Monday, January 24, 2011

There was Music in Our House

Music has always been a very important part of my life. My mother played the piano. Her home in the small town of Oakland, Tennessee, was full of Irene's piano music. Her father, my Daddy Jim impressed on her that her music was a gift and she must use is whenever and whereever possible. Irene, known as "Sistah" did just that.

When I was a little girl, we did not have a piano in our home. When we went to Big Mama and Daddy Jim's house, Mama played for us. At church Mama played....and I loved to hear and see her. She was small, and the piano so large. We would go to the church, which was just across the stree,  and she would practice. Most times, I was with her, and Daddy would come out of his office and just stand in the doorway and smile.

Now, my Daddy was no slouch in the music department. He directed our congregation and choir with natural talent. His voice was strong and though it was  not a solo voice. Daddy, Malcolm, was the music leader in
revivals when I was a girl. He would take me with him, to small towns and country churches, in Tennessee, Northern Mississippi, and East Arkansas. He also was a dynamic preacher....why he could make you smell "hells-fire and brimstone" and this little girl wide eyed and wondering.

The choir at Malcolm Avenue sang for Association Meetings often. I only remember a few songs, but I was there on the front row singing every word with them. After all, I was at every practice. I remember
a chorus they sang: "Good Morning up there where Christ is the Light, Good  Morning up there where cometh no night". I remember one night, when the choir was practicing, they all stopped and I kept singing. The choir applauded....and I got my first taste of performing! It was a heady thing!

Daddy would take me with him to country revivals. He always had a "Sunshine Choir" made up of children. We came early, learned new choruses and sang for services. We sang: "I Will Make You Fishers of Men"; " The Birds Up in the Treetop"; "Every Day With Jesus"; "One Door and Only One" and many more. Daddy would stand me up on a chair or in one case on the piano, and I would sing my heart out.

I had not started to school yet, so it was not a problem, me going with him. I don't know how many little girls had a Daddy, in the 30s, who would take them places with out Mama. Mine Did!! {Just a note, he also took me fishing and hunting before I was 9. When I was 9 he left for WWII} What a fortunate little "Tomboy" to have a Mama and a Daddy who understood. We lived in the south where girls were really supposed to be GIRLY! In case you get the wrong idea, I really like pretty fussy clothes and hair ribbons, but they did not stay that way long on Charlotte.

When I was six, I started taking piano lessons, and practiced across the street in the church building. I got caught over there late one afternoon in a horrible storm. My Daddy came striding in and took me home in
his arms and very soon after that a piano was part of our own furnishings.

I still took naps in the afternoon. I still slept in a baby bed too. We  had two bedrooms, but some of the family always lived with us and I slept in the room with Mama and Daddy. I distinctly remember waking
up and hearing piano music.....not the radio.....real piano music. There it was!!!!!!!! A spinet, when they were new, in our living room. Daddy built a stool so I would quit kicking the sound board.

I would like to share a song I learned to love, in my teen years. Daddy would say: "Rene, play "Evening Prayer" for me." He would say to me..."You need  to learn that song". I can close my eyes and see that fine Malcolm Younger standing behind his "Rene" singing:

If I have wounded any soul today'
If I have caused one foot to go astray
If I have walked in my own willful way
Dear Lord, Forgive

If I uttered idle words or vain
If I have turned aside from want or pain
Lest I myself shall suffer thro' the strain
Dear Lord, Forgive

If I have been perverse or hard or cold
If I have longed for shelter in Thy Fold
When thou hast given me some fort to hold
Dear Lord, Forgive

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee
Forgive the secret sins I do not see;
Oh guide me, love me, and my keeper be
Dear Lord, Amen
{The melody is haunting....beautiful written by C. M Battersby and Charloes H Gabriel----copyright 1913. }

I really think that this song would be a wonderful prayer for any child of God at the close of any day. I would love to hear that Man of God, my Daddy Malcolm and his Dearest On,e Irene, filling our home with music
again, like I did in a time long gone....but that music is still still alive in my heart. The love that filled the Parsonage (poor as we were) where we made our home, be it in Memphis, or Bolivar, Tennessee; or Eldon, Missouri, made it the best place too be!

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for our little family
for the love that was obvious, the fun things
we did, for a Mother and Father who loved you
More than life..... ~Amen


{Edited to add this video of Jim Reeves singing "Evening Prayer" on the Grand Ole Opry.}

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On my Papa's 80th Birthday...

I got a letter a few weeks ago in the mail from Oma asking me to write down some memories of my Papa. I’m going to admit that I’ve been putting it off. I had a million excuses—school and family make up most of them. But the biggest reason I haven’t written anything is that I don’t know what to write. It’s not a lack of time spent with him or a lack of wanting to participate. It’s that I have a horrible memory and don’t know what to say about such a great man that would be special enough to share.

Papa, my brother, Jamie, and me

I have memories of rubbing his feet—for a quarter—when he visited when I was young. I’ve always been in awe of his hair—it never moves and always looks fabulous. He tells great jokes and amazing stories. He sings beautiful songs. I have watched him preach—what a joy!!

But those aren’t special memories. That’s just part of who he is. Special memories—like the day he told me I could give my son the Buster name. Or give that same son the same middle name of that wonderful man. He held my hand and gave me his handkerchief as I cried at the funeral of a man I loved. Then, a few years later, he preformed the wedding ceremony in my mother’s living room to bind me in eyes of God to the man who loves me and my kids. He sat outside and talked to me and ate hot dogs off the grill as my husband cooked dinner for us all.

Some of those memories are fuzzy, more of a feeling or something that someone reminded me of. There is one though that is crystal clear. Something that happened this summer. I was able to watch my Papa do something wonderful, a little sad, and a whole lot amazing. I watched him perform a funeral service at one of his old churches for a dear friend. Watching him do that, not knowing the family so being a total outsider, was really meaningful to me. But after the service…I watched so many people shake my grandfather’s hand, throw their arms around his neck, watch their faces light up just being near him. My Papa, their Brother Bob, made a difference in these people’s lives. They think he’s special and amazing. I’ve always thought that about him, but watching all of those people who love him made my heart fill with joy. He’s not just that amazing to me, his granddaughter, but he is that amazing to everyone who knows him.

I am so lucky to be a 30 year old woman and celebrate my grandfather’s 80th birthday. I wish I could be there with him, but it just can’t happen, I just hope he knows how much I love him and that I’m thinking of him on his birthday, just like I do every other day.

I love you Papa!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lessons in Lady-hood

In 1977, I was the blushing bride of an Air Force Second Lieutenant. I had grown up in a parsonage and had gone to teas and coffees and served punch throughout my teenage years. I was familiar with the manners and pleasantries one might need to attend such things. I was not, however, confident that I could hostess such an affair.

I wrote my Neenie and asked her for some help and guidance. Neenie was a true Steel Magnolia. A lady. The real deal. The type of Southern Lady whose purse and shoes always matched, who always had a hankie in her Bible, who had kind and gentle manners and carried herself with an elegance and grace that I have admired my whole life. She was my go-to girl for such things.

Questions on raising a boy went immediately to my Mother, who is also a lady, but also a tomboy. She knows how to do the genteel things and I only hope to have a home as hospitable as hers when I grow up…but when I was growing up, kids would come to the door and ask, “Can your mom come out and play.” She had more requests to play than I did.

Below is a copy of a note Neenie sent me about Afternoon Tea, in reply to the letter I wrote her asking for help.

Dear Mollianne,
I received your letter and I am sure that you will be able to hostess a lovely tea. Use your prettiest dishes and if you can, put fresh flowers on your table. Matching paper products and a candle or two will add an elegant touch. If you keep it simple, it won’t matter that you don’t have silver serving dishes. Those things will come in time. No one should expect that as a new bride, you will already have those things. Here are some suggestions for a simple but elegant afternoon tea that would be suitable to honor someone such as a bride or an expectant mother.

I know that you can do this and do it well. I am proud of you and will be anxious to hear how things turn out.

As Ever,

I don’t know if any of you might have to help hostess an afternoon tea. But, if you do…I’d recommend Neenie’s suggestions. I had a heck of a time making those strawberry cookies and they didn’t look like strawberries. I did not inherit her artistic abilities, but I tried and they tasted pretty good.

Her encouragement meant the world to me, and I thought that this might be a good place to share her thoughts with you.


From the Kitchen of Irene Younger

For an afternoon Tea:
Assorted small finger sandwiches with ham, pimento cheese and egg salad for stuffing
Strawberry cookies
Coconut Macaroons
Tea of spicy and orange flavors

Strawberry Cookies
2 packages (3 oz each) Strawberry Jello
1 pound firmly ground coconut
¼ pound ground blanched almond, pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Reserve half of 1 package of the Jello. Mix remaining Jello with remaining ingredients. Shape a small amount of mixture into the shape of a strawberry. Roll each in a mixture of reserved Jello and 4 Tablespoons of red sugar. (To color sugar, add a bit of red food coloring and rub between fingertips OR buy pre-colored sugar (in baking section of food stores). Make Green icing leaves or buy marzipan berry hulls.

Coconut Macaroons
1 1/3 cups flakes coconut
½ cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract

Stir all ingredients together well. Drop from teaspoon 1 inch apart on well-greased cookie sheet. Press down end of coconut flakes with back of a spoon.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from pan at once to wire racks to cool. Use a wide spatula (they break easily until they cool)
Makes 18

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Going Home

We spent last week at home in Missouri with Mother and Daddy. We were going to drive up on Christmas Day, but the weather prevented that. So we arrived, safe and sound, the day after and begin a wonderful week.

My Sweet Daddy has just turned 80 and while we missed his big birthday/retirement blast, we had very sweet visit with them after all the hoopla was over {yep! At 80 he has retired from the ministry, but he's still preaching a lot on Sundays...go figure!} We got to see the slide show from the party, and read through all the cards and letters he got.

I looked through the house and saw some decorations from Christmas Past and many new ones. My mother decorates for Christmas like nobody's business, and there is always a special glow about her house for the holidays. I convinced her to let me help her de-deck the halls, which was a precious deposit in my memory I'll cherish.

We watched football games and basketball games. We ate at the table upsatairs and sat for hours just talking about how we'd run the world if we were in charge. We ate downstairs in front of the TV and cheered our boys to victory and defeat. We rested and we napped. Rocket Man did a little repair work with Daddy and Mother and I went shopping. We ate out with Uncle Chuck and Doris.

In short, it was a lovely visit and so good to be back home. I never lived in Eldon, Missouri, but my grandparents lived there when I was small and it has always held a special place in my heart. We did the mandatory drive past the old house on High Street and I remarked, as always, that it is a shame that the house has been so altered. We went to the Post Office and I remembered going there with my grandfather and buying stamps. We went to the drug store, as we always do. We even got to meet a dentist, because I had a crown fall off. I love that my Mother can just call the dentist in that small town and get me worked in within a few hours and what could have been a disaster was a rather pleasant experience!

I love going home. I love that there are several towns and locations that feel like home to me. But the best going home is when we get back to Huntsville, Alabama. That is where home is most real to me. The home that Rocket Man and I have built for ourselves. As I've said before, it isn't anything that Better Homes and Gardens is going to be doing a double page spread on anytime soon. In fact, I'll be lucky if the city doesn't cite me this month because my leaves are still in the yard. But in this these this place there is a wonderful feeling of being in the most sacred of homes. It is not the house I love...not the home...but the life I live there with the man I adore.

Going home is soothing to my soul. It meets a need in me whether it is to the Bootheel of Missouri or to Central Missouri where I strain to see the familiar roads and landmarks of my early childhood. Even better than going home is coming home. To our life and our resident children and our work. I feel very blessed that we love living in Rocket City, USA and that we love the life we live here.

Going home...then coming home. It was a lovely visit.