Saturday, May 21, 2016


The first week of school in September my fifth period students of Spanish wiggle into their seats in language lab booths. Their books reverberate with thuds as they hit the floor I step onto the small podium in front and open the roster.
"Attention, please," I say first in Spanish, followed by English. I'll do it every day until I drop the English altogether.  "Quiet while I call the roll." I call the names, often having them correct my mispronunciation.

 I'm halfway finished when the metal booths clatter. Chairs scrape and feet brush back and forth on the wood floor like brooms.

A curly head pops above the partition. "Everything's OK, Teacher, I got it. Tamara passed out again."

I scramble off the podium and head to the fourth row to see who Tamara is. On the floor is a slender girl, her skin, a caramel color. She is curled like a fetus, unconscious. Some students huddle in the aisle while others sit still and crane their necks. Tamara writhes and moans without opening her eyes.

"Ooh," the curious utter in unison like a chorus in an ancient play. My insides squeeze with each whine that comes from the body. I hear shuffling as students close in for a better look. Instinct tells me I can't help her. I'm seeing epilepsy in action for the first time.

"Billy, get the principal!" I yell to the boy on the first row by the door.  I return to the podium and finish calling the roll while the principal and the coach arrive and carry the ill student out of the room.

 Tomorrow has to be a better day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


 Mother's mind was always tinkering with somewhere to go.  If no one accompanied her on some wild chase or if she had no personal transportation, those reasons failed to stop her.  I love telling this one adventure.

My sister and I were privileged to attend summer camp in Montreat, NC in 1944 and 1945, During the second summer Mother decided she needed a vacation, put her job on hold and moved temporarily to Asheville to be near us. She found a job in a small hospital as a telephone operator.  She loved being in a different place, without the hassle of her husband.  She'd take my sister, seven-years old, and twelve-year-old me out to lunch, after chugging to the camp up the mountain side in a taxi. Some days she took us to a movie.  We never let on that we missed the camp's activities. We loved our mother too much to complain. 

At the end of the summer she rode the train with us back to Mississippi.  During that time, and many times later to different audiences, she told us of her famous taxi ride.  She hopped a taxi when she first arrived in Asheville without a hotel reservation. She asked the driver to ride around so she could check out the hotels.  He did, and during that ride looked through the rear view mirror and said, "Where are you from, Madam?" (Now I must remind you in those years women felt very comfortable alone in public.) Mother said Mississippi, to which the driver replied, "I was stationed in Jackson, Mississippi, a few years ago -- at Hawkins Field." Mother then added, "I was switchboard operator at Hawkins for six months." He introduced himself, as did Mother and they realized they had shared one incident together.

Mother went to work at midnight at the field. She drove her car down the paved road leading to the sentry.  A short distance from the entrance, she saw four servicemen getting her attention with waving hands. She stopped and they breathlessly asked, "Can you give us a ride through the sentry? Otherwise we'll be late, and that can't happen." Mother agreed and they mushed themselves into the small car, she sailed through the sentry with her pass, and the guys unloaded down near the barracks.

"I've never forgotten you. Your name's Ann, isn't it?" She said yes.  "Well, this ride's on me. I'll show you a good place to stay while you're here.  In fact, anytime you want to see the sights of the city, I'm at your service."  Mother, not wanting to lose an opportunity, said, "I want to see a still." I'm not sure if this announcement surprised the driver. He answered, "Give me a few days to find one rather safe for you."

In due time Mother tromped through tall grass and around bushes to see a whiskey-making still in action. She was thrilled when she took a taste, and even more thrilled when the makers gave her a jar of their famous liquid.  

I never have heard of another mom desiring a visit to such an operation. She remembered that experience the rest of her life.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Long before there was a fictional Disneyland, before tennis courts invaded green space, before
kids were immersed in electronics, there were public parks scattered around our hometown in Jackson, Mississippi.

 Poindexter Park was located in West Jackson at the edge of downtown. I lived within walking distance of this beautiful play land. As a child my parents brought me out on Saturday mornings to play before the summer heat drove us indoors. Most Sunday evenings we listened to music played by live musicians. Mother took pictures of my playing in the sand box, sitting on the baby swing, leaning against Daddy on a bench. A wide expanse of area, three city blocks wide and two city blocks narrow held swings, see-saws, and sand boxes.  Tall trees provided shade in the humid summer months, hide-aways for lovers, benches for the weary, cross walks for strollers.

 One area of our own grassy knoll sat a brick and stone gazebo called the Band Stand. There during elections stood candidates who'd promote themselves the only way other than through newspaper articles and advertisements. There during spring and summer nights the city band played while families spread picnic supper and kids ran squealing with delight.

For the little ones, the concrete sandboxes filled to the brim with sand got dug and filled in pails, poured over kids' heads, pee'ed in, spilled over into the grass.  All kids knew what having sand in their hair, on their faces, in their clothes felt like. Yet, every visit the allure of the sandbox began again for the return visitor.

 Two sets of six swings each sat at one area near the sidewalk that bordered the park.  Big kids pumped their swings into the air to feel the exhilaration.  There's no feeling like being airborne without a parachute.  Repeatedly,  swings flew higher and higher,  fingers holding tightly to the chains that held the seat in place.  You were lucky if someone --your dad, your mom, your older brother or sister, anyone, would push you into netherland.  No better sensation swelled in your body. No one thought in the 1930s of a man on the moon, but some kids were often heard to say, "Push me to the moon!"

The park was popular with students who attended Enochs Junior High School, a giant of a three-story building guarding one side of the street.  Mornings found kids scribbling their homework at the last minute, gossiping, and eating an ice cream cone for breakfast bought from the popular Seale-Lily store across the street. Afternoons students sat waiting for their buses, or short cut across the park to reach a nearby house or apartment. Six streets were in proximity of the park.
I have no reason to be in the vicinity of Poindexter Park anymore.  The city has expanded in other directions. Original families have found other parts of the city to live. The surrounding landscape has changed. No more Seale-Lily, movie theater, or Greco's Spaghetti House.  No sandboxes, no swings carrying shrieks of joy, no music from the gazebo which still stands as a silent reminder of its popularity when I was a kid.