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.
(Editor's note: This is the second installment of a three-part series. It is running over a five week period rather than three consecutive weeks.)
In those days - the ones of my cherished youth - my cousin, Ronnie, a year older than I, worked for my daddy. Ronnie had cotton-colored hair and a face that, like mine, was smattered with freckles. He had what the lucky ones on Daddy's side of the family inherit: a quick-thinking sense of humor that is succinct, clever and smart.
His name is Charles Almerin Tinker and he was the great-great-grandfather of my beloved.
It seems to me that a lot of young people have it easy. Too many kids in high school and college are shielded from work and not taught the importance of money or of earning it. It seems to me that this is a major default in the education of life.
Nicole and I were working out together one day and for some reason, she brought up a self-help, faith-related book we had both read. The thesis, basically, is how men are born with wild hearts, which should be admired not restrained by women.
There I was, sitting at my desk, writing away, bothering no one when my phone rang. It was Hollywood calling.
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.
Mama used to fry biscuits. If you knew Mama, that doesn't surprise you because she fried every food possible. In the course of her life, I knew her to fry green beans, corn, grits and cornmeal mush.
There are many things I love about the South. We're fiercely patriotic. We're neighborly. We're storytellers without equal. We're unabashedly and unapologetically faithful. We're proudly hospitable.
In the tiny country church where I spent most of the first 22 years of my life, where I found the Lord at the age of 11, where without fail I had the leading part in every Christmas pageant and where my daddy laid down the law in more ways than one, we sang hymns from a brown songbook and a green one, both filled with the haunting melodies that have penetrated the Appalachians for many decades.
Not long ago, a friend of mine was huffing, puffing and carrying on something awful about an injustice she had recently suffered. She had dealt with someone rather devious and the result was, well, rather devious.
Somewhere along the line, it seems, people have stopped talking about the American dream.
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