned up brain cells remembering my sophomore year in high school! I looked through my yearbook to find that I was in the band, FHA, FTA and pep club. Rather bland and boring. I remember that I joined FTA because one day a year, FTA members got to go spend the entire day in an elementary school, helping out a teacher. I have never wanted to be a teacher. But I did want to miss a day of school. So I paid my dues, went to meetings and got to spend a day in a second grade classroom. That experience made me even more certain that I was not called to be an elementary school teacher.

I did a very silly thing as a sophomore and I suffered for it all year long. I signed up for geometry. Geometry was not required to graduate. Math is not something in which I have ever done particularly well. To be quite frank, I stink at math. I don’t like it, either. Why I signed up for it, I will never know. I only know that I suffered. All. Year. Long.

Mrs. Charlene Mitchell was the geometry teacher in our school. She seemed ancient when I had geometry in 1972-73. She had already gained almost mythical status in the lore of Kennett High School. I wish I could say that she taught me geometry, but she did not. She told me to listen to my book, it would talk to me. Mine was mute. I never heard it say a word. And if it could have talked, it would have said, “Run away! Run away!”

To make it worse, I had first period geometry. Oh, how I wanted to be sick every morning! I was lost from the moment I walked in the door, and lost when I walked out of it for the last time.

Mrs. Mitchell sat at her desk with her eyes closed. I’m not kidding. It’s a fact. When I had the misfortune to be called to the board to work a problem and she had to come do it for me, because I never once got it right, she would stand beside me and work the entire thing WITH HER EYES CLOSED. Really! You can ask anyone who ever had her.

We had homework every night. I copied the problems every night. I wrote things down…doesn’t geometry have theorems or something? I remember I had one of those metal thingies that has a sharp point and you can draw a circle. Aren’t angles involved in geometry? I was a terrible geometry student.

Which led me to doing something terribly wrong. And I got away with it. It involved my grade, report cards and playing the system. I managed to get a C the first 9 weeks. I imagine I got it because I copied the homework problems and scribbled something on the page every night and turned it in. I took the report card home and my mother signed it. I wasn’t scolded or anything, because nobody expected me to be a scholar, and especially not in geometry.

I should explain how our report cards worked at that time. You had a different card for each class. Your parents were to sign each one and the card was returned to the teacher who gave it to you. After Mother signed the first one, I turned it in. I was following the rules.

The second 9 weeks, I had been given a D. I’m sure I was probably failing, but I kept turning in homework papers with the problems copied from the book and some sort of nonsense scribbled beside each problem, as if I were trying to work the problem. And maybe I was. I had no clue as to what I was doing, but I turned in pages every day. I'm sure that the D was a gift and I deserved and had earned an F. I was just grateful for the D.

I did not give that report card to my Mother. While a C was tolerated, a D would not have been. I didn't try to forge her signature on the report card. In my mind that would have been really stupid and I would have been in BIG, BIG trouble if I’d done that.

When the report cards were to be turned in, I simply didn’t turn mine in. Mrs. Mitchell never seemed to notice that she hadn’t gotten one back, nor did she notice that she never again gave me a report card. My mother never noticed that there was a missing card in the stack and never inquired.

Today, I am confessing my sin and I imagine that when she reads this, Mother will find out that I actually got D’s in geometry. I know that I had D’s the rest of the year because I have a copy of my high school transcript.

To my knowledge, that is the worst thing I did as a teenager, and I never got caught. I know I never got caught, because Id still be grounded if I my deception had been noticed. I think I must have figured that was my only pass, and I’d be VERY stupid to do anything else I wasn’t supposed to do…because it would for sure catch up with me.

Dear Mother and Daddy,

I guess you know, if you didn’t already, that I didn’t do a bang-up job in geometry. I guess you also know that I wasn’t honest about it. I hadn’t thought about it for years, until I was in the high school buildings this summer. I hope that you can forgive me for that after all these years. It was wrong and I knew it then. I imagine that I lived in a personal hell the entire year for fear of being caught. If I was deliberately deceitful at any other time, I can’t recall it now. You certainly taught me to be better than that, and I certainly failed.

Thank you for all the life lessons you taught me. I hope that the ‘love you no matter what’ extends to confessions made 37 years later.



Golly…that was harder than I thought!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Own Room and a Little Secret

I have to be honest. This has been the hardest post for me to write. My memory of what happened last week is occasionally foggy. What happened 39 years ago has vaporized into a mist of sorts. My freshman year is lost in that mist, somewhere.

One thing I do remember because to me it was such a happy occasion is that for the first time in over 7 years, I had my own room again. What a happy day that was for me. I think that was the year I realized that I was okay with spending large segments of time alone. I didn't realize it at the time, but I now understand that I began then to feed and nurture my introverted self. I loved to go in my room and shut the door and lay on the bed and daydream or read. I had chosen the color scheme for the room and it was green and lavender. I even made some pillows in home economics and put them on my bed. I re-arranged the furniture regularly.

I had my favorite books on the shelf and my very own posters on the walls and doors. I would cut out letters and put sayings on the closet door. I had a desk with my very own drawers to put my treasures in.

My room was mine, all mine, unless we had out of town guests. And those guests were usually my grandparents and I always loved their visits so much that I didn't mind sleeping on the couch. In theory, my little sister wouldn't be getting into my things anymore (but we all know how that sort of things works out, don't we?).

It was a haven to me that was so sweet. The house was older, built probably in the 30s or 40s. There were large windows that let the sunshine in, but sturdy drapery to keep it out if I wanted. The sunshine would flood my room and it was so cheery. I just loved being in there.

I could listen to my radio, often quietly late at night..much later than I was supposed to. I'll even tell you a secret about me and that radio. I listened to boxing on Friday and Saturday nights. Loved it. I loved hearing the announcer and imagining the fight in my mind. I loved the sounds of it all, knowing it was happening far away and I could lay in my bed at 105 North Vandeventer Street in Kennett, Missouri and listen to it as it happened. Years later, I saw my first live boxing match, when my fiance participated in intramural boxing at the Air Force Academy. I walked in the gym just as he stepped in the ring. I nearly fainted when he got hit and his nose started bleeding. I was not amused when he ran over to me, face bloodied up after the match and tried to hug me in victory because he won. I watched him box and referee boxing until he graduated and didn't watch boxing again for a long, long time. I like it a lot better on television and I really like it when Roy Jones, Jr. is boxing and wins...but that is a story for another time.

I could read past my bedtime and occasionally get away with it with nobody to rat me out. I could priss in front of my mirror and try on clothes to my heart's content. My room was just like I liked it, it was mine and it is where my adolescent dreams were formed and played out in my mind.

So, 9th grade stands out in my mind as the year I discovered that I like my own company and having my own space is a very good thing for me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rolling in Cash!

My eighth grade year was a year of huge ups and tremendous downs. Not unlike many, I suspect, I was emotional, hormonal, full of self-doubt and insecure. My family experienced great upheaval and we carried many burdens. All too many of them were highly public.

In considering what I’d like my Grandchildren to know about me in the eighth grade, I pondered it all. Good and bad. Lovely and ugly. A story... long forgotten... came to mind and reminded me of many good and kind things and people of my youth. THAT is the story I would like to share.

I began to babysit in the 8th grade. I’m talking serious babysitting. As many as 4 to 5 nights a week, I might be taking care of any number of children. Sometimes, families would combine their children and I would care for them. I had a major business going on. I had a regular Tuesday night gig with 2 little girls whose Daddy was in Viet Nam and their mother played bridge on Tuesday nights. If you wanted me on Saturday night, you better call early in the week, because I usually was booked by Wednesday night. People would call and ask me if I could refer someone to them if I were unable to babysit myself, so I had a free referral service going, too.

I earned about 50 cents an hour. For your 50 cents, I would fix dinner, clean up the kitchen, entertain and bathe your children, put them to bed and generally straighten up the living room before you came home. For a limited few, I even helped with the laundry. I might do all of that and come home with $2.50. My families LOVED me!

I was hauling in the dough, I tell ya! Far more than I could possibly spend. At least, far more than I could have spent when I was 13. My spending skills have improved since then.

Early in the fall, when I had accumulated $20, I decided that I needed to put my money in the bank. Without consulting anyone, I got on my bicycle one afternoon after school and rode down to the bank where a member of my Daddy’s church was a senior officer. I parked that old blue bicycle outside, dusted off my skirt and marched in, $20 in hand.

When asked if I could be helped, I announced that I was there to see Mr. Gene McKinney. The nice receptionist asked if she could tell him who was calling and I said, “Miss Mollianne Buster.” I was acting in what I supposed was a correct, business-like manner. After all, I was about to do business with the bank.

Mr. McKinney was as kind a man as I ever knew. He was grinning ear to ear when he came out of his office and ushered me in. He asked me what he could do for me, and I pulled out my $20…in dollars and quarters…dumped it on his desk and told him I would like to put my money in the bank, and I’d like him to take care of it for me.

As if I had a whole crop of cotton money to invest, he carefully explained that what I needed was a passbook savings account. He left me sitting at his desk and went out and got the paperwork. He helped me fill it all out and made the deposit slip for me. He promised me solemnly that he would take good care of my money and he instructed me in the deposit and withdrawal procedures. He told me it was much better to make deposits than withdrawals and explained that my money would earn interest. He asked me if I was tithing to the Curch based on my earnings and exclaimed, “Good Girl!” when I told him of course I was.

As I left, he took me around and introduced me to the tellers and told them that I was the newest bank customer and that they were to take care of me and my money when I came in.

Very satisfied that I had done a wise thing, I put my blue passbook into the basket of my bicycle and pedaled home.

My mother met me with a smile. Mr. McKinney had wasted no time in calling her and telling her that I had just made his day.

For the next 5 years, until we moved away from that wonderful small town, I would find Mr. McKinney on Sundays and shake his hand. “Are you taking good care of my money, Mr. McKinney?” I would ask. Again, as if my little account (which, by the way grew to the princely sum of about $400 before we moved) was the most important account he had, he would answer, “Why, yes, Mollianne! I am personally watching over your money and it is safe and sound.” He would give me the biggest smile and his eyes would twinkle.

My formative years are full of people like Mr. Gene McKinney, all of whom could be characters on the Andy Griffith show. I am so thankful that I grew up in a small town and knew such people. These adults who treated me with dignity, even when I barged into their place of business without an appointment, were a wonderful example of how people ought to act.

Looking back now, I’m sure I was a funny child and probably a source of amusement for many in that little town. But I am oh! so! grateful for the opportunity of growing up in small town America with those men and women of such character. They set a high standard for me in how to conduct myself in my business and with my fellow man.

And, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get out of that hick town when I was a teenager. I was sure that things were happening everywhere else in the world. I suppose that time is a great teacher and now I appreciate that time and place and am very proud to say that I’m from Kennett, Missouri.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I said, "Leave me ALONE"

I was a 'new kid' in 7th grade. We were new to town, and it was a small town. Smack-dab in the Bootheel of Missouri. A wonderful small town that I still consider home. It is a place unlike any other I've ever been.

I had to make adjustments. I was not famous here for being "Molli Mouse". There were lots of people who felt the need to explain to me that I was really short, like I wasn't aware that they were all taller than me. I was a preacher's kid and for the first time, I took some teasing about that. I didn't really understand that, either. I was a pretty good kid, but people seemed to think that I was going to be up to no good, just beacuse my Daddy was a preacher. I got to take French and I was able to join the Band and learn to play the French Horn. We had art class, too. Junior High was really very nifty.

Kennett Junior High School was quite a change from Alma Schrader Elementary School. For one thing, it was an old facility. Alma Schrader was about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Kennett Junior High school was older than my grandparents.

I had a locker and we had upstairs and downstairs classes. Going up the stairs became an ordeal for me. See, there was a boy...(isn't that the way it always starts) who was probably a pretty typical specimen. Goofy, geeky and fairy disgusting if I recall. At least I thought he was.

He would manage almost daily to get behind me as we trudged up those stairs between classes. It was always a crush of pre-adolescent humanity. It was loud and crowded, since it was back when you could talk in the halls. Anyway, lets call him...Jim Bob (not his real name, although I don't know why I feel the need to protect him). His whole reason for living seemed to be to creep up behind me on the stairs and pop my bra strap and say, "Bust ya, Buster!"

I tried ignoring him. I asked him to quit. I insisted that he leave me alone. I yelled at him to quit. All to no avail. After weeks and weeks of this, I finally told my Mother. I wasn't used to always getting a lot of smpathy from her where my brothers were concerned. They teased me a lot, but when I whined about that (and I'm thinking I whined A! LOT!) she would say with a sigh (because I'm sure she was tired of hearing it), "Oh, Mollianne. They wouldn't tease you if they didn't love you." Yeah, right, Mom! My Mother, the only child, had NO idea what it was like to have 2 big brothers.

Much to my surprise, she looked me square in the eyes and said, "Mollianne. Don't let Jim Bob do that to you." I explained that I'd asked and begged and told him to stop and he continued doing it and I purely hated it. Once again, she told me to stop him. I was perplexed. How in the world did she think I could make him stop?
She whispered soemthing in my ear, and I began to think I might be able to make him stop. I devised a plan and executed it with precision.

The next day, I dawdled a bit and was one of the last ones going up the stairs. In fact, I was almost tardy. As I neared the landing, I felt that hand on my back and the pop of my bra. I turned around, narrowed my eyes and peered directly into his (I was one stop above him, so I could see him eye to eye...remember I'm short) and said calmly, quietly and very deliberately, "I have asked you to stop and I meant it!" He laughed, right to the point when I kneed him in his...well, lets just say I racked him. With all the might I had and for all of my sisters who had endured the humiliation of bra popping, I planted my knee in his crotch and I watched him drop his books and double over.

There! I thought! As my Grandma Buster used to say, "That'll learn ya, durn ya!"

Then, to my horror,I looked over his head to see a male teacher standing right behind him.

I thought I was busted for sure. On many levels. But that dear man simply told me I'd better get on to class and he took Jim Bob by the neck and told him he'd gotten just what he deserved.

Being as it was a small town and all, and that my Daddy was the pastor of First Baptist Church, Mother knew before I got up the stairs and to class what I'd done.

She met me at the door with a smile and asked if I'd taken care of my little problem. Yes m'am I had. She told me that she'd had an intersting call from the school and that I was not going to be in trouble there. Then she told me I needed to stand up for myself and not let boys touch me or do things to me that they ought not do.

My dear Mother and I formed a friendship of sorts that day. I realized that she was on my side, even when I didn't think so. I learned that she expected me to use my noggin and have some gumption and not let people push me around. Believe you me, she wanted me to know that I come from a long line of very strong women and that wasn't going to end with her. Not on her watch.

I never told anyone else about the indicent until years later. Mother and I have laughed about it over the years. It is legendary in my mind.

The day I kicked Jim Bob in the nuts so he'd leave me alone.

And, you know what?
He never bothered me again.

Seventh grade rocked!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Bridge

The Bridge

I look back at my eleventh year with awe and wonder. It was 1968. The world around us was changing at an amazing pace. It was an election year and there was quite a ruckus at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago...remember the Chicago Seven? That was current events when I was eleven. The evening news was full of rioting in the streets and body counts from Viet Nam. A family down the street from us was keeping their Christmas lights up until their son came home from Viet Nam…and the lights were still up when we moved from the neighborhood. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated a month before my birthday and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated two weeks after my birthday. The world was a dangerous place.

Nonetheless,in my town the kids who lived on Masters Drive (and there were about 50 of us) roamed the streets, rode our bikes, played ‘murder in the dark’, had dirt clod fights, and had wonderful times sledding. There was a park down the street from the school yard, Dennis Scivally Park, and a creek ran through it. I spent hours and hours playing on the bridge that crossed the creek. I spent hours and hours playing on the bank of the creek, and even though I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to, I’ll confess here and now that I spent hours and hours IN the creek. Unsupervised. Unattended. With a peanut butter sandwich wrapped in wax paper in my pocket and the awareness that I had better be home by supper time.

We built dams in the creek, we skipped rocks, we went ‘stomping’ up the creek. I made boats and sailed them. We caught frogs and turtles and watched as minnows followed our bare feet. Days were long and lazy, just as childhood days ought to be. It really was the last year of childhood in that sense for me.

Fast forward a bunch of years. One of my elementary school friends is now an artist of some acclaim. She works in watercolor and several years ago, my parents made contact with her again. Mother sent me a web address and told me to look her up. I was so excited as I typed in the web address and found her site of beautiful paintings. My Rocket Man came home from work and found me in front of the computer…weeping. Brenda had painted a picture of the bridge. We were, as fortune would have it, headed to see my parents in just a few weeks. Rocket Man said that we were going to find Brenda and he was going to purchase a print of that watercolor for me.

We went on our trip and drove to Hannibal to meet my brother and go see Brenda. We got to her gallery and I was so excited. I was not only going to reconnect with a friend after so many years, but I was also going to get a lovely print of one of the most treasured places of my childhood. Rocket Man didn’t beat around the bush. After introductions were made, he told Brenda that he needed to purchase a print of the bridge. She had to tell us that it was sold out. But, she said that she would be happy to do another.

Within a year, I had not a print, but an original watercolor of the bridge, painted by my childhood friend. It hangs in my bedroom and makes me smile every time I look at it. It takes me back to a time when children could play…just play… without a referee, trophies, supervision or uniforms. Every child was not a star, and a lot of things weren’t fair. We could, on occasion, be happy playing with just a stick and a string.

Lots of other things happened that year. Some of them were amazing. Some were sad. Some were life changing. But the thing that I love to remember about my eleventh year is the time I spent at Scivally Park playing on and around that bridge.

Here is a copy of the watercolor by Brenda Beck Fisher that hangs in my bedroom

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sometimes, everything works out better than you expect!

Miss Wilma Harris taught 5th grade at Alma Schrader Elementary School. I had heard all about her. She was the strictest teacher in the entire school. She was tall, she wore suits and very sensible shoes, her hair was worn in a severe style and she was quite stern in her demeanor and attitude. I prayed all summer long that I wouldn't really be in her class, although it said quite plainly on the back of my report card, "Promoted to Miss Harris' 5th grade class." That was a long time ago and they always told us who our next teacher was going to be the last day of school. Such information could either make or break your summer vacation! Just thinking about being in her class gave me nightmares.

The first day of 5th grade, I trudged up the hill toward school. That was also back before your parents accompanied you to the first day of school each year. We went on our own. And I really and truly walked uphill both ways. I'm sure I was dragging my feet. "Please, dear Lord. Let my name be on someone else's door...not Miss Harris' door!"

My prayers were in vain. I entered the building, walked to her door and saw my name, neatly written on the class list posted by the door. Was there a sign at the back of the class that said, "Abandon h0pe, all ye who enter"? Probably not, but it felt that way. I dug deep into my manners, smiled at her and said, "Good morning, Miss Harris," when she greeted me at the door. How did she already know who I was? I took my seat, which had a lovely nametag on it and began to prepare for a year of living hell.

Guess what? Miss Harris was stern. Miss Harris was strict. Miss Harris was no-nonsense. Miss Harris had a sign on the wall that said "A winner never quits and a quitter never wins." Miss Harris walked around the classroom in her sensible shoes with a yardstick in her hand, tapping the floor, your desk and occasionally whacking your knuckles with it if you were out of line. Or if you didn't know your times tables (which I still have to think about). Everything I had heard about her was the absolute truth!!

Guess what else? I came to love and admire her. She taught things that were not in the cirruculum. She encouraged my love of reading and allowed me to write book reports for extra credit. She had a time set aside every week for anyone who was willing to learn a poem to recite it for the class...and we got extra credit for it. I memorized many poems of Eugene Fields and Emily Dickinson. l loved reciting to the class. I loved getting extra credit. She rewarded excellent work and encouraged each of us to better if we did less than our best.

She emphasized penmanship as an important communication tool. She bought, with her own funds, special pens and ink and we painstakingly copied text on special paper. We learned to make those letter correctly. If our assignments were not written well, they were given back to us to do again, and do better.

She challenged me to think beyond my small world and dream big. She was the first teacher I recall who didn't just want me to give her the answer, but to be able to give a reason for my answer. In short, she was teaching us to think. Imagine such a thing! No cookie-cutter answers for Miss Harris. No teaching to the test. She cemented a foundation that had been laid by my parents and previous teachers for the love of learning that I have carried my whole life.

I wept when 5th grade was complete and I walked out of her classroom for the last time as her student. I trudged home, certain that I had just completed the best year of my life. 1967-68 were turbulent years in our society. Miss Harris was a rock in an era of change and upheaval. She was constant.

Almost every day during the 6th grade, I made sure I walked by her classroom, hoping to see her and say hello. She was always gracious, asking about my studies and we shared pleasant conversations. Sometimes, I spent my entire recess period in her classroom, just visiting.

When I was in the 12th grade, I had occasion to be back in that town on a school day and I went back to her classroom. She told me that she had often thought of me and she remembered the poems I memorized to recite in her classroom. She introduced me to her current class and asked me if I cared to amuse them with a poem. "Little Boy Blue" rolled off my lips, much to her delight.

When my son entered the 5th grade, I called Alma Schrader Elementary School to see if perchance they had an address for her. I wasn't sure she was still living. She seemed to be quite old in 1967. She had recently retired and the school secretary just laughed when I asked if they could put me in touch with her. Apparantly, that was a regular request and they kept her address handy so her former students could keep in touch. We shared several letters.

When I graduated from college...many years later (I was 46 when I finished my B.A.) I was anxious to make sure that Miss Harris knew. I was so proud to tell her that even though it took me 28 years to complete that degree, I had graduated with honors. I wanted to thank her for the important lessons I learned in her class. She sent me a card and a graduation gift, along with kind words of encouragement. The most amazing thing she wrote in her beautiful handwriting was this: Mollianne, I am so proud of you. I always knew you were special and it was my joy to be your teacher in the 5th grade.

The last time we corresponded was last year. Miss Harris still lived on her family's farm in Missouri, with her younger sister. Neither of them ever married and both devoted their lives to the education of elementary school children. I realized that she wasn't nearly as old when I was in the 5th grade as I perceived her to be. Probably not nearly as old as I am now.

God bless Miss Wilma Harris and all those like her who followed the calling to teach children not only reading, writing and arithmetic (and penmanship) but also taught us what it meant to be persons of character and integrity through their example. The type of teachers who made us desirous of their pride and approval.

Oh, and one more thing about the 5th grade! The only time in my public education that I receieved a certificate for Perfect and Punctual Attendance. It says...'having been neither absent from School nor tardy during the year ending June 4, 1968.' For me (a somewhat sickly child) that was a big enough deal that my Mother kept the certificate and I have it to this day. Check it out! And be sure to notice the beautiful penmanship of Miss Harris.