What Did That Mail Box Ever Do To You?

What’s on your rearview mirror?
Not what’s IN your rearview mirror, what’s ON your rearview mirror?

Recently I had a car accident. I was at fault, I fell asleep at the wheel and hit a brick mailbox and it’s decorative counterpart across the driveway. Today, I talked to the owners of the home, a sweet lil’ ol’ Southern Grandparental unit, whose mailbox I had so mercilessly taken out. Of course, you hit a brick mail box, its pretty fweaking merciless, too. It tried to stand its ground, but it could have taken me with it.

It is one of those miracle type things, At least to me. Anyway, going thru the wreckage of my rear view mirror schwag I made a few discoveries about this talisman I have added to and crafted over the years, what does it say about me?

Orange rock star and leopard print dice that have swung in every car since 2003. I bought them in a gift shop somewhere. Attached green ribbon, with a sticky cross sticker to honor a co-worker who died, ironically, as the result of a car accident.

Faded Mardi Gras beads, not caught by hand, but bought in the Wal-Mart of the town we took in Mardi Gras in 2008.

An Auto Zone guardian Angel Charm with a blue stone on the hem of its ethereal robe, attached, the charm bracelet from Nashville, a souvenir from Mel from her first field trip away from Mom. A cross bracelet, tiny little thing, made in Awana by me one summer Mel and I took VBS together.

An air freshener, long lost of fragrance, Says “Sit Down, Hold On, and Shut Up” that pretty much sums up my entire life, given me by Chris, cos she reads me like a book. A Louisiana tack pen from the 2005 trip Mel and I made to Lake Charles, and one from the Route 66 Museum in Elk City OK from the 2006 Grand Canyon Adventure. Blue crescent moon from the Pink Palace.

You may be thinking, no wonder you had a wreck with such a cluster swinging from your rear view, but those who have mirror schwag understand.

So many memories, so much symbolism.

Mardi Gras and Louisiana are a part of me like a second skin. I love the color blue and crescent moons.

The cross, faded. Thiny shred of leather holding it all together, raggedy. Each color bead stood for something, I don’t remember what. I did have a guardian angel with me. She was packaged and bought specifically for that purpose. Both of those go in my future new car.

The dice are faded and their string eaten away by sun, time and one last wild ride into history. The ribbon is there to remind me how the story could have ended. Both of these retire to memorabilia heaven.

Mardi Gras beads, retired. There will be other Mardi Gras (thank you, Jesus) and we must start out small. The Nashville bracelet and air freshener, reluctantly, they go, I want to preserve the condition. The crescent moon comes with. It’s my personal symbol. I don’t know why, just because, Man in the moon, blue, it stays. Spiritual and Druidic, that’s me.

To say I survived this is an understatement. To me, it’s one of those times that define or confirm your personal spiritual view. To readers of this opus who are Christians, it’s a miracle. To “walk” away from this kind of accidentally has to be Divine intervention. But what to those who cannot perceive of the “God” concept? Is it my Irish good luck that always seems to save my ass? It’s heady, Folks, and a little scary. I was spared by God, I believe it, I know it. For whatever reason, I’m here, and I’m humbled.

I haven’t blogged in a year. So many things have happened in that year. I lost my job, I had “suspicious lump” surgery, I took a trip to Louisiana, just me an’ muh dawg. Back to the job, location, not position, new challenges, car wreck. 51 years old. Still ain’t got my shit together. As long as your shit’s not together, you still have a chance to get it together. That’s hopeful, right? I think so, I HOPE so.

What’s IN my rear view mirror? The one in my mind. The one that goes wild with symbolism and portent when I sleep. Crazy dreams, hidden messages. I’ve always have those sorts of dreams. It’s dreamlike when my mind plays over the sound bites of spinning in a vortex of windshield glass, like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ before the movie goes color. The shear, “how am I alive”
thoughts I get 1000 times a day now. “Why”? Why am I alive?

Something to look forward to. Something to dread. Something to think about. Something to obsess over. Like I wasn't crazy enough.....LOL

RIP Harriet Hugman Riley


Old Friends and Purring Zoomy Breifcase Cars

“Who runs out of milk”, she asked.

Facebook. Keeps you in contact with old friends. Keeps you up with the drama. Allows you to spend hours goofing off without officially leaving the website.

Anyway, the answer is, Everyone.

Her teen son apparently asked this when there was not enough milk for his Jethro Bodine bowl of Sunday morning cereal. That’s the way it goes. Got the Kraft mac and cheese on the boil, got my ½ stick o’ butter (margarine, actually) and go to the fridge, not even enough drops to make ¼ cup. How sad is that? Three things to do. (a) Extra butter or butter type product (b) go to the store (c) improvise with water and non dairy creamer.

Gallagher, the watermelon smashing comedian guy, remember him? Does a bit about running to the store for milk and he and his daughter get stuck in traffic and she says “can this many people be going for milk?” Running out of milk may be the great common denominator that unites us all.

“Please send me a cold coke….you get one, too!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life were like Zyngna games on Facebook? To paraphrase, ahem, “Hey, ya’ll got some extry horse beddin’s layin’ around so’s Ah kin finish muh extended coral?” And the little scribblets they come up with are naughty and hilarious. Oh, wait, I do apologize, not everyone likes to play “Frontierville” and to them, this means nothing. For that matter, not everyone Facebooks. I think its fun, and informative and I really miss it while I’m at work.

Work. My dear friend of 17 years and my boss of 11, left the mothership in search of new galaxies and adventures in information technologies. I’ll probably never see him again. I mean you live close enough to visit, but life is so fractious that you can never get around to the niceties of phone calls or impromptu visits. Someone said, “at least you can keep up with him on Facebook”. I guess that is true, but I can’t see his goofy grin and hear his “tickled” laugh on Facebook. Forever 7 months younger than me, he never let me forget that. We grew up in the same time frame. He’s a Jersey boy, I am a Mississippi girl. We knew a lot of the same trivia, but introduced each other to regional tidbits. Music and popular clichés, tv shows and cartoon theme songs. These were the subjects we loved, outside of work and information technologies, of course.

Gratuitous stroll down memory lane………
When I drive at night, I take the back roads. It’s so peaceful and serene, windows rolled down, crickets singing. It makes me think of being a kid and staying with the aunt and uncle units in summer. We would often just light out, spur of the moment, to visit one of UncaHoney’s older brothers. Sometimes it would ten o’clock at night. We’d pile in the car, in pajamas. Kat would sleep on the front seat, head on Unc’s leg, feeties in her mother’s lap. DoodCuz and I are in the back seat of the blue station wagon with woodish side panels, each at a window. DrCuz between us, leaning on me to sleep, cos I am pillowy, even back then. I watched out the window all the way. Trees whizzed by in dark shadows. I liked to rest my head on the door, hair blowing ruthlessly into the night. I looked up at the sky, gray with starlight. A lot of driving is through treeless Delta, you can see for miles, smell dewy cotton and beans. To this day, a homestead with a light pole next to a carport at night brings me back to that. Finally pulling up at midnight, waking random brother and wife up, kids spilling out to see who it is this time. We’d stay there 2 or 3 days, then head back to the farm. A few days later, we were woken in the middle of the night by one of Unc’s nephews, knocking on the door, holding a sleeping toddler and backed up by a tired wife and sleepy kids. Once they got in the house there was no sleeping, there are kids to play with and the closet in the playroom is full of Fisher Price and Tonka.

The adults gather round the dining room table, enjoying liquid relaxants and playing canasta. We don’t have computers and all you gonna find on tv at night is static. WHBQ radio out of Memphis plays from a radio on the mantle. Or maybe theres one of those state of the art 8 tracks playing one of those compilations of top 40 hits. I first heard Maggie May and Peace Train off one of those 8 tracks. I know there was some Elvis thrown in there; you can betchyer bottom dollar on that. Sometime in the wee hours, kids passed out here and yon, not me though, I am tottering on tweeness and I need to observe the adult in all activities. It’s time to break out the bread, mayo and lunch meat, sustenance is needed to properly win a canasta game. I make sammiches for the players, freshen their bevvies. I have an assembly line going of baloney and liver cheese wrapped in thick white paper from the meat counter of a nearby (10 miles) Mississippi Delta store, which catered to the farm crowd. You could also get one bee-u-ti-ful steak, Buddy. There was plenty of steak grillin’ back in those days. Fat inch thick seared and dripping onto the coals, making them hiss like kittens. I was a kid, but I could appreciate that smell, sound and…….Geez, I’m salavatin’ ovah heah.

Um, those there wuz good grilled steaks; I grilled them mugs in tha rain, Buddy. But I digress.

I am pissed off. Where is the George Jetson technology we were promised in cartoons? Where are my moving sidewalks? I don’t go to airports, Clever Trousers, I mean, where’s the one going from my car to my desk? In fact, where is my car that turns into a briefcase and makes that purring zoomy sound? I could handle the day better if getting up wasn’t such a pain in the badonkeydonk. I need one of those beds that tips me to my feet, conveyor belts me through a shower, dresses me, sits me in front of cooked breakfast. Wait…where does my morning constitutional fit into that?... Anyway, where’s all that stuff? Quit sending shit into space and make George Jestson Stuff for earthlings. I mean, really, what good is space travel anyway? We can’t even handle the planet we were assigned, why are we mucking about in space? At least gimme a robot maid.

***jules***ang***cheryl***scott***thx oxoxoxo


Ramblin', Man

Hello All

Haven’t been down with the blogging lately, have begun to wonder if I was some one year wonder, or something. I’ve had tons of blog worthy thing happen, but I just haven’t been able to grasp onto a theme. So I’m just going to start typing and see where I end up.

I’ve been extremely proud of my baby, Mel, these past few months. She’s grown into a nice young lady, lately. She was on the verge of being one of those rebellious types and lemme tellya nerves was frayed. She suddenly pulled in her head out of her you-know-what-sis and has even become somewhat responsible. I said “somewhat”, don’t get all crazy in the imagining department. She’s not Ren from Even Stevens, but she’s not Darlene from Roseanne.

For Spring Break, Mel and I treated ourselves to a trip to Vicksburg. We are history buffs and we like to tour antebellum homes. That includes Chris, but Mel deserved a trip with Mom by herself, and Chris understood. She’s cool like dat.

We usually go to Natchez and we decided to go someplace new, but the same. We know a lot of the history of Natchez by repeated touring of Longwood, Stanton Hall, Rosalie and Magnolia Hall. Vicksburg, just miles north of Natchez, was a big focal point of the Civil War as the Siege of Vicksburg raged on 45ish days.

I thought it would be a nifty idea for us to stay in a bed and breakfast. We stayed in a suite in the carriage house of a palatial compound called “Cedar Grove”. After talking, in low tones, to some seasoned B&Bers, I learned that it was not all that great for the price. I think she paid more than me, cos she was in the main house, and I was in the stable.

I also thought a haunted hearse tour would be nifty. Mel was not as enthused as I, but she was a good sport about it. She did get kinda angry when I got the Hearse Tour Guy to give us the spectral low down on our home for the night. She was not able to sleep that night. Even if you take away the buzzing bed side table and the crazy buzzy alarm clock, you still have the creepy front room with one of those over stuffed mattresses made out of who knows what on that creaky old day bed that Moses probably personally slept on when he parted the Mississippi River on vacation.
And then…..the cable mysteriously went out and I had to turn off the tv, cos she hasn’t seen White Noise and she doesn’t know what can happen to static if ghosties are floating about. So then, in the silence, except for clocks and drawers randomly buzzing, we looked up into the top of our half tester bed and noticed it looked like the inside of a coffin. Good thing I had my reliable lap top and a DVD of Picnic. Old movies will put kids to sleep in seven minutes flat, five, if it’s black and white. Of course, first she watched the Hangover and couldn’t sleep for laffing out loud. I was in the Jacuzzi tub at 3am trying to figure how to turn the thing on. When I finally discovered this, the water was cold. On top of that, I’m reading a Stephen King book in a tub at a possibly haunted hotel, can you say Wendy Torrance? The Rebecca DeMornay version, not the Shelly Duvall, if you please.

I’ve had my B&B stay. Hotels from now on. I’ve had the experience, I’m good. Although…..I’d like to stay in the Myrtles.

I do not know what it is in my brain crevasses that make me love to shiver to a good spine chilling tale of ghostly goings on. It probably goes back to being a kid and listening to my mother telling of her other worldly experiences and retold tales of others.

Let me set the mood. Seven year old Vi is laying on the bed in Evil Ann’s duplex, between Evil Ann and Dot, listening to them recount their encounters. The window is open and the curtains blow gently in the still humid breeze. It’s very late at night, but we are night owls. Even though there is no one to disturb, Dot whispers her tales, too horrible to be spoken aloud. EA, who lived in Japan in the time of her other life, has Japanese ghost stories, and the internet has let us know how scary those are. Dot told her “visited by a person having an out of body experience” stories. A little kid gets goose bumps and is scared to even go to the bathroom alone. Or even worse, the dreaded, “run into the living room and get my cigarettes”. Oh man, you had to leave all cool and shit, as soon as you were out of sight, you ran to the living room, grabbed the smokes and ran back to the door way. Take a second to get your breath, you don’t want them to know you were a scaredy cat, afraid to go in the living room alone.

The big thing back then, to little Vi was…….Redbones!!! If I offend anyone with this story, I apologize in advance, it’s unintentional, I promise. Anyway, as I recall (and this info may be iffy, I was a kid, ya know) Redbones were half Indian (Native American, in these PC times) and half Black and were from Opelousas. That’s all I remember, except they were mean and you had better not say the word “Redbone” in their hearing…or…REDRUM REDRUM. Speaking of Opelousas, that was where I first remember seeing that little shadow out of the corner of my eye. You always have to do a double take and shake it off. If this has ever happened to you, you know what I mean. I was in the bedroom of some kids and we were playing around, it must’ve been late, we had pjs on. I remember the room had that old cowboy wallpaper from the 50s and the twin beds with the wagon wheel headboard. It saw it pass the door frame. Just a blur. The other kids didn’t notice and it was soon forgotten, these were FUN kids!

To make matters more intense EA and Dot became avid users of the Ouija Board. I would sit at the kitchen table and scrawl in my best second grade penmanship, the letters they called out to me. One never accused the other of pushing the little pointer thing. They asked it questions concerning their detective missions. Dot asked it questions about her married boyfriend that she quit to marry my step-dad. . It was he, Mr. Married, that she said appeared at her bedside in the early dawn of a Louisiana morning. She wanted to know had he appeared because he had died. Evil Ann asked it questions about George Jones, whom she claimed was an ex-lover of hers.

The summer of 68, we moved back to Mississippi. We lived in a sprawling old house, surrounded by cow pastures. We had a ghost in that house, my mother talked about it. I don’t remember much about it, I must not have been scared of it, I stayed by myself after school for at least an hour. What I was scared of was all that open fields with nothing but cows. My mother would have to take my step dad out to his truck sometimes at night and I remember them leaving me there alone. I lay in my bed, not daring to move. I was scared someone would break in, but I wasn’t scared of the ghost. I had it cozened in my mind that the ghost was protecting me from the robbers. I also felt safe when planes flew overhead. I thought they were flying at night to make sure no one rustled any cows. (What do you expect? Gunsmoke and Bonanza were tv shows back then, not reruns) I was disappointed when Dot explained it was the nearby airport the planes were interested in, not cows at night. We only lived there 4 months. Dot was too scared to stay there. (Two of those months, for me, were spent with Aunite Virg and Unca Honey)

A couple of years later I went to a slumber party at that old house. We girls slept in the room that my great grandfather had slept in when he lived with us there. I could feel my Grandpa in that room, even though he had lived with us in another house after that, a little bit of him lingered here. I woke up after all the other girls. I came stumbling out and the dad of the house called me sleepyhead. The girls did not know how I’d slept in that room, they thought it was creepy. How dare they speak about Grandpa that way.

I also remember riding around in the boonies, looking for old run down abandoned buildings. We weren’t choosy; we’d investigate any building, even outhouses. In the late sixties, these old buildings half stood on weed choked plots, hidden by overgrown trees. You had to look for the remnants of a driveway, park and wrangle jungle growth to get to them, but the creepy goodness they exuded sent delightful chills down my spine. I never saw a ghost, but the possibility of a sighting was thrilling. My step dad would come up behind you and tickle you, making you jump and holler. He especially liked to hide around a corner and wait for my mother to amble up. He’d jump out with a big “BOO” and she would get mad and give him the silent treatment for a few minutes.

Well, that story just flowed on forever. Let’s see if there’s anything else wanting its story told.

Historic Mississippi River Flooding…OMG

My theory is that Mother Nature is pissed off. Ever since they stopped showing Parkay commercials, she’s been kind of in limbo, just doing her job and watching over Earth, but in the last few years she’s been increasingly testy with the weather. In Mississippi, the weather used to be reliable. A little cold, cool, spring, summer. HOT HOT HOT, Indian Summer and Christmas. That was your year. Now you may have a tropical heat wave one day and a cold snap the next. Hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding turn out violent performances with a vengeance. Tsunamis and earthquakes make frightening dents in the world’s populations.

I don’t usually keep up with what’s going on up river from Memphis. All I know is Memphis, and points south have new record levels, In Tunica Co, MS, a fishing camp with many permanent residents was underwater and the casinos closed. As a result, I had a month’s paid vacation. It was impossible to relax and enjoy it, as I was constantly worried about what was going on back at the office. It’s a weird sensation, looking at pictures of your workplace on the world wide web and it’s become an island in a rushing pond of river water.

I did get to spend some time out in the country, visiting my niecelet Diane and nephusel Bobby and their disgustingly precious baby boy Kyle. Bobby’s mother has recently passed and I like to be out there in a Matronly capacity, you never know when someone’s going to need a heartening word or a strong shoulder.

It’s a little unconventional, I know. These young adults I have been fraternizing with these days are actually the nephews and niece and their significant others of X2. When divorce papers are signed, especially if children are involved, extended family is kept as part of the divorce settlement. I met Hoss and Lil’ Joe 6 months before I became the OLDER woman in their uncle’s life. I got to know Bobby and Neecy after I was their aunt by marriage. I think Marie would be glad to know I am there for them and that I am keeping Mel in the big fat middle of things. Plus they are all such big goofballs, ya gotta love ‘em.

And….sigh….here I sit, Granchildrenless. I have to live vicariously through others. I spent the night with Diane and Kyle while Bobby was out of town and I let Diane sleep in while I took care of Kyle. I doddered around behind him a chilly May Sunday morning. Kyle had his second breakfast of dirt and expertly spit out the rocks and twigs, he’s a country boy, that boy. I pushed him around in his Little Tykes Pick Up. He’s all boy, that boy. I think of it as MawMawhood 101. Made me remember waaaaaaaaaaay back to my Motherhood 101 course.

My first Jr mother experience came during the summer of 1970. My cousin Kat was 9 months old when I arrived in Alligator and almost a year old when I left. (The school year started after Labor Day, man I miss that) I got up early, with Kat’s first sounds of the morning. I’m sure Auntie Virg enjoyed the extra hour of sleep, as I got Kat out of bed, changed her, dressed her and gave her breakfast. I had to be fussed at to let the child down to do baby things. DoodCuz, DrCuz and I would be shooed outside. We’d drag in in time to watch Bozo the Clown, on Channel 7 in Little Rock. Kat would be down for a nap by then and I would be allowed to get her up and change her.
My grandmother, Mama Lou, lived in Memphis, right around the corner from the big shoe house. We went there often for the weekend. My main activity was walking around the block, Kat on my hip, sometimes with DoodCuz and DrCuz tagging along, sometimes not. Ladies out tending flowers and men cutting grass would stop us and go on and on about Kat. I was proud and beamed like a light house at their compliments.

Now Kat and I are both mothers. It’s true, what they say, Motherhood is the toughest job you’ll ever love. For as much as I loved, and still love Kat, nothing compares you for the all consuming love you have for your own kids. Sometimes it is so overwhelming, it’s hard to breathe. I hear that is magnified by grandchildren.

Looking forward to that.


365 Days Without You

Like many landmarks in our life, on the one hand, it seems like just yesterday, on the other hand, it’s like forever ago.

It’s been a year since my Mother-In-Law Marie was called to Glory. Every gathering that I’ve been to this year, Marie’s memory hugs us like a microfiber blanket before its first laundering. I’ve never heard anyone mention it, but I can sense her spirit among us and I know she’s smiling and laughing.

“What Ev Er”

This weekend Bess, Marie’s greatgrandgirl, (Yes, we Southerners say a good many things with no spaces) was given a 2nd Birthday Cookout/Moon Bounce Tho’Down. There was a purple castle Moon Bounce. There was Bobby boppin’ everybody on the head with an inflatable hammer. Hoss unplugged the moon bounce covertly, yet brazenly. The moon bounce began to collapse inward. Hearty Rednecks that we are, there are no shouts of hysterical surprise, just “Awwww, dang thangs done tore up!” Then Hoss plugs it back in and the moon bounce recovers and the kids troop back in. X2 looks at me and does his “that boy is crazy” head shaking laugh thing that we have been applying to Hoss since he was a boy. (So Bobby and Hoss are in their 30s, wanna make sumpin’ out of it?)

Now, Marie loved a party. Especially kids birthday parties. She would feel gypped if there were no party games. She loved to go to Dollar Tree and pick out prizes for the game winners. And, she was in charge of the cake. If you had other cake plans, then you were going to have two cakes. That’s okay by me, the more cake the merrier. I had a formal dress Tea Party/Make Over Sleep Over when Mel turned 11. Marie was there for the afternoon tea, chuckling along with a big smile just watching Mel and her girlfriends interact. She did not stay for the slumber party, Marie had a strict rule about driving after dark. She did not do it. No way, no how. Nada…..nuh uh…no.

Marie would have been in her element, in the big fat middle of it. She’d have grabbed Bess every time she passed in grabbing distance and plant a big ol’ smooch on her, leaving a pink lip print on Bess’ plump cheek. She’d bend over Kyle in his jaunty rocketship walker and get slobbery cheeto kissykisses every few minutes. “Put some shoes on, Hon,” she’d plead with Shelly, who is running around barefooted with ice still in the shadows. Maybe she did do these things. I think I saw a smooch print on Bess’ cheek. A skeptic might call it a mild case of windburn. I say it’s an angel kiss.



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It was 10 years ago today. My mother was in the hospital, they weren’t quite sure exactly what the problem was and they were taking her hither and yon for this test and that. I had spoken to her the night before and she seemed great, hopeful that she would get out in a day or two. In between that time and the time I started calling her room the next day, she obviously took a turn for the worst. When I could not reach her in her room I did not freak, as she was often out for various treatments…or maybe experiments, heck, who knows. A few hours later, I began to get concerned and that bitter taste of impending doom crept into the back of my mouth. One of her tests was going to coming back with very bad findings. I knew in my heart that something was wrong and I started making mental notes on what must be done, I would have to talk her into living with me and the girls and she’d not be able to live alone.

It was about 3:00 when I got the call at work. “Your mother has taken a turn for the worst; we’d like you to come in.” Its straight shot up 61 in Robinsonville to Shelby Drive then over to Elvis Presley Blvd and up to Methodist Hospital, but that was the longest drive of my life. All sorts of scenarios played in my head, but you know, I knew she had died. I called X2 for comfort, but he had none for me, in those days we had not become divorced friends yet. I remember sitting on 61, near old home town, and this car full of young black guys with Bolivar County plates, were looking at my car and laughing and pointing, who knows why, but I specifically remember thinking, my mother is dead and you’re laughing at my car, ain’t life grand?

I came to the intensive care waiting room and was met by the stereotypical stout nurse who whisked me into a waiting room and told me in a no-nonsense, not at all comforting manner that my mother was dead. I had just been diagnosed with a panic condition and I mentioned that, as I could feel the surge rising in my throat, she informed me there would be none of that and to let her know when I was ready to see my mother. And she left the room. I was alone, but thank God, I had a cell phone, cos the phone in the little room was local only. I did what any woman does in a crisis, I started making phone calls. Auntie Virg, out in Arizona. Norma; Mama’s cousin and next door neighbor, RonDan, day care, Donna Reed Flintstone, Geener, I don’t know who I called when what I told them, I only remember the lady at Day Care saying, “Don’t go in to see her alone.” I can’t remember who I put in charge of getting Mel, but it wasn’t X2.

DoodCuz and RonDan got there first. They both exceeded 6 feet in height and they towered over me and smothered me against them, it was like a cloud of what families are made of, closeness, love, despair, grief, disbelieve, support and kindness. Mama’s weird friend Barbra was there, Norma came in as we took that dreaded walk to the icu pod that housed her. Norma intercepted me in a bear hug. Her coat smelled of mothballs and I almost gagged.

You remember things like this in a jumble later on. We walked into the icu room, I think I may have been leaning on DoodCuz. Dot lay there as asleep. They had removed her dentures (Where are those? Do I have them?) Her mouth hung open, as if enjoying a particularly satisfying nap. I sat in a chair, looking at my dead mother, it was so unreal, she looked as if she’d wake at any moment. It looked like she was breathing. RonDan, who was a nurse by trade, touched my mother. “Her skin is so soft,” she said. I stayed in my chair. “She’s not dead”, I said, “she’s breathing.” DoodCuz suggested it was time we leave, and we did.

That was the last time I saw her, as we are the cremation types. She wanted her ashes spread near the old homestead in Attala County, between the property that had been her grandfather’s and the property of her childhood bestie who had always lived next door. She wanted said childhood bestie to do the honors; she did not want me involved at all. Seems she died while we were at loose ends, her and me. The last time I saw her alive, she was argumentative and critical, of me, Auntie Virg, and Chris as well. She wanted Chris to stay in the hospital with her, but Chris was too young to sit at the hospital overnight, she had no experience what so ever in the care of an ill person and besides all that, she just did not want to stay the night in the hospital. I did not make her stay and that sealed my fate as far as my mother felt about me, I believe. Had she lived, we probably would have gotten through it, but as it is, her life ended before we could make up. So, she was miffed with me the last few days of her life. That’s how she was, always miffed at someone, usually Auntie Virg, or me.

It was more than a year after that she began to visit us. Auntie Virg had moved back to Mississippi by then, she was spending the weekend at the apartment. I woke in the wee hours to make water, as the old folks say, and as I sat there sleepily, I thought I heard my mother cough. Now when you hear someone cough who has been dead over a year, you tend to jerk to attention. Then, I smelled coffee brewing. Dot always got up in the night and stayed up a bit, and almost nightly she drank coffee. Coffee did not keep her awake. As I made my way back to bed, I still smelled coffee, but pooh poohede it off to my imagination. Chris came in my room the next morning and asked had I made coffee the night before. Oh course, my answer of “No, why?” was accompanied by an icy cold finger on my spine. Chris had found a coffee mug sitting on the counter with a little brown coffee in the bottom of it and a spoon lay across the top the way Dot always did it.


I'm Not An Actress But I Play One On TV

I was hoping that by this juncture in my life that I would be an actress who had a fascinating career and now took roles that had interesting parts for me. My home address would be Malibu California. Out my backdoor, out my sliding stained glass doors that lead out to the pool and to the ocean and beach. On my Italian marble mantle in my luxurious all white sunken living room, would be my Oscar, surrounded by framed photographs of me and my husband, John Travolta.

As it turns out, that didn’t happen. Can’t imagine where I took that wrong turn in my career path, but I am not a famous actress. Oh well, I may not live 87 feet from the Pacific Ocean, but I do live in a town that has a body of water in its name and I live close to a famous river.

I started my career of minor careers at a little place called Oilfield Exchange. It had the distinction of being the oldest answering service in Lafayette. We also ran Western Union in Lafayette. I started out on grave shift, 11pm to 7am. Started out? They wouldn’t let me off it, which resulted in my employment at Answering Service of Lafayette. After they hooked me in by promising no grave, they flattered me into working it and I was too naïve to even negotiate a raise out of it. After not being able to break free I bounced over to A&M. Oilfield Exchange courted me back there, that reconciliation was an abomination and finally I found myself at Telephone Answering Bureau.

They were reluctant to hire me at TAB; I had worked so many places in the short time between May 78 and Feb 80. I was a good operator, but I was young, wild and a little full of myself. I made rash decisions, I was immature, my mouth wrote checks my ass couldn’t cash. I was sort of insufferable; I don’t know how anyone stood me. I had a hard time standing me.

I have an excuse, I was hungover. This is Oilfeild Exchange.

I found a niche at TAB. It was the largest answering service in Louisiana, with 16 switchboards. We answered phones for many types of businesses, but the main thing was oilfield service companies and the city medical community. Yes, if you could work board 3 and 4, the Doctor’s Boards, you were the shit around there, and guess who was THE Shiz-it, of course, Young Adult Vi. If you could work those boards, you were fast and accurate, had a good memory, a rapport with doctors who are generally grumpy oldish curmudgeonly men, but some are bright young things that are usually pleasant. The Oil boards operators were just as fast, but the doctors boards were crazy. The people on the other ends of the Oil Board’s cords were easy going, possibly half inebriated men, jaded by their oilfield experience, jauntily flirting with the operator, Boards 3 and 4 operators dealt with frantic mothers of newborns, brusque nurses from various intensive care rooms around the city or tired overworked doctors. It was extremely nerve wracking and I had a prescription for a mild tranquilizer that I took when things got too overwhelming. A pissed off doctor will yell at you like a hysterical bridezilla if you mess up. Some, not all, but those that would were a pain in the ba donkey donk. Toward the end of the shift, as sick babies finally slept and tired doctors were able to finish rounds, the boards cooled down and you could wind down a little before getting off for the night.

These pics are from 2 different locations of A&M

I met so many women that influenced me in different ways in those years. I say women, as it was almost exclusively women. Crusty old broads, sassy but sage black women, women in relationships with married men and young women discovering the freedom of being an adult with none of the responsibilities, girls like me. Uptight women, married women who looked over their spectacles in loud disgust over young pot smoking blue jean wearing beatniks. Women who hated men, women who loved men, any man, all men, as many men as possible. Divorcees, single mothers, women who had no children, but had tiny lap dogs that were eternal babies. Women who smoked too much, women who drank, women who needed a drink and women who drove others to drink.

With this age of internet in your pocket digital pictures phones the size of compacts age we live in, the answering services I worked for have to be nothing like they were in that heyday at the end of the oilfield boom. We answered a phone, reached the person on call at a number they’d left, or perhaps we’d beeped them on a device that send our voices over. “Call your answering service”. It was before Caller ID and Call Forwarding. It was before answering machines. We did have touch tone key pads on our switchboards, we weren’t cave women. Only Oilfield Exchange had rotary dial switchboards.

I wonder what happened to all those ladies I worked with. I have been able to successfully find two or three over the web and they don’t seem to be caught up to the internet age yet. The lady who sat next to me whenever I was on board 4, as she always sat on board 8 ( For some unknown reason the boards on that side of the room were in order, left to right 10, 1 , 2, 3 , 4, 8, 5, 6 and 16. Missing numbers were on the other side of the room.) She reeked of perfume, I hated sitting next to her, perfume makes my throat close, in large doses. She wore so much to cover the gin, I guess. I wonder if she’s still living, but I guess she’d be near 90 if she is. The lady originally from Oklahoma who was a roly poly short woman who had diabetes and was not supposed to use salt. She loved salt, she wouldn’t give it up. She said she’d rather die happy that live a life of bland food. Where’s that girl that could pass for Sissy Spacek’s twin, who was blissfully pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. Her boyfriend that was almost full blooded Indian, and was killed in a bar fight before the baby was born. They were so in love, such a striking couple, a small girlish woman and a tall dark man with long silky black hair. Where’s that woman who pinned all her hopes and wasted her youth on a married man who kept promising to leave his wife and begin a new life with her. He finally did leave his wife, to be with a third woman, who he cheated on his wife and his girlfriend with.

I worked at TAB until I moved back to MS in ’86. (1983 was Arizona year, I was able to walk with into the job I’d left) I did some growing up there. I learned about life through the eyes of others, you learn a lot about people and their pasts sitting next to them eight hours at a time, day after day.

Anyway, I really do have an Oscar on my mantle. All is not lost.


Happy Birthday, El

If there was ever a celebrity I was “raised on”, as we say in the South, it’s Elvis Presley.

My Aunt loved him from the moment she knew of his existence. Dot always claimed to not really care for him, but that was just her wanting to be contrary and different, as was her way. When you spend over $50 on a book about a dead guy, you like him.

The Cousins and I heard Elvis music from birth, there are probably thousands of kids that can make this claim. In the age before internet, before VCRs even, 8 tracks, what’s that? We listened to vinyl Elvis. The first movie I saw in a theater, rather than a drive-in, was an Elvis movie, Fun in Acapulco. It was in Opelousas LA, and I remember being shocked when we got out that it was still daylight outside. It was dark in the theater, and I was sure it was night time.

I’ve always joked that you couldn’t be in my family if you weren’t up on your Elvis facts. That’s not exactly true, but over the years we have picked up an intense amount of Elvis trivia. I won’t bore you with any here, cos chances are you know some on your own, or you totally do not care.

1973 was the year they showed Aloha from Hawaii on TV. In 1974 my aunt and grandmother got to see his concert at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. Needless to say, the Aloha from Hawaii had semi permanent possession of the turn table. We knew every word of that album, every breath, nuance, every mention of Kathy Westmoreland and the Sweet Inspirations. “I hope these pants don’t tear up, Baby.”

Then that sad day in August 77 when E expired, he was only 42. On the Lafayette stations and the newspaper let us know everything we needed or didn’t really need to know about the entire situation. I think it may have been the precursor the media blitz that consumes any newsworthy happenings these days.

Moving back to North Mississippi, which is inches from Memphis, in 86, we were settled in just in time for the big 10th anniversary of Elvis’ official leaving of the building. My mother, who didn’t like Elvis, as you’ll recall, taped all movies played, watched all live coverage. It was like nothing I’d ever seen; now we see this type of thing all the time.

When you encounter someone who has never been down this way, their first question about Memphis is about Elvis or Graceland or death week. Elvis Death Week, it’s embarrassing, you must roll your eyes all the way back into your head at the very mention of it. OMG the things people will do. You can’t fault the powers that be for going on with it, year after year. It’s a big money maker. In some twisted way, it keeps Memphis on the map, and you wanna always be on the map.

Okay, now forget all that and let’s concentrate on the man and his music.

Vi’s favorite Elvis song? I can’t pick just one. His gospel recordings are goose bump inducing. His Christmas album is awesome. Once Elvis did a cover of a song, even just goofing off, or a little live ditty, it became his. I can’t think of one cover I’ve ever heard El sing that didn’t blow the original away. He could sing as well in a live setting as with slick producing on a finished recording. Even singing in a language he didn’t speak, it’s as if he’s been singing that way all his life. He had the best backup singers. He couldn’t stay still, soul and emotion oozed out of every pore. Even as I am writing this, I am finding songs and performances on You Tube I was unaware existed that are awesome. Elvis movies, eh, I only care for the musical numbers.

My kids have only ever held Elvis in medium esteem. Oh sure they like a few of his songs, who couldn't like some of them. A couple of weeks ago, the afternoon DJ on 98.1 here in Memphis was playing an Elvis song, probably a Christmas song, a couple of weeks ago was Christmas time. Anyway, it might have been part of her daily “Relationship Roulette” game, because she was talking to a younger listener and she was telling him he would have to get a little older before he could appreciate Elvis. Chris said, “You know, that’s true, Mama. I used to think Elvis was stupid, I’ve always liked some of his songs, but I could never get into him the way you do, but lately …..” Then the subject changed, you know how conversations progress. Maybe Mel can grow into her inner Elvis, too. After she gets over the screamo, death metal, makes Gwar look like The Jonas Brothers music (?) genre phase.

Here is the official Elvis.com website.

I am going to leave you with this with this performance from the ’68 Come Back Special that says it all.