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A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,

Mike

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

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Barbara Frietchie and Robert E. Lee . . .

In January of this year I sent an e-mail containing John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, Barbara Frietchie, to a friend that lives in Alabama. She acknowledged receipt of the e-mail and replied as follows:

Wow! What a beautiful story of pride, loyalty and courage! Thank you for sharing this poem. I’m sending it on to several of my friends up in Northern Virginia.

She also asked who commanded the troops that entered Frederick, Maryland during the War between the States—I use that title because as yet I have learned nothing about the war that could be considered civil.

I responded to my friend with this e-mail:

Subject: Barbara Frietchie . . . . .

The troops in Whittier’s poem were General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates, led by General Stonewall Jackson. I was introduced to Barbara Frietchie in elementary school—not the real Barbara, just the poem—somewhere around the fourth grade. I’ve forgotten most of the poem, but for some reason these two verses took root: Shoot if you must this old gray head . . .  and, Who touches a hair of yon gray head . . .

And now for the benefit of anyone not familiar with the poem, here it is:

Barbara Frietchie

Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,
Fair as the garden of the Lord,
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde.

On that pleasant morn of the early fall,
When Lee marched over the mountain wall,
Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,
Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;
Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;
In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead,
Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.
“Halt!”—the dust-brown ranks stood fast,
“Fire!”—out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word;
“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.

All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:
All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;
And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Frietchie’s work is o’er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.
Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier.
Over Barbara Frietchie’s grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807—1892)

Some final notes:

Given the present demographics of Maryland, Barbara Frietchie could well have been an African-American. Could be—so much of our history is being rewritten that anything is possible (click here for George Orwell’s 1984). Future research online may find that the lady that made the first flag was an African-American—whether true or untrue, that would become part of our revisions of American history.

If the revisions continue, eventually George Santayana’s time-worn statement that Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it will take on new meaning—learning and repeating revisionist history will do little to advance civilization and our standing in the world order.

If I fail to learn history and I am doomed to repeat it, I prefer to repeat the history of the founding of our nation. I do not wish to fail to learn and repeat history that has been revised, and in the revision process has cast aside many of our basic values, and distorted and diluted others.

That’s my opinion—what’s yours?

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Where did you get those big blue eyes . . .

One of my daughters, the one who lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia took some very professional and very nice photos of a Redskin player and his family. In her posting she referred to the player’s beautiful blue eyes—that description awakened a memory for me, and I responded to her comment with this e-mail:

“Your recent post to your blog on the blue-eyed Redskin player prompted the following story. It’s undoubtedly apocryphal, but it may be considered humorous by some.

Hey, I find it hilarious.

A long time ago, long before the present era of political correctness, a farmer working in his fields needed a respite from his labors. He lay down beside a small pond and fell asleep. While he was sleeping a large blacksnake crawled up inside a leg of his overalls (yes, the man was wearing overalls—he was a farmer, you know) and stuck his head out above the bib, facing the farmer.

blacksnake

For those unfamiliar with farm garb, overalls are one-piece garments, and the bib is on the front and at the top of the overalls, stretching across the chest at approximately arm-pit level. The bib is suspended at each corner (at each side of the wearer’s chest) by galluses—straps comparable to suspenders and performing the same function as suspenders—arising from the back of the garment and crossing over the shoulders and down to be fastened to the bib. The immediate and lasting effect of their action is to “suspend” the entire garment and prevent it from plummeting to the farmer’s ankles, an event that will occur if one fails to affix the galluses properly.

This has been known to happen—I mean the overalls falling down—in fact, it has happened to me. Again I refer to the overalls falling down—I haven’t worn overalls since I was a teenager, and certainly not since I have attained some semblance of adulthood. However, I have never fallen asleep while lying beside a small pond, whether for resting or for any other purpose. In fact, I have no recollection of ever having lain beside a small pond. I suppose the future could hold such a possibility but I can’t even imagine the circumstances, so I seriously doubt it.

I digress—here is the rest of the story:

The snake started hissing (they do that, you know). The farmer awoke, saw the snake and waxed poetic and exclaimed (I hope you’re ready for this), “You are the right color and you are the right size, but where did you get those big blue eyes?”

EPILOGUE:

Given the present political atmosphere in our country, in telling this story I prudently refrained from using any specific ethnicity, gender, religious or racial regional or dialectical expressions. A less prudent person than I would possibly substitute the following parts with these special terms:

Farmer could be changed to field hand, or indentured worker, maybe, or perhaps sharecropper—no other alternatives come to mind—well, hillbilly perhaps, but that term has regional derogatory connotations.

You are (used twice in the farmer’s question) could be changed to you is—this would indicate a farmer in the deep south.

Get those could be changed to git dem, also indicating the south.

In telling this story, there are many different terms available for use by other writers and story tellers, and some might choose words far more descriptive and more definitive than mine, possibly even more than the above suggested substitutes. They would perhaps do that in order to provide additional emphasis and promote understanding for the reader and listener—perhaps. However, some of the different terms available might be considered politically incorrect, a situation that must be avoided whenever possible.

WARNING—THIS POSTING WILL SELF-DESTRUCT FIFTEEN SECONDS AFTER YOU READ IT!

If for any reason it fails to destruct, or if you manage to overcome the 15-second restriction and forward it to others before it destructs, it will contaminate their hard drives with religious, sexual, racial, ethnic and gender epithets and expressions.  The contamination will be permanent—they’ll get no help from Norton—and the contamination will accompany any future computer output regardless of format, intent or content, and make the user’s life a living nightmare (fooled you, didn’t I? You thought I was going to say “a living hell”).

I know, I know—I have far too much time on my hands.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2009 in Humor

 

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Sprezzatura: What the —- does that mean?

Before I begin this posting, I must hasten to explain that the blank spot in the above title is used in lieu of the word heck. In consideration of our restrictions on adult content, I was hesitant to use that word—heck—so prominently. I’m hoping that heck will escape the notice of the content police by placing it (burying it) in the text of the posting. And I offer my apologies in advance to any person or persons who might be offended by my use of the word heck. I used heck because I felt that heck would provide suitable emphasis to learning a new word—sprezzatura, a word delightfully foreign and delightfully obscure.

I am probably the only person online who was not familiar with the word sprezzatura. I discovered it yesterday and found it new, intriguing and interesting enough to prompt me to share it with others. Since viewers who consistently return to my blog are without exception erudite, this will serve them only as a refresher. I’m posting this information in the remote possibility that one or more of potential viewers to my blog would, as did I, find the word new and interesting enough to have them yearning for more learning concerning this unique characteristic.

Hey, “Yearning for learning concerning” is sorta rhythmical—kinda poetic, don’t ya think? It sounds like good material for a rap song—I hope one of our far too numerous millionaire rappers picks it up and runs with it.

How about it, Eminem?

50 Cent?

Alicia?

But I digress, so on to the word and its definition:

The March 2009 issue of Texas Monthly included a full-page advertisement (p.126) entitled “Making something difficult look easy,” written by Andrew T. Lyos, a Houston surgeon. Dr. Lyos wrote that he likes to read in his free time and had just finished Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World.

He defined sprezzatura as follows:

“Sprezzatura is an Italian word that has no corresponding English translation. The best way to define it is that it means doing something difficult so well or so easily, that you make it look effortless.”

I immediately applied the characteristics of sprezzatura to a plethora of gorgeously professional photographs and the overwhelming journalistic quality of the narratives which define and support them—both can be viewed at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/.

I am convinced that Cindy Dyer’s work qualifies for the term sprezzatura—that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. However, at this point I must state, in the interests of full disclosure, that the blogger is one of my three princesses, the one who lives, loves, is loved, works and creates in Northern Virginia. I can also state emphatically that my opinion of her work is in no way influenced by our relationship—well, perhaps a little bit, but not very much—less than one-half of one iota—nay, less than one-fourth of one iota—not even enough to measure.

I found an expanded definition of sprezzatura at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprezzatura
:

Sprezzatura is a term that originates from Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier. It is defined as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” That is to say, it is the ability of the courtier to display “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them.” Sprezzatura has also been described “as a form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance.”

The Positive and Negative Attributes of Sprezzatura (also from wikipedia)

Sprezzatura was a vital quality for a courtier to have. Courtiers essentially had to put on a performance for their peers and those who employed sprezzatura created the impression that they completely mastered the roles they played. A courtier’s sprezzatura made him seem to be fully at ease in court and like someone who was “the total master of self, society’s rules, and even physical laws, and his sprezzatura created the distinct impression that he was unable to err.”

However, while the quality of sprezzatura did have its benefits, this quality also had its downfalls. Since sprezzatura made difficult tasks seem effortless, those who possessed sprezzatura needed to be able to deceive people convincingly. In a way, sprezzatura was “the art of acting deviously.” This “art” created a “self-fulfilling culture of suspicion” because courtiers had to be diligent in maintaining their façades. “The by-product of the courtier’s performance is that the achievement of sprezzatura may require him to deny or disparage his nature.” Consequently, sprezzatura also had its downsides, since courtiers who excelled at sprezzatura risked losing themselves to the facade they put on for their peers.

The need for illustrative examples (also from wikipedia)

I have read Castiglione many times and I think the best expression of Sprezzatura (with all of the high stakes it entails) was from an eleven year old boy. He was with a small group of boys in front of a New York office building on a summer day. I was early for an appointment. The boy came skating up to a staircase, hopped his board, and himself up on to the banister, sliding all the way down, nailing the landing. As I was at the base of the stairs I could see what his friends could not: the look of sheer terror as he slid, the look of elation and pride as he landed, and the utter nonchalance that swept over his face as he kicked the tail of his board up into his hand as he turned to his friends as if to say, “whatever.” Benfidar (talk) 01:19, 10 November 2008 (UTC) Benfidar.

Now for the epilogue to this posting

If you have reached this point you now know, at the very least, everything that I know about sprezzatura. You might want to consider tucking the word and its definition away in a memory area from which it can be easily retrieved, and in the future perhaps apply the characteristic to your work and the work of others.

An incidental thought necessitates a pause here: Some words seem to offer themselves up to the possibility of a typographical error. The word “tucking” used in the paragraph above, for example—one look at the keyboard shows why—the “t” and the “f” are perilously close. That’s just a random thought, incidental just as I said—really.

And a final thought on sprezzatura: If you recognize that quality in your own work, acknowledge it and glow with it. If you recognize it in the works of others, tell them and compliment them (you may have to refer them to this posting to hasten their understanding).

I’m not qualified for the label—nothing comes easy for me—but if I were I would appreciate being told, and would readily accept it as a nice compliment, as would others.

Perhaps.

And perhaps not—the characteristic appears to be a double-edged sword.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2009 in Books, Humor, Writing

 

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My acting debut reprised, circa 1972 . . .

My family has been blessed with three princesses produced, with a little help from me, by my wife, the Queen Bee of Texas. This posting is in response to an e-mail from Cindy, the middle daughter, a royal princess who lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia.

The e-mail is a passionate plea for me to blog about two events, one that took place in the early years of my education and was reprised some 32 years later, and another that took place around the same time as the reprisal. I have divided her e-mail into two parts, and will respond to the two parts separately.

This is the first part of her e-mail:

I have always loved this memory…you, me, and Kelley…sneaking into an abandoned grade school in Mississippi…you got up on stage and started singing some bee song. You told us about your mother making you a bee costume but she either couldn’t (or didn’t care) that you would be the only orange and brown striped bee. Your costume wasn’t yellow and black, as assigned. I think I was only 12 or 13 when you told us this story. Remember that adventure?

And this is my response, my blog posting, to the first part of her e-mail:

My acting career began and ended at some point in my fourth grade school-year at Barrow Elementary School in Columbus, Mississippi, a town of some 25,000 people, situated on high bluffs overlooking the Tombigbee River. My school occupied a relatively small two-story red-brick building, but with its surrounding playgrounds it covered a full city block. It was ruled by the iron hand of Miss Mary Stokes, the school principal, a white-haired high-buttoned-shoe spinster throwback to the 19th century.

I loved that lady with all the fervor a little boy could muster, a love that still exists many years after her death. I loved her despite being a frequent target—perhaps the most frequent target—of the 18-inch ruler she always carried in that iron hand, a tool that she used for punishment, and one that she wielded with vigor, accuracy and effectiveness on recalcitrant palms and backsides.

Ah, those were the days! corporeal punishment no longer exists in our elementary schools, whether public or private, and our nation suffers horribly because of its demise.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it, and I humbly offer myself as a shining example of the effectiveness of the system, with full credit given to Miss Mary and her ruler.

She never left home without it.

I attended her school for the first four years of my education (a process that continues to this day). For the fifth grade and through (almost through) the tenth grade, I began each school year in one city and finished it in another. That tortuous progression in my education resulted from my mother’s remarriage near the end of the fourth grade year. At the close of that year I began a pilgrimage that lasted seven years—a pilgrimage that would have me living, and attending schools, in several different cities in several different states.

Now on to my acting debut and its reprisal

I was fortunate enough to successfully complete the academic requirements of the fourth grade, chiefly because the school did not grade its students on their acting abilities. I debuted my acting career in that year, and some 32 years later I briefly revived that career with an impromptu reprisal of my debut performance. The reprisal was a command performance of the part I played so many years before, at the same school and on the same stage. My reprisal was performed before a wildly applauding audience comprised wholly of my two younger daughters, aged 8 and 12 years.

The school year was 1940-1941 and I was enrolled in the fourth grade at Barrow Elementary School in Columbus, Mississippi. The principal, Miss Mary Stokes, felt that every student should be involved in everything—if the third grade performed on the auditorium stage, every student in that grade had a part, even if it consisted of lining up on stage and watching their peers perform. However, the play in which I made my debut required flowers of different sizes, so students from grades below and above my grade were pressed into service—one of the taller flowers was my sister, a fifth grader. I mention all this because the stage was small and the cast of the play was huge.

I debuted as one of several boys cleverly costumed as bees. The curtains opened to reveal a group of girls—including my sister—cleverly costumed as flowers. The girls were almost immobile, because flowers have neither the option nor the ability, perhaps not even the desire, to move around. In this case, because the script called for it, these flowers were allowed to lean forward, backwards and sideways to simulate swaying in the breeze, most of which would be created by the bees buzzing around them, doing their pollinating thing.

The flowers began singing a bee song on cue, and on cue we bees spread our wings (arms), trotted on-stage and buzzed—as in bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, etc.—all around and between the flowers, pausing briefly near each flower and bzzzing like crazy, with the bzzzes aimed at the flower’s ear (a bit of symbolism there—hey, we didn’t write the script—we just emoted!). We were given to understand that we were simulating pollination and that the actual pollination was a vital activity of the bees, although they accomplished it unknowingly and accidently by transferring pollen (with their legs) from flower to flower—the pollen accumulated on their legs while they were gathering nectar. We learned that bees were absolutely necessary to propagate the flower species and to ensure a good honey crop and beehive survival.

That which we bees were doing was simulation, not stimulation—I don’t think I learned the latter word until junior high school. Here I must note that, contrary to the popular and virtually universal belief regarding familial relationships in the deep South, I did not pollinate my sister, nor was I in the least bit inclined to pollinate her.

I drew the line at pollinating her. I did not even like her. As her brother I was required to love her, but I was not required to like her.

As we bees flapped our wings and trotted, buzzed and pollinated, the girls sang the bee song, a catchy refrain of which I remember only a smattering. I googled the term and was faced with a bewildering array of bee songs but none sufficiently comparable, as I remember it, to this line from the song the flowers sang:

“Honey bee, honey bee, fly to and fro, gathering honey where ever you go,” etc., etc.

I know now that bees do not gather honey—they gather nectar, a substance that is ultimately turned into honey in the beehive. And all that pollination, a process that generated a lot of giggling from the girls, is purely accidental. We bees, bless our hearts, may not have been fully aware that our pollination was ensuring the propagation of the flower species. However, our lack of awareness did nothing to reduce the giggles.

The girls made their own costumes, with considerable help from the school staff. Their costumes consisted of varicolored crepe paper shaped as petals and affixed to their regular clothing, effectively obscuring their clothing and transforming them into beautiful flowers filled with pollen.

The flower costumes were made by the girls with staff assistance, but the bee costumes were made by the bees’ mothers at home. Our costume was a one-piece ensemble similar to a jump suit with short sleeves, with the legs descending only to mid-thigh—the ensemble’s legs, not ours—our legs continued all the way to our bare feet—evidently bees do not wear shoes. The basic color of the bee costume was light yellow, with strips of black material affixed horizontally to give the effect of stripes.

I was given no samples to take home to assist my mother in selecting cloth for my costume, so she winged it (so to speak) based on my verbal description. She chose bright orange for the basic color and light brown, almost tan, for the horizontal stripes.

I can truthfully state that I would rather have been a normal bee, one of several normal bees, but I was not—I was a standout among bees, a honey bee of a different color, if you will—I was like, you know, a honey bee with panache and lots of it. In later years I would happily conclude, in retrospect, that my costume was intended to identify me as the king bee, the strongest of the beehive’s male bees—all the others were mere drones.

I was the lucky bee that would be able to follow the Queen Bee’s flight straight upward to unimaginable heights, while one by one the other suitors would be falling back to earth, completely exhausted, and ultimately, at the apogee of our ascension I would mate with the queen, thereby ensuring that the pollination and propagation of flowers would continue, nectar gathering would continue, and the production of honey would continue in the new colony that the queen would establish.

Sadly I also learned in later years that, immediately following our coupling, the queen would begin the new colony as a widow. I, the bee with panache—the bee with the spectacular colors—the strongest and highest-flying bee—would not survive the mating.

Very soon, after you know what, I would have died—with a smile on my bee face, perhaps, but no less dead.

Bummer.

But that’s how things go in the bee world—if you don’t believe me, google it.

And now to the crux of this posting:

I and my two younger daughters were touring my home town, with me pointing out the various places I had lived, played, worked and gone to school, and we found that my elementary school was still standing, but just barely. The building was condemned, surrounded by a tall chain-link fence with warning signs posted prominently:

Danger!

This building is condemned!

Do not enter!

So we squeezed through an unauthorized opening in the fence and entered the building. It was in total disrepute, with broken windows, sagging sheet rock and debris everywhere. We were not deterred. I gave the girls a limited tour (we avoided the second floor because the stairs did not appear trustworthy), but we thoroughly toured the lower floor that included the auditorium. The seats had been removed but the stage was still there and reasonably intact.

I told my daughters about the fourth grade play, and at their urging I even mounted the stage for a reenactment of my part, including my entry, the play’s sound effects and my exit. I was a smash hit, with a far better reception than I received at the original performance, and I bowed to thunderous applause from the audience. In fact, I received a standing ovation—well, it was necessarily a standing ovation because there were no seats, but my daughters assured me that, had they been seated they would have nevertheless stood to applaud, and I accepted that gracefully.

And here is the second part of my daughter’s e-mail. Again, the e-mail is a plea for me to blog this subject:

And another segue….we always marveled at a) how many places Hester shuffled you and Dot off to whenever Papa John demanded the two of you be banished…and b) how you could remember exactly where (even if the house had been replaced by a 7-11 at the time you were showing us the location) each house was, which aunt/uncle/cousin took you in, and how long you were there before Hester cajoled Papa John into letting you return home. It seemed like dozens of locations, but maybe that is just how I remember it. That memory sticks out because we can’t relate to being tossed out of our home. We always had such stability (still do) in our family. I recall only living in five places—155 Farrel Drive in San Antonio, the house in Louisiana, then 155 Farrel Drive again, then briefly in Bonnie’s trailer park in Weslaco, then finally on 109 N. 10th Street in Donna.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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