Posted in Throwback Thursday, Neal’s Post from the Past

Neal’s Post from the Past: “Mama — Tell Her Now!”

Since we’re nearing Mother’s Day 2022, here’s an old post from back in 2012 about the power of motherhood. Both my parents have since passed away.

************

“Mama.”  Perhaps no other word in our language evokes such tender and loving feelings.

My mom turned 85 on May 2.  Here she is with my dad (88).  They have been married for 65 years!

Geneva Mae Reavis Saye and Harold Hulon Saye Sr.

If I had to answer the question, “Neal, what’s the greatest lesson your mother has taught you in life?” I would have NO problem at all answering.  I learned the lesson so, so early: the power and authority of humor and laughter.  Some of my greatest memories growing up consist of roaring with giggles and laughter at some of the silliest things.  My mother is a master at seeing the lightness in situations. 

The Christmas when I was about six, I asked for a real juke box, and FOUND IT it my parents’ bedroom closet on Christmas Eve. Mama thought it was hilarious when I started yelling in confusion, “WHY is my juke box in your closet??!!” She said, through fits of unrestrained laughs, “Santa wanted your dad and me to try it out first.” (That Christmas began my distrust of Santa.)

Or the time when I asked for (and finally got) a rocking chair for my sixteenth birthday (don’t judge me), and she (like you probably) laughed and said, “WHO wants a rocking chair on their birthday?!” I still get teased about that very practical and emotionally calming gift.

Or her ongoing confusion with the words “veterinarian” and “vegetarian.”

Or the Christmas when I was about eight and had this obsession with making sure the ornaments were placed perfectly (in my opinion) on the live tree branches. I had gone to bed, but thought that maybe I should check the tree one more time for spatial accuracy of the bulbs and tinsel. A big round glass ornament on a limb just out of my reach needed attention. Reaching up, I grabbed the branch, too hard, and pulled the ENTIRE tree on top of me, electric lights and all. Screaming in holiday terror, I flailed at the evergreen monster till my mom and dad ran into the living room. I distinctly remember my dear mother hooting with laughter and saying to my dad (far too loudly), “Just look at what Neal’s done now!”

Or her ongoing advice throughout the decades:  “It’s really not that important, Neal.  You’ll laugh about it soon.”  And I usually did.  (Except for early Christmas memories.)

What an incredible privilege and joy to have a mother who taught me when I was younger and who continues to teach me to this day that happiness is a choice. That laughter is an answer, a solution, a medicine. That humor is a gift to get and to give.

My advice on this glorious Mother’s Day:  Don’t wait till your mom and dad walk out of your lives forever to tell them, show them, how very much they mean to you and how much you love them.

HAPPY, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY 2012!

I dedicate this beautiful version of the song “Mama” by Il Divo to my mom and to yours.  And remember to tell her now!

Posted in Throwback Thursday, Neal’s Post from the Past

Neal’s Post from the Past: “10 Reasons I Loved My Little Trip to Visit My Folks”

A post about aging parents from way back in 2013. Both my mother and father have passed away since then. Please excuse my camera “photography” from a decade ago.

**************

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.)

Parents1

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.

Parents3

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.

Parents2

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.

Parents4
Parents5

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Thank you, Jesus.

2.  The bird clock in my parents’ bathroom.

Parents12

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.

Parents6
Parents7
Parents9
Parents8
Parents10

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.”

Parents13

“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.

Parents11
Posted in Monday Moaning or Monday Marveling?

Monday Moaning or Monday Marveling?

GOING MARVELING

I admit that I’m often moaning on Monday morning, but this Monday morning I’m actually marveling.

Do you know about the concept of “marveling”? I didn’t until I discovered Methodist minister Fred Craddock and his book, Craddock Stories, in which he writes about his ancestors who would go out walking, often on Sunday afternoon, not to find anything in particular, but just to look for God‘s handiwork and beauty: a pretty flower, an interesting tree, a striking rock or a glorious cloud perhaps. anything that would produce a sense of wonder, appreciation or joy.

I LOVE that idea! It’s … marvelous.

Well, I went a-marveling last night (without exactly intending to) when I started pulling out Christmas decorations. I came across in the back of an old wardrobe, sort of Neal-in-Wonderland-ishly, these …

What do you mean you don’t know what you’re looking at?! They’re candle holders. Well they are now. They used to be the bases of two old wooden lamps that sat on the end tables on either side of the couch in my parents’ little house.

You can barely see them in this old pic …

My parents and one of the lamps around 1980

After my folks passed away a few years back, and I was going through all their things, deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I nearly tossed the old lamps. They had seen their better days.

But something made me pause, take the lampshades off, remove the wiring and toss the wooden bases into my back seat. And eventually into the back of my old wardrobe.

Now (voila!) they are born again as 2021 Christmas decor.

What light, joy and marvel my parents brought into my life and the world.

I invite you to go marveling! And please tell me what you find.

Posted in Holidays and Seasonal Changes

Attempting a Dia de Muertos Celebration

Last fall near Halloween, Robert and I watched Pixar’s Coco, which beautifully introduced us to Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Coming from a family culture that embraces frequent visits to graveyards and cemeteries, I loved the idea of remembering loved ones who have passed on by having their own joyfully colorful and celebratory holiday.

It was only a couple of days until November 2, the traditional day when the holiday is celebrated in Mexico and other places. So we quickly made a little ofrenda (altar) consisting of a couple of pictures of our deceased parents, some flowers and a candle or two. Sitting before our simple shrine, we thanked our folks for their lives and their love.

But 2021 was another story. We began gathering Day of the Dead materials months ago and started making preparations.

We collected Day of the Dead candles, banners, decorations, and on a trip to Atlanta, we found a loaf of Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead) at the Buford Highway Farmers Market (what a glorious center of culinary diversity).

Last Tuesday, November 2nd, we celebrated by combining our dinner table and our Day of the Dead ofrenda.

Robert’s folks …

And mine …

We made some of their favorite foods for our meal …

Fried corn, collard greens, Maryland crab cakes and pork rinds

The loaf of Pan de Muertos, round to symbolize the cycle of life, with teardrops flowing from the top, representing goddess Chimalma’s tears for the living.

Holding hands, we shared memories of fun, funny and joyful stories from the lives of our parents and other loved ones who have passed on.

A movingly marvelous evening and now a permanent addition to our holiday calendar.