Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (6/14/13)

I’m Hot but Happy.  98 degrees yesterday here in Savannah (heat index way over 100); 95 today.  Whew.  But unless I’m having heat tremors, here’s what I’m happy about today.

1.  Seeing Love listed as an ingredient on a product label.


But kale?  KALE??  Seriously?

2.  The surprising, intricate beauty of looking up in Savannah.


3.  My good buddy Riboclavin


… without a thermometer.  Okay, so maybe he doesn’t seem to be enjoying his food 100%, but still, he’s sitting in the sun, getting a vitamin D boost.

4.  As some of you know, my grandkids call me “Abu” (Cuban/Hispanic shortened version of grandfather) because I thought “grandfather,” etc sounded entirely too paternally old.  Well, six-year-old Daniel and three-year-old Gabriel are WILD over Skylanders.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, DO NOT try to figure it out.  It’s far too complicated.  But the Skylander franchise is basically taking over the world, of kids.  Anyway, I recently told D and G that a brand new, exciting Skylander figure had just come available on the market, AbuForce!

The three-year old bought it for minute until the six-year-old exclaimed, “No way, Abu.  You’re joking again.”

“I am not,” I lied.  (Why does that trait come so easily to me?)

“Prove it, then,” smart-mouth Daniel challenged.

“Okay I will,” I responded, having no clue how to do so, or even what I meant.

“When?” he asked, a little smart-mouthier.

“Tomorrow,” I easily answered.

Sometimes, angels come your way.  I told my friend Robert about my dilemma.  He laughed and said he might be able to help.  It seems the U.S miltary has a program called Huggs-to-Go, providing dolls for children of service men and women deployed.  The figures have a place at the face for pictures of dad or mom, etc.  Since Robert is retired Army and currently works at Hunter Army Airfield, he somehow managed to get me two of the dolls.

I presented the AbuForce figures to Daniel and Gabriel the next day.  Both, in shock that there really was an AbuForce, melted my heart with their excitement over my little joke.


And the following day, they brought unparalleled joy to my heart when they both told me that they slept with AbuForce.

5.  Beautiful paths to walk down.


Look for some joy this weekend.  You’ll find it.

Posted in The Joy and Wisdom of Children

The Babies Hair Salon

So today I decided I really needed to do something about my limp, flyaway, graying hair.


I’m frustrated because, well, I’m beginning to look my age.  And, you know, that just doesn’t seem natural.  So I consulted the online Yellow Pages for area barbers and hair salons and read about an intriguing little place out near Skidaway Island (I’m in Savannah, by the way) called … The Babies Hair Salon.

I drove over, parked Skedaddler (my lil gray Scion) (gray seems to be a theme in my life lately) (just not fifty shades of it) (yet) and found myself being promptly greeted by, believe it or not, two surprised-looking BABIES!  Ten-month-old twins Madison and Matthew …


When he saw my hair, I got the impression that Matthew had initial concerns about his and his sister’s ability to help me …


Perhaps Madison had the same concern, but she tried to mask her feelings with a blank stare.

Nevertheless, the duo led me into their salon’s inner sanctum.


“I’m beginning to see a color scheme here,” I thought perceptively and intelligently.


Matthew and Madison took a moment to look through their style books to see what they might be able to do for me.


“This is definitely going to be a challenge,” they seemed to be saying.


I felt my first tiny jolt of trepidation when I realized they were looking at books about cows and sheep.


With determination set clearly upon their young but professional countenances, the twins indicated for me to help them up into their work spaces.


“An odd request,” I thought.  “They don’t do that at the Barber Pole downtown.”  But, the completely compliant client, I obeyed.

And for about sixty seconds, everything seemed to be going well.  Just typical stylist assessment techniques such as cranial observation and exploratory scalp manipulation.


Then, inexplicably, I got the distinct impression that Madison was somehow asking Matthew to consult with the monkeys on the wall about the next step.


But before I had time to investigate, they got to work.


“This might be fun,” I thought, kinda smiling.


Madison gently massaged in soothing hair cream.


Healthy hair.

Then they both started to get a little rough, I thought,  for ten-month-olds.


Seemingly out of the blue, I sensed a frustrated Matthew yelling to Madison, “Enough of this, sissy!  There’s no way to help this old man!”


“Bite him!” she might have said.


“What going on here?!” I thought in terror.  “Are they baby vampires or something?  Nick at Twilight?!  Whatever.  I’m outta here.”

As Skedaddler and I hightailed it back to Savannah’s historic district where I live across from Colonial Park Cemetery, I looked in my rearview mirror and thought, “You know, gray’s not such a bad color.  It’s kinda in-between.”


(Thanks to Grandtwins Matthew and Madison for help with this post. And the iPhone’s reverse camera.)

Posted in In Our Own Backyard

Sunday Afternoon Adventure at Bonaventure: A PhotoJournal


I spent an incredibly warm but wonderfully interesting couple of hours this afternoon at the historically magnificent Bonaventure Cemetery here in my beautiful Savannah.  The day might have been heavy and muggy, but my time there was anything but–cooler than Leopold’s!  It seems that every second Sunday the Bonaventure Historical Society offers free guided tours of the cemetery, so I showed up thirty minutes early with a big water bottle and wearing my thinnest t-shirt.

Before leaving my air conditioning, I checked out the cemetery’s website and learned that …

Though not Savannah’s oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. Part natural cathedral, part sculptural garden, Bonaventure transcends time.

Military generals, poet Conrad Aiken, Academy Award-winning lyricist Johnny Mercer and Georgia’s first governor Edward Telfair are among those buried at Bonaventure. The approximately 100-acre cemetery is also historically significant as a reflection of changing views on death and dying in the Victorian era. As death became more romanticized and ritualized during this period, cemeteries became lush, beautiful “cities of the dead.”

Another reason behind Bonaventure’s popularity is John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which featured a cover photo of the now-famous “Bird Girl” statue, formerly located in Bonaventure. The statue has since been moved to the Telfair Museum of Art, founded through the bequest of Mary Telfair, also buried at Bonaventure. 

Our tour guide, the vivacious Ms. Elizabeth Ford …


… oozed Southern hospitality and a spoke a delicious Southern dialect.  (After the tour, I wanted to go home with her just to hear her talk some more. But I didn’t really know how to ask.)

Elizabeth led us around the hauntingly beautiful Gothic graveyard, along the banks of the lazy Wilmington River, regaling us with stories of the history of the place and showing us gravesites of some of the more prominent folks buried there.  But what I loved most of all was the simple interplay of a deeply Southern voice leading me, slowly, on Sunday afternoon time, through such beauty.


(In the above pic, I was aiming for a cemetery facial expression.  Did I get anywhere close?)


(I wish I had a ponytail like that guy to my left.)


My parents taught me to love cemeteries.  As friendly places, reservoirs of wonderful memories.  To this day, when I return home to visit them, we usually end up at one of several cemeteries in or around my hometown of Ball Ground, Georgia, where close relatives are buried.  Granny Nix and Veto.  Mama and Papa Saye.  My brother Jimmy who lived only one week.  Old Doc Saye, Ball Ground’s first doctor.    Pulling weeds around a headstone, or straightening flower arrangements, we get caught up in “Remember when’s” and “She was a pistol!” and “I still miss him so much.”  They taught me that I am standing tall today because of all of them who came before.


Bonaventure: an afternoon of warm joy.

Bonaventure Cemetery Website

Posted in Life Experiences

10 Reasons I Loved My Little Trip to Visit My Folks

Early yesterday morning I drove up to my north-of-Atlanta hometown of Ball Ground for a short visit with my mom and dad.

dec 772

My dad–Harold or Tub–is 89 (90 in November–come to the party!), and my mom–Geneva–turned 86 in May.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we have when I visit.  They taught me (are still teaching me) to laugh, to enjoy life.

Here are Ten Reasons I loved my little visit.

1.  The early dinner that awaited me upon my 11 am arrival.  Okay, for some of you this will be a bit confusing, but in Ball Ground lunch is called dinner, and dinner is called supper.  (Breakfast is called Hardees.)


My favorite meal in the whole wide world consists of 1.) my dad’s creamed yellow corn.  2.) My mom’s fried sweet potatoes.  3.)  A tomato and an onion.


The corn is scraped, raw, from the cob and meticulously cooked stove top, stirring constantly to keep it from scorching.  It has the taste of heaven.


These sweet potatoes look a little burnt, and they should.  That gives them the carmelized flavor.  Cooked in a large cast iron pan, there’s nothing better.  One stick butter, one cup sugar, sliced sweet potatoes.  Orange joy.


Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Thank you, Jesus.

2.  The bird clock in my parents’ bathroom.


I like it best when the batteries get old, and the hourly bird calls become eerily elongated.

3.  Walking around my folks’ small house (which my dad built BY HAND 34 years ago), looking at the bushes and trees.


4.  Eating supper at Cracker Barrel.  During the meal a very overweight but jolly lady came over to our table and said to my mom, “Honey, can I give you a hug?  You remind me so much of my little grandma.”  “Why, of course!” Mama replied.

“”Our hugs come in twos,” my dad said with a laugh.  And then was amply rewarded.

I thought about saying, “What about me?  Three’s company.”  But my mouth was full of turnip greens and chow chow.

5.  My mother repeatedly getting her supper choice, “eggs in the basket,” confused with a meal she had about forty years ago at IHOP called “pigs in a blanket.”


“Now what do you call this again, Neal?”

From the Cracker Barrel menu:  Eggs in the Basket–Two slices of Sourdough Bread grilled with an egg in the middle of each, cooked to order and served with smoked sausage patties, turkey sausage patties or thick-sliced bacon and your choice of Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole.

6.  Still at Cracker Barrel, as my dad stood in line at the counter paying (he INSISTED), another lady just finishing with paying her bill, saying to my dad, “Here, sir, let me pay for part of your meal with the rest of my gift card.  Happy early Father’s Day?”  And my dad, a bit confused at first, trying to PAY her for the gift card, before she finally hugged him and said, “No, no, I want to do this for you for an early Father’s Day present!” (While I stood over to the side between the pulled taffy and the Brad Paisley cd, unsuccessfully holding back laughter.)

As we finally left Cracker Barrel, my mom said to my dad, “You sure are hugging a lot of women today.  I gotta get you out of this place.”

7.  After loading mom’s walker in the trunk, and getting us all in the car, my mom, saying, “Tub, you should have asked that lady what days she usually eats at Cracker Barrel,” sending the three of us into giggles for two red lights, when I said to them, “I wonder if she would like to adopt us as her other family,” (which really wasn’t all that funny, but still got us roaring all over again, in the way you sometimes do when laughter is in the air.)  Pulling off the Ball Ground exit from I-575, my dad said, “Those hugs were a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.”  Because, of course, it was only 5:00 and we had already finished supper.

8.  The feeling, even at my age, of being HOME.

9.  The difficult but important discussion we had on this trip about what my mother would do if my dad died first.

“I just hope to goodness I go before Tub.”

“Now Neever (his version of Geneva), we can’t control those things.”

“What I really wish is that we could just go at the same time,” my mom said with total sincerity.

“Well, that might be possible,” my dad said with a twinkle in his eye, “the way I’ve been driving lately.”  And we all laughed, at something so unfunny.

10.  Experiencing irony as I was leaving Ball Ground the next day, stopping by a convenience store for a Yoo Hoo and a lottery ticket.   The long-time teller printing out my ticket, as she mouthed, “straight to hell,” the lyrics of a country song blaring from the radio, and then handing me my Power Ball and saying, “You have a blessed day, sir!”

A joyful, blessed trip.

Posted in The Joy and Wisdom of Children

Oh Possum! (Warning: A Bit Gross)

So Tuesday I picked up grandson Daniel …


…at soccer camp and headed back to his house.  Traversing up the driveway, discussing Skylander Giants, we both saw this at about the same time:


A small, dead, open-eyed possum in the neatly manicured front lawn.  “Look, Abu!  A big rat!” Daniel yelled, as he excitedly unbuckled his seat belt, careening toward the thing.

“I think it’s a possum, Daniel, and I also think he’s dead.”  (WHY do I use verbs like “think” in times like this?  The possum was dead as a doornail with bugs swarming around its head.)

“That means he’s not breathing,” Daniel explained to me.

“Why don’t you go in the house and cool off, while I get rid of our friend?”

“NO!” Daniel screamed.  “We have to show it to Mommy!”

“Well, he can stay here for a few minutes.”  (Like the possum was going somewhere.)

At about that time, Olivia and Larkin, the cute twins from next door, came running into the driveway, straight from a pool party.  And of course, Daniel had to show them …


… explaining that the “rat, I mean possum, was dead and couldn’t move, so don’t touch it till Mommy comes home because we are going to show it to her.”


Her expression says it all.


(Touch it?!)