If Tink had any hesitation about coming into a traditional Southern family, there was only one: our happy, colorful Easter parade. The one we have every year - rain or shine - when we return to Louise's and Rodney's house after church and before the ridiculously big meal we have.
It has long been my belief that the dreams tucked into our hearts are the compass we're given to find our direction in life. Children know at an early age what they're called to do. Sadly, too few grow up to follow that calling because life's demands and sensibilities get in the way.
Before I say this, just know that I am not bragging. I am sure that this is not anything to brag about. But you and I are friends and I always endeavor to be honest with you so you should know the truth.
It is of paramount importance that I teach my husband how to be a Southerner, at least a half-decent one if not one of regal bearing.
Back in the summer, unwillingly, I would rise early and take a run to beat some of the oppressive heat and humidity that smothers the South when the sun inches higher in the sky. Many mornings, I encountered something that would stick with me for the rest of the run.
Little Danny McGuire was the scrawniest kid in class. He was so frail, so downright skinny that his dungarees clung to his bony hips, only thanks to a well-worn brown belt that was pulled tight to the last notch, causing the fabric to gather in folds. What a sight he made with blue jeans cinched to the waist and little ol' legs hidden somewhere in the yards of material.
Mama's favorite phrase when I was growing up - particularly during the defiant teenage years, especially when I sassed her - was "you're gonna pay for your raising one day, little lady. Let me assure you of that. You just wait until you have children and see how they behave."
Boy, can people be mean. I'm thinking particularly of a reader named Samantha, whose scolding of me turned into a scalding.
Occasionally, someone truly interested in the art of writing will ask me, "What does it take to be a writer?"
It was one of those days. The kind when you have a lot of work to do and none of it you want to do so you just piddle.
One evening back in late spring, I returned home from two weeks of flitting through major airports and hurrying bare-footed through security sensors. I was bone-weary from cramped planes - the center seat too many times - and delayed flights.
(Editor's note: This is third in a three-part series)
Of course, I'll be having black-eyed peas and collard greens for New Year's Day. It has become more than a tradition. It's almost downright superstition, though I hate to admit that.
When Mama was a small girl growing up in the Nimblewill Valley in the Appalachian foothills, it was the midst of the Great Depression. As she often said, "Times were hard but it's all we knew so we didn't know how poor we were."
There's a woman I'm looking for. Perhaps you know where she is. If you do, please help me find her again.
I remember more clearly than any other holiday the many Easters of my life.
A while back, a messy problem loomed ahead.
It has become somewhat of an art for me, that of studying Southern culture and deciphering what makes us different from others as well as downright peculiar among ourselves.
One Sunday while sitting around the dinner table, Louise and I began to tell Daddy stories. You know the ones that stretched back to the early days of his preaching life.
To this conclusion I have come: The most deadly years of our lives are the ages 16 to 21. Those years give us a headiness that comes from new freedom - a driver's license - and the passing of the torch from strict childhood rules to more trust, different restraints and relaxed curfews.
Their histories, accurate and complete, are lost to time and buried with them and those who knew them. I wish I knew more, for their stories would read like a page-turning novel.
My grandmother, Daddy's mother, was sometimes called "crazy" by others who didn't quite understand her eccentric ways.
It was an early summer morning, an enchanting time when flowers are blooming, blackberries are spurting to full growth and the birds are happy to have sunny warmth. I had taken myself out to the back porch where often I settle down to write after I have finished a gentle run.
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