Boot Pants and Bootless,
Tortured by Chocolate
Grace Ann, one of my friends in
school from first grade through graduation had long, thick, rich dark brown,
shiny hair and her own way of flipping that beautiful mane over her shoulders.
She lived in town, a city mouse. I was a country mouse. She went home for
lunch. I brought mine from home in a lunch box and ate with other country mice
in the lunch room. She was the ultimate in sophistication to me,
especially in high school when she got a shiny black roadster with a rumble
After lunch I always went to the
corner of the school campus where the town kids returned to school and I would
wait for Grace Ann. That is how I discovered I might need glasses, she had to
get fairly close before I could be sure it was her coming back. What a
surprise to me when I got glasses and could see Grace coming from blocks away!
We would join our other friends and play games or, when we were older, stroll
round and round the school building until the bell rang to call us back
Grace often wore black boot pants and
black boots with a white blouse to school and I thought that was the most
magnificent outfit I had ever seen. It was so different, so cool, so with-it,
like Elizabeth Taylor wore in the movies. I begged my mother to get me some
fawn colored riding pants (I had read about fawn colored riding pants in a
book), and shiny dark brown boots. We are not talking cowboy boots here. We
are talking fitted riding boots that go almost up to the knees. Mother was not
inclined to put out the money for the boots, but she did get me a pair of khaki
twill jodhpurs, riding pants cut flared from the hips to the knee then
close-fitting from knee to ankle, with a strap that went around the foot at
the instep. Boot pants had no straps although they were cut much the same way
as jodhpurs. Now, no one else had jodhpurs, and I should have been delighted
to have something so different. Alas, they had no magic for me! In my mind
they were riding britches and riding britches required boots. The magic was
lost when I had to wear them with the straps under my penny loafers. I felt
the tiniest bit second-class in my bootless jodhpurs. Factor into this
important equation the fact that Grace owned a horse she loved and I never was
fond of horses, was always a bit afraid of them; they are so big! What does
owning a horse have to do with wearing riding pants and boots to school anyway?
Grace Ann remained the queen of the riding pants.
She was also queen of the candy.
Mother was strict about how much candy we could eat in a given day. It was
doled out, not left around for us to help ourselves at will. Grace's parents
owned a grocery store. When I spent the night with her, on the table between
the twin beds was a huge bowl full, and I mean piled-up full, of
every kind of chocolate candy bar imaginable: Snickers, Hershey Bars, Three
Musketeers, Milky Ways, Baby Ruths, Mounds and others. They were full-sized
then, not the cut-down variety sold now for more than twice the money.
Grace Ann, who had the candy in her room all the time, never even glanced at
the bowl. I don't remember ever seeing her take one of the candy bars out of
the bowl to eat it. Neither did it occur to her to offer me one, and I had
been taught never to ask for food when visiting at my friends' houses.
Can you imagine what it was like for
a chocoholic-in-the-making to lie in bed at night trying to go to sleep with
that pile of aromatic chocolate bars just in reach? I wonder if that is why at
least twice a year I compulsively buy the miniature chocolate bars in packages
and bring them home to put in our candy bowl (I call it our addiction center),
never mind the 18 or more grams of fat?
The following is a devotional article that appeared in
"Praise Digest," published in the United States and was reprinted in
"Manna Digest," published in Canada.
Honeysuckle and Mourning Doves
Green tendrils of honeysuckle vines
shimmer in my memory today as they shimmered in the heat of the sunshine
during the days of my childhood. The yellow and white flowers beckoned with
their fragrance, calling me from the shade of the screened porch into the heat
and dust of the path, from shelter and comfort to exposure and vulnerability,
though I scarcely grasped that fact as I pattered barefoot toward the sure
Often it was early morning and the
dew rising became a dreamy mist that I could feel against my face if I ran,
pin-prick kisses urging me on to the fence along the bayou where the
honeysuckle vines grew. I would pick a flower or two and with a skill that can
be learned only from another child, I put the fragrant blossom to my lips.
With a popping sound so satisfying to a child's heart, I would extract the
tiny drop of moisture, that nectar that draws hummingbirds and butterflies and
children of all ages, and calls forth the name, honeysuckle. I would sigh and
lie down at a deliciously dangerous angle on the bayou bank, contemplating the
sky and the fields, claiming the world as mine with deep satisfaction.
There was a price to pay for growing
still. For then I could hear softly but distinctly the call of the mourning
dove. Her cooing was gentle and distant--always distant--like a dust swirl on
the back roads of my mind, evoking multiple responses in my heart. The cry of
the mourning dove has the same lure of the train whistle in the night--calling
me to venture forth, to seek the dove, knowing full well she was beyond my
boundaries. I always hung back, timid and hesitant, caught by training and
security and familiar surroundings. I think, too, I was reluctant to run to
her for I knew not how to comfort her.
I am older now and a little wiser,
but no less subject to the pull of the call of the mourning Dove. Only now, I
hear her call in the sob of the broken heart of a loved one or friend, sense
her sigh in the eyes of one being crushed by her own sin or the sins of
others. Now when I hear her gentle call I go swiftly to speak the Word of
comfort, to softly whisper the healing balms of Jesus. As I watch the bruised
reed slowly transform into an unfolding flower, I catch again the fragrance of
the Vine. Responding as a child to the honeysuckle, my spirit runs eagerly to
gather the pure sweet nectar of Sacred's love.
Like a Song
(Excerpt from "Moondust,"
January 8, 2001: I am playing
my Hit Parade CDs this morning, music from the forties and fifties. I am
thrust back onto the shifting sands of my feelings of my late teens and early
twenties. We had such fun as a class at Lecompte, and all these songs bring
back memories of good times and special classmates and friends. I value these
bits of nostalgia.
These tunes bring back vivid memories
of high school slumber parties at girl friends' homes where the boys were
sometimes invited to come dance with us until around ten or eleven. Or we
would meet the guys at the bridge over the bayou for a late supper of hot
tamales and Cokes. When it got really late, Uncle Tom, the night Marshall
would walk by on one of his rounds and say "Time to go home, boys and
girls," and we went. I am probably repeating myself from former writings,
but one of the perks of getting older is the freedom to forget so we can enjoy
the stories as fresh and new when they are retold!
"It's Magic" with Doris Day
is playing now. That recalls memories of sitting on the front porch of my
family home at Bend Field Farm in a rocking chair, sipping iced tea, looking
across the bayou to the cotton or sugar cane fields and on to the puffy white
clouds drifting like blobs of meringue floating in a sea of blue, thinking how
I loved living in that beautiful place and dreaming about the future.
"Slow Boat to China" takes
me to Baker's Cafe in Tigertown at LSU in Baton Rouge, having a hurried lunch
between classes, listening to a slow version of the song and wondering if that
someone special was going to invite me to the football game Saturday night. In
those days we dressed up for the games and always, always had the huge globe
of a golden or white football Mum pinned to our lapels. The flowers were real,
no artificial ones for us.
"Now is the Hour" with Bing
Crosby reminds me of Johnny whom I dated during high school and the first two
years of college. He was the first boy ever to ask me for a real date and he
told my brother he wanted to date me. I remember how utterly astonished Ed was
that someone actually wanted a date with me! Alas, I was only fifteen and was
not allowed to date until I was sixteen, so we had to content ourselves with
visits together at home until I was old enough to be allowed to go out on
dates. Johnny was in the Navy and after a visit, when it was time for him to
leave, he would have the disc jockey at the local radio station dedicate that
song to us. I listened to my trusty brown boxy Philco radio (It had merely an
on and off button, and a tuning and volume button, not thirteen steps just to turn
it on like our present sound system) while studying or after going to bed, and
the dedications began about ten PM. Our song was usually played around eleven
o'clock. "Sentimental Me," I remember feeling sad that he was
leaving again for such a long time and glad that he would participate in this
ritual of ours. Do you remember the words? "Now is the hour when we must
say good-bye. Soon you'll be sailing far across the sea. While you're
away, oh then remember me. When you return you'll find me waiting here."
I thought that was so romantic! Of course, I was the one waiting while he
sailed all over the world, sometimes sending me neat presents from various
Radio was especially important to us
because we had no television. Late night music programs were listened to
faithfully when we were home in hopes someone would dedicate a song to us, and
it was fun to hear our friends dedicate songs to each other. Sometimes we
learned of new couples that way, or even discovered a secret admirer.
reminds me of swimming in the icy cold stream at Shady Nook, not getting out
of the waters until our lips turned blue. It reminds me of the pavilion with
the juke box where I danced to that song over and over with my steady boy
friend my junior year of high school. We cooled watermelons in the icy waters
while we were swimming and groups of us would sometimes spend the entire day
there. "Near you" was the song of my best friend and one of her
beaux in high school. "Always" is playing now and that brings to
mind Ben, that handsome rascal at LSU who used to take me to little lounges to
dance on Friday nights and always tipped the combo to play that song for us
because he knew it was my favorite.
I must also include other songs I am
listening to this morning. Songs such as "Heartaches," and "Laughing
on the Outside, Crying on the Inside," and "I Wish I Didn't Love You
So," for some of these beaux left me, or I left them. Others married
someone else. Nonetheless, I am glad I saved pictures, notes and letters,
cards, ticket stubs, napkins, corsage ribbons from all these people and
occasions that were such an important part of my life even if relatively
briefly. They all helped me become who I am today and even though I kept the
pictures and other items out of sentiment, now I view them as part of the
history of who I am.
Of course, a lot of my classmates are
still very much a part of my life. I had nice notes from several during the
holidays, a phone call from one and unexpected gifts from two others. What
really surprises me is how the guys keep in touch. I expect it of my female classmates
and they don't disappoint me, but I think it is unusual for so many of the
guys to keep in close touch with us. We have gained lovely friendships with
their wives, too. All of that keeps our class still close after more than
fifty years. And these communications take on more meaning with our advancing
age; we don't take them for granted. They are like nuggets of gold or little
jewels to keep close to our hearts. Yes, "You Keep Coming Back Like a
Song, a song that keeps saying Remember," a gentle, lovely song that
never fails to warm my heart and make me smile.
Aids to memory are so powerful. I
think the strongest, even stronger than nostalgic music, is scent. Old Spice
aftershave reminds me of my first boy friend at LSU my freshman year. Bay Rum
cologne reminds me of Dad and living in the tropics. The almond scent of
Jergen's Lotion reminds me of Mom. Vetiver was the scent on the folding fans
my grandmother Kramer wielded when I went to church with her on special
holidays, and it was also the scent of the powdered sachets she kept in her
hanky drawer. Carnation is the aroma associated with my maternal Grandma
Shows. The smell of roses reminds me of the Rose Tea Room in Baton Rouge
where as college students we went occasionally, and where the songs "Room
Full of Roses" by Sammy Kaye and "Roses, I Send You Roses," and
"Red Roses for a Blue Lady" played softly in the background.
Seaforth aftershave and cologne will
always be special to me. I wonder if it is still made? This was before the day
of designer labels. It was my favorite because Farris wore it from the time we
first met and many years after. I identify that scent with him. Now he wears
Stetson, appropriately enough, since we live on a ranch.
What sparks all this nostalgia? (See
"Nostalgia and Nature" in the Lair Archives
for other examples.) I face a birthday this time every year and that usually
sets in motion a mental recapitulation of my life, a reviewing of goals, of
whether I am living up to my values, and so on. This is one of the dread
decade ones. Camilla suggested I list the same number as my age of things I
want to do and do them all this year; that will keep me busy, indeed! A friend
suggested I stop celebrating that I am X years old on my birthday and begin
simply celebrating the day I was born. Yes. I like that. I am going to
celebrate that moment at 5:30 AM on January 14th so many years ago
when I was privileged to appear on this planet earth and begin to experience
all the rich, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful encounters of my life. The
best parts are nearly forty five years with Farris with whom I now share such a
special time here at The Lair, and the privilege of knowing my two precious
children, Mitch and Camilla, and those whom they love, and my Indra's Net of
family and new and lifelong friends.
Happy, happy was and is my birthday!