Monday, May 29, 2017

Scarborough Fair

I was about to write about the woes of owning a twenty-one year old pickup when I sat down at my desk this morning. As I turned on Pandora the speakers on my desk poured out the Simon Garfunkel canticle, Scarborough Fair. All of a sudden memories flooded back to my senior year in high school, graduation, and the summer before starting a college career that would last years longer than I originally imagined.

I heard this song for the first time when I watched the movie, "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman. I identified with the main character in so many ways....other than his graduation was from college, mine from high school; he was rich, I didn't have two nickels to rub together; and of course, his neighbor was Mrs. Robinson, mine an old widower named Mr. Smith....he absolutely did not try to seduce me at any time whatsoever. What we did have in common was having no idea what to do with our futures. He needed to find a career and a wife. I needed to find a major and a plan for my future. He found a wife although it was the bride of another man. The last scene of the movie was of him and the wayward bride sitting on the back seat of a bus headed nowhere with the realization of what they had done, and what they faced etched on their faces. Actually, I guess I had nothing whatsoever in common with Hoffman's character except graduating at about the same time.

I try to not think back to my senior year in high school. It wasn't a good time for me. I do remember vividly the day I drove away from LD Bell for the last time. It was a beautiful late spring day, all the windows were down on my Chevy, the 8-track tape deck had the Beach Boys blasting from it, and I felt as free as one seventeen year old can feel. I knew I was starting college in the fall so I didn't have to worry about the jungles of Vietnam for a few more years, I had graduation money in my pocket, and I didn't have to show up for work for two more days! Boy oh boy, those were some mighty fine days of freedom and they lasted all of two days. Then I had to go back to work and start packing money away for college.

Throughout the summer I struggled with what I would do in the fall. I really wanted to be an architect but several "educators" had advised me to find a nice quiet degree with as little math required as possible...maybe Old English Lit. or, how about a nice degree in Philosophy? (As a side note, I didn't discover until late into my college years that I was very good at math. All it took was an excellent Business Analysis professor to eradicate the fear I had of it....fear instilled by countless math teachers who were too quick to judge based on comparison with "talented" students. I could sure fill a blog page on this subject but I won't.) As a default I took a major in business management. I wouldn't be the architect I dreamed of...thank you Mrs. Thrasher and a host of others.

That summer was filled with news reports of war demonstrations, days at the lake getting sunburned, and of course girls....lots and lots of girls. Even though I knew in my heart the love of my life was still in the process of growing up I dated a lot of girls that summer. I met them at my job at Six Flags....a wonderful idea formed by rich people to create an atmosphere for high school and college kids to meet and fall, or in some cases, lust....not me though, I kept it at like. It was during this summer I discovered that dancing would in fact not send you straight to hell as I had been taught. This false information had been a bane throughout my junior high and high school years.

It was toward the end of this wonderful summer that one of my dearest cousins was killed in Vietnam. Reality hit me right up the side of the head. Jamie had been so full of life and loved every minute of every day. The sadness and subsequent depression following his death haunts me to this day but his short life was a lesson to me. There are no promises about the future. I tried, and succeeded somewhat to stop worrying about the future so much. I tried to start living in the present and life got better...even with a crummy degree in business management.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Aunt Dovie...

I'm not sure if its the noise coming from the kitchen or the smell of frying bacon that wakes me up on this particular Sunday morning. As anyone in the family can attest, a Sunday morning at the Wardlow's is a much loved memory. My mom is with Dovie scrambling around trying to get a huge breakfast set while JD shaves and sings "Bringing In The Sheaves" or some other hymn as loud as he can. All seven kids are trying to avoid getting ready for church while my dad sits nervously in the living room, hiding behind the Sunday paper, hoping against hope that JD wont light into him for not going to church. Its a wonderful experience and the breakfast....ah, the breakfast...biscuits, more bacon than we ever see at home, and all the fried eggs you can eat. Of course we can only eat one because "that's enough, don't be rude". The eggs are courtesy of the hardworking chickens wandering around outside and the bacon is courtesy of an unlucky hog who met his maker the year before.

The Wardlow's lived on a few acres outside of Belton, Texas. To us "city kids" it was paradise. They had chickens, hogs, woods to one side and open fields to the other. A large front yard with thick St. Augustine grass was shaded by huge oak trees. All this and the added bonus of cousins, Jamie and Donny, who taught Glenn and me more corny jokes over the years than all the other cousins combined.

Our home today is known as "Mammy's House" because Debbie is 'Mammy' to our grandchildren and she is the one who has made our home so special for them. The Wardlow home should have been known as "Dovie's House" because she was the one who created what we all so lovingly remember. She didn't get out and roam the fields and woods with us or play ball with us in the front yard. She got tired easily because she had a severely damaged leg from a childhood injury and had to get around with a cane. Her temper was short on occasion because her two sons gave her a real run for the money, hence the piercing "DONNY RAY's" that sometimes filled the airwaves. She was hands down the best cook I've ever known and ruled her kitchen like a kingdom. Hours and hours were spent sitting around the kitchen table snacking on things she had made. One thing that was so special was the constant variety of foods and desserts available. She just kept on making stuff and it was never off limits. We could have anything we wanted any time we wanted it. She even made her own peanut butter which amazed this always hungry ten year old. She kept a loaded shotgun leaning in one corner of the kitchen. Jamie told us it was to chase us kids off when we got in the way but I don't think that's true....I hope that's not true. We used to sneak off with it and wander the fields shooting anything dumb enough to get in our cactus, leaves, or the occasional snake.

I loved to eat fried chicken at Dovie's house. I was used to having one piece of chicken at home for any given meal but when Dovie fried chicken it was a feast. It broke my heart when I found out where those chickens came from though. Glenn and I were chasing some nervous hens around the yard one day when Donny warned us not to let Dovie catch us. She was about to come outside to "select" dinner and she didn't want us making the inventory all skittish. Good old Donny also offered to let us wring their heads off if we asked real nice. I think I ate vegetarian that night.

Aunt Dovie was beautiful....just like all my aunts. My mom loved her older sister and told us kids more stories about growing up with her than I can remember. I hope future generations have the joy of remembering a special place and a special least one. I'm blessed with many.

Dovie was a wonderful aunt and I loved her dearly. She was the first aunt I lost to cancer. She died too young but in a way she was blessed with an early death. She died a year before her oldest son, Jamie, was killed in Vietnam. She didn't have to suffer the terrible loss experienced by JD, Donny, and all the family and friends who loved Jamie so much.

I think back on all our visits to the Wardlow's with warm and happy memories. Sometimes when life gets stressful my mind wanders back to the hectic Sunday mornings and the smell of breakfast in the kitchen and JD singing "When We All Get To Heaven". At times it seemed like we were already there.