Questions That Prompt Stories

While playing on Facebook, I keep finding questions that prompt stories. Here are my responses to several that seemed worth responding to:

Who was your first prom date? I barely remember going to proms at all, even though I really loved to dance; however, for my senior prom, I had been dating (probably too strong a term) Stephen Dale Humphrey (a sophomore who was adorable). Steve hadn’t asked me to the prom and when friends would ask, “Who are you going to prom with,” I had to respond, “I had assumed I’d go with Steve, but he hasn’t asked me yet.” Finally, a few days before prom, rather than to be direct and ask Steve out myself or ask why he hadn’t asked, I asked (with an “I’ll get even with you” attitude) a friend of a friend if he would go to the prom with me.

Steve from my 1958 year book.

Steve from my 1958 year book (year book scans aren’t great)

This is a bit of a story in itself: my best friend Jeannie was dating Harold who was struggling with his sexual orientation [long before that was more commonly known and discussed] and the friend of a friend was one of Harold’s already-out-of-high school, openly homosexual friends. He happily agreed to be my ‘date.’ So, Jeannie and Harold and what’s his name and I were going to double date for the prom. Now the story really gets dicey. Steve had apparently been assuming we’d go to the prom [so strong an assumption that he didn’t think he even needed to mention that detail to me]; he finally said something like, “What time are you picking me up for prom?” – he was too young to drive. And I, with some sense of triumph (remember the “I’ll get even with you” attitude?), said, “Oh, Steve, I’m so sorry; when you didn’t ask me to the prom, I assumed you didn’t want to go, so I asked someone else.” Steve was crushed in two ways: 1) he didn’t have a date and 2) he had no way to get to the prom. The solution: Harold, Jeannie, what’s his name and I drove over to Steve’s, picked him up and took him to the prom as the figurative fifth wheel.

In spite of the senior prom fiasco, Steve and I continued to occasionally see one another for a good part of the remainder of my senior year. Because we were in Civil Air Patrol together, we didn’t have any kind of ‘break up’ but simply moved effortlessly into a broader friendship. We remained friends over the next 25 years until divorce created a divide between four couples; even to this day I remember all eight of us with enormous fondness and regret for the loss of our deep bond of friendship.

It was this Steve who gave my daughter the blue, very long-legged and long-armed-holding-a-carrot bunny that she loved so much during her early years – it was perfect for a toddler to drag along behind as she developed her walking skills.

Do you still talk to your first love? The easy answer is ‘No.’ The more complete answer is that I’m not at all sure who that might have been. In hindsight, I’m not at all sure I’ve ever been ‘in love.’ I have had several male friends for whom I have had a deep and abiding affection, including Wayne to whom I was married for almost 25 years and with whom I shared common backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, values, goals, dreams, friendship and children; that may actually be love, though it’s not exactly how Hollywood has portrayed it.

The first young ‘man’ I remember daydreaming of going out with was Pat Sherburne when I was in the sixth grade. He was really cute with slightly reddish blond hair. There was a girl in my class whose body had already started to mature and Pat was definitely drawn to her. I think her name was Carol and we were friendly enough that I spent time with her in her home – her parents owned a small café on S Agnew and lived nearby. Pat wanted to be with her and managed to set up a very innocent foursome in the school auditorium that included Paul Burleson and me. I met in the auditorium but was hurt that Pat preferred Carol to me and almost embarrassed to be even slightly paired with Paul, who was short and freckle-faced.

Pat is next to the teacher; Paul is same row opposite side. I'm 2nd from right on 1st row.

1951 Columbus School – Pat is next to the teacher; Paul is same row opposite end.  Carol is 2nd girl right of Paul. I’m 2nd from right on 1st row.

Life is interesting. I chose to go to a more distant junior high that was reachable by bus, while Pat and Paul went to the feeder junior high. Eventually Pat ended up at the new high school (U.S. Grant) while Paul and I were at Capitol Hill together. Paul sang in the choir with me and became our student body president. I doubt he has any recollection at all of that day in the auditorium and, if he does, it is also likely with a similar embarrassment that he was even slightly paired with me and hurt that shapely Carol apparently preferred Pat to him.

I completely lost touch with anything to do with Pat until about 2002 or 2003 when one of the Realtors in my office sold a house to Pat and his current wife. He had apparently not been particularly successful while Paul became a Baptist minister and sometime evangelist and husband to one wife who, to all appearances, seems to be very happy with her choice to be Paul’s wife.

What was your first job? I imagine my first job was babysitting, though I don’t recall any specifics. The first job I remember would have been working at John A. Brown’s. I don’t remember what I did there; because I can remember being on mezzanine, I may have done something in the book department. Mother worked in the cosmetics department and apparently helped me get the job. My strongest memories of this would have been the summer after I graduated from high school. I was working there during the sit-ins in downtown Oklahoma City during August 1958.

Sometimes in the afternoon, mother and/or I would go downstairs to the lunch counter for apple pie ala mode. I went down for that afternoon treat on the day of the John a. Brown’s sit in. Even though I had been to Katz Drugstore during the sit-ins there, I was still a little bit oblivious to the importance and impact of what was happening. When I walked up to the counter, all the seats were filled with what were then known as ‘colored people.’ I was prepared to wait until I could be served when the woman at the counter said to me, “May I take your order?” I looked toward the people sitting on the stools and said, “These people are ahead of me,” to which she replied, “I can take your order because I cannot serve them here.” I asked her, not facetiously but genuinely asking for information, why not and how they, as employees of either John A. Brown’s or other downtown businesses, could be provided meals. Her reply was that Negros had to go into the alley and knock on the door, request their food and wait for it to be handed out to them in the alley.

John A. Brown's Sit-in - August 1958 - From http://dougdawg.blogspot.com/2008/10/john-browns.html

John A. Brown’s Sit-in – August 1958 – From http://dougdawg.blogspot.com/2008/10/john-browns.html

That was the first moment I really understood the painful and, in fact, stupid reality of segregation. Though I had seen the signs on buses that said, ‘Coloreds to the rear,’ I generally sat back there myself, believing those were the best seats on the bus. And as far as school segregation was concerned, Douglas High School was the newest and presumably best high school in the city. In my mind, I assumed they all lived willingly in the vicinity of that high school because I was oblivious to the rule that they could not purchase homes in white neighborhoods.

But once confronted with reality I made a stand. I told the counter help, if they could not be seated and served, I would refuse to accept seating and service until the time this ridiculous situation was changed. I didn’t join in the sit-in, but instead left and went back to work.

What was your first car? For my first car, see my post of January 31, 2009. I will, however, continue with other stories of the car. In September, when school started, I began what would continue through the majority of the rest of my high school years – I drove from my house at 320 SW 23, west of Western, to about 2200 S Pennsylvania to pick up JoDean and Susan Reynolds, to the 800 block on SW 56th to pick up Wanda Hazlewood and then on to CHHS at SW 36th and Walker. They each paid me something like $1.00 a week to make this run. [Kay, please note the similarity of names to your cat, Susan JoDean.]

One winter, the small ensemble that sang songs from Oklahoma had a performance at the country club at Grand Blvd. and N Pennsylvania and by the end of the performance, we were in full ice storm. I took someone home who lived a couple of miles further south than I lived. When I turned east onto her street, I discovered I couldn’t get up the slightly sloping hill. I struggled for a bit trying to accomplish this task until I finally discovered I could turn the car around and was able to back up the street to get her home. Then I set out on my way back home on incredibly icy streets. I encountered no other serious difficulties, though in hindsight, I would guess it would have been impossible to get up my driveway and even climbing the steps (see below) to get into the house must have been a struggle, if that icy slope was any indication.

View of the driveway from Google Maps 2-2009

View of the driveway from Google Maps 2-2009

In the photo of our house, notice the driveway. It was fairly steep and fairly narrow and each yard/fence had an approximately 6-inch thick concrete supporting wall. As I mentioned, when Daddy gave me the ’53 Plymouth, he purchased a Hudson, which is a much larger and heavier car. One day I was backing Daddy’s Hudson out of the driveway. Most probably due to the fact I was unused to driving Daddy’s bigger vehicle, I kept backing crooked and would go back up a bit and try again. Somehow I managed to get Daddy’s car in what I thought was a completely wedged in angle. I have no recollection of how we exchanged places, but Daddy managed to get in the car and get it straightened out and backed out of the driveway. Bless his heart, he did not say any derogatory comment, but just assured me anyone could have gotten into that kind of a difficult spot. I can’t imagine how I avoided scraping Daddy’s car on that concrete, but even if I did, he responded totally loving and supportive of me.

1953 Hudson Hornet - Daddy's may have been a 1951, but this is similar.

1953 Hudson Hornet – Daddy’s may have been a 1951, but this is similar.

When I went to OSU, there was no question but that I could take the car. At that time, getting to Stillwater involved driving up through Guthrie and then west a 19-mile straight stretch of road into Stillwater. What I learned from driving that stretch is that a little light-weight vehicle like the Plymouth could almost get airborne driving 60+ mph when the Oklahoma winds ‘come sweeping down the plains.’

Once I married Wayne, the car remained with Mother and Daddy and at some point, Daddy sold the Hudson and bought a green and white Chrysler, which he had when he died, approximately two years after my wedding. Wayne and I brought that car from Mother to be able to provide some money to meet financial needs thrust upon her as a widow. Mother and Mickey returned to driving the Plymouth for another couple of years.

Who was your first grade teacher? Because I moved so often, I really don’t remember a specific teacher by name or face until I was in the fourth grade at Heronville. My teacher was Mrs. Walker and she told us she was an Indian princess. A few years back I was in a group talking about schools and teachers and I mentioned my teacher who was an Indian princess and there was someone in the group who had also had her, remembered the same thing about her and was excited to find someone else who shared that experience.

The next teacher I remember was in the sixth grade (she’s the one in the school picture above and was pregnant – due in the summer. She lived in some very small apartments close to the park where I played ping pong and ran track and I stopped by several times and visited with her during that summer when she had her baby.

Where did you go on your first plane ride? My first plane ride would have been from the Downtown Airpark in Oklahoma City and would have been a small Cessna plane flown by one of the CPA senior members. I went up several times from the airport or from search and rescue missions we attended in small communities. I remember one of those when the pilot turned off the engine and glided for a bit – terrifying me.

Who was your first best friend and do you still talk? Jean Blake is the first person I really remember being a best friend. I met her when I lived on Binkley and went to Heronville School in the fourth grade. The day I met her I asked her name and she said, “Tootie.” I said, “No, what’s your real name,” to which she replied once again, “Tootie.” It was a long, long time before I ever got her to tell me what he name was: Carolyn Jean.

As was typical, we didn’t live on that street for very long. Soon, we had moved to the north side of town into an apartment run by my Aunt Eula. I really hated the apartment and have always remembered my time on the north side as gray. Mother did take me back to Jeannie’s a time or two for a visit, but eventually I lost contact with her until we moved into a neighborhood similar and close to the one on Binkley and I rode the same bus home that Jean rode. We visited some in the drug store while we waited for the bus and some during the ride, but it wasn’t the same as it had been when we were best friends in the fourth grade.

Then in 1955 when I went to my first Civil Air Patrol meeting. Jeannie was there and we began to reconnect at the best friend level again.

After her marriage to Harold, he joined the Air Force and they moved to North Dakota and then to Amarillo. Wayne and Kay and I visited them in Amarillo once. Then we were all living back in Oklahoma City and once again, Jeannie and I struck up our strong friendship again. Jeannie and Harold got a divorce and Wayne and I started moving around the country and, though we tried writing to each other, we were moderately inconsistent and once again lost contact.

Then in 1987ish, I got a telephone call one evening when I was living in Norman. The voice asked, “Is this Donna Brown?” “Yes.” “The Donna Brown who’s married to Wayne?” I began to be a little curious/suspicious and asked, “Who is this?” She replied “Jean Blake Riggs.” And just that quickly we made arrangements to get together and, once again, our friendship was reinstituted.

Jean’s husband, Jess, was working in the oilfields in Iraq or Iran and Jeannie had tired of the attitude toward women and had decided to return to Oklahoma City. She told Jess she’d be here when he finally decided to join her. She bought a house and was living there by herself so we spent a good bit of time together. After a year or so, Jess came home and I stopped hearing from her so regularly. When I started checking around, by way of her daughter, Cyndi, I discovered they’d sold her house and moved to El Paso.

I’ve spoken to her off and on. I ran into in the grocery store a year or so ago and found she’s bought another house here in the City so she and Jess could retire here. Her father had died and her mother was having signs of senility and was living with Jeannie. She said she was returning to be with Jess for awhile and her brother, Jimmy, was coming to stay in her house with their mother until she and Jess returned. Though we exchanged contact information, she’s never called me again, nor have I tried to find her.

First foreign country you have been to? When we lived in California, Wayne and Kay and I decided to go to Mexico after we had been to San Diego. We crossed the border and Wayne started feeling very nervous with the people approaching cars to sell things, so he did a u-turn and went back across to the United States. Several years later, when we were living in El Paso, we did the exact same thing (except David was with us then) – another u-turn and back to the States.

The first trip I actually made out of the country was in 1985 when the singles group from First Baptist in Norman took the church mini-bus and drove to Toronto, Canada. We were only there two days but it was over their national holiday, Canada Day, July 3rd. They celebrate in a similar fashion to our 4th of July celebrations.

The following year, the same group (plus a few more, including Kay) went west and went to Victoria Island and into Vancouver where we attended the World’s Fair.

This summer (May-June 2008), the senior adult choir went to Banff National Park, Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and were gone ten days.

I’ve not been privileged to travel to any other foreign countries, nor to Hawaii or Alaska. I would love to travel more widely.

First movie you remember seeing? My mother loved movies and did take me to several. I have memories of several movies but since they were actually released prior to the time I would have been able to recall them, I’m assuming I saw them upon a re-release; those would include Snow White (1937), Pinocchio (1940), and Bambi, (1942). Song of the South was released in 1946 when we were living in Gainesville, so again, I’m not sure when I might have seen it.

I definitely recall the emotion of the death of Bambi’s mother and know I was fairly young when I saw it. Mother bought me the soundtrack to Snow White and I listened to that album much of my childhood. One of my favorite movies would have been Song of the South; it was great and I am likely even today to burst out singing “Zip-a-dee-do-dah.”

As to one of the earliest movies I remember going to when I was a little older, that would probably be Samson and Delilah, which came out in1949. I thought Hedy Lamarr was beautiful as Delilah, but I also thought Angela Lansbury was beautiful.

From the time I was 9, children were permitted to go to the Saturday afternoon double feature movies by themselves, so I saw the Bowery Boys movies, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tim Holt, Tarzan. There were also shorts by the Three Stooges and Our Gang as well as cartoons. My favorite actress of that period was Yvonne DeCarlo who, again, I thought was beautiful.

Every Saturday was a great day. The theaters were filled with kids and we were there from about noon to 5:00. I would have enough money to buy a drink and a candy bar (probably a quarter) and, due to the length of time I was in the theater, it needed to be something that would last, so my favorites were Milk Duds, Bit-O-Honey and Tootsie Rolls. My other favorite, Milky Way, didn’t last long enough so was rarely my Saturday afternoon choice.

Parallel Monologues

Back in the 80s, in an episode of the TV show ‘Greatest American Hero,” the hero and high school teacher, Ralph Hinkley, and the FBI agent, Bill Maxwell, were walking along the beach talking about the huge and growing problem of drugs. For me, it was one of the best depictions of the art of conversation – or lack thereof – I’ve ever seen. Bill saw drugs from the perspective of crime – in other words, catch ’em and put ’em all in prison – while Ralph saw the problem in terms of the young lives drawn off course and lost to potential – in other words, rescue them. The fascinating thing was observing their sentences running parallel to one another but never intersecting – though they were together and talking about the same thing at the same time, at no time did they ever actually meet in conversation.

In April Oprah had a guest on her show who put a name to this; he called this syndrome parallel monologues. What a great term – parallel monologues – two people carrying on monologues simultaneously with neither really hearing or even acknowledging the content of the other’s words. No change can be effected in lives or perspective because no true communication ever occurred between them.

Parallel monologues may not only have an impact on our one-on-one conversations with friends and acquaintances, but may be one of the biggest dilemmas we face in our world today. We are faced with so many problems in our world – in business where corporate greed and the bottom line trump people issues every time, in families where divorce and latch-key kids have almost become the norm in a world described by a similar phrase [at least to my ears] to parallel monologues – serial monogamy – in government where the direst economic situation we’ve faced for most of our lifetimes is upon us and our politicians still can’t stop spending billions of dollars on silly things – even in the name of stimulating our economy.

A few days ago, I read an opinion piece in the Oklahoma Gazette on the right to life/choice issue in which the writer called the issue “black and white” – between a woman and her body and the health insurance/medical community only. I was so struck by that label that I finally wrote a post on my blog site in response to it. This complex issue is anything but black and white – nothing with such financial, emotional, medical, relational and spiritual ramifications could possibly be labeled black and white, particularly when trying to include the points of view of the mother, the father, the grandparents, the child and society. In my post I tried to look at all the possible ramifications (though briefly, of course – it was an Internet blog). Someone apparently read my post and sent a comment that said something to the effect of, “pregnancy is a time of joy for the mother, and prenatal health and vitamins are very important.” Though I would say her statement is true most of the time; in this instance – based on the subject matter of my blog – her comment was an illustration of parallel monologues – she was responding out of her own experience without regard to anyone’s else’s experience.

We’ve likely all participated in those parallel monologues. For example, the DHS attorney telling an absent father he has an obligation to provide financial support for his children and his response is something like “ain’t no way that ‘expletive deleted’ is getting’ a dime out of me.”

In Toastmasters, evaluations are a way of getting immediate feedback on our presentations; those evaluations aren’t designed to be conversations and so can’t truly be parallel monologues, but I do believe there should be some evidence of at least attempting to develop listening skills. However, I couldn’t count the number of times evaluations of my speeches have included comments on content that made me wonder whose speech they were evaluating because it certainly had little relevance to the one I had just given.

Although I think this is important and I’ve given it some thought, it isn’t an area I’ve tried to solve on a global basis so I don’t know what the answer is, but I can, off the top of my head, suggest a few beginning changes to try to develop better communication skills:

  • Actually pay attention to what people are saying, instead of formulating your response during their discourse;
  • Investigate some of those areas of gray on issues – actually think through as many possibilities as you can – instead of just looking for support for your own position;
  • Reflect on/think about things you’ve heard or seen in sermons, speeches, movies, songs or books. Ken Gire in his book “The Reflective Life” provided a sample page to record your thoughts. The sections of the reflective sheet include Reading the Moment, which is the place for you to write the specific thing you saw or heard or felt. Reflecting on the Moment is the place where you record what you thought or researched. Responding to the Moment is the place where you set goals and begin to allow change or growth in your life because of this experience.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” Just think how much we could learn and grow if we just followed his example and thought – even once a month or so.

Holiday Traditions

“Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #7: Share your holiday traditions. How did you spend the 4th of July? Did the fire truck ever come to your house on Thanksgiving? Share your memories of all holidays, not just the December ones.”

I have few recollections based on holidays. Some of my earlier Christmas memories aren’t based on Christmas in my home, but are based on Daddy (I only assume Mother was there) taking Mickey and me to the Mayor’s Christmas party at the municipal auditorium (now the Civic Center). The party was held upstairs in what was called the Hall of Mirrors, which was a huge ballroom. There was a Santa Claus who handed out gifts to every child present (and there were a lot). The gift was always a large red mesh bag filled with fruits – apples, oranges, and grapefruit – plus unshelled nuts and candy – old-fashioned ribbon candy and some chocolate covered. Today’s kids would not likely be impressed with such a gift when compared with computers, IPODs, Wiis, cars, etc., I always loved that mesh goody bag and treasured every bite of fruit, nut and candy.

Mother always dreamed of being able to buy a snow sled for Mickey; living in Oklahoma where we get incredibly little snow would make such a gift impractical, to say the least. However, she eventually did get him that snow sled.

I know instinctively that we celebrated Christmas and likely had a Christmas tree and gifts but I really don’t remember any of them. I know, as Kay mentioned in her blog, that we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, but I have no memories to base that on, except that I know I continued to practice as an adult what I had known as a child.

As with Christmas, I also don’t remember Thanksgiving when I was a child. Because I chose, once I was married and living in my own home, to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving with all the trimmings – turkey, dressing, candied sweet potatoes, hot rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies, etc. – I assume it was something I experienced, but I really don’t have any early Thanksgiving  memories.

In spite of the fact my maternal grandfather died on October 31 [1915] and my mother was partially raised by a sister who wouldn’t allow any celebration of that day, probably my favorite holiday as a child was Halloween. I think I was so blessed to live in a time that was relatively safe because All Hallow’s Eve was a night to look forward to – dressing up in whatever we could put together as a costume (most likely made up from makeup, fabric, belts, etc. There was certainly not the market of mass-produced, cheaply made costumes prevalent today. The task was to get to as many homes as possible to collect masses of goodies. There wasn’t such a thing as the mini-candies of today, so if you got a Milky Way, it was a 5-cent candy bar (for those of you who never knew a nickel could buy anything, that means the full-sized or regular candy bar – we not only didn’t have the mini-sized ones, there weren’t any double-sized ones either). Every kid would grab a grocery bag (once again, this was before the “paper or plastic” choice available today), and head out to get it filled. Sometimes we would get one grocery bag filled and run it home to empty it and go out again. The streets were filled with kids going door to door and there were no parents out accompanying their kids for safety’s sake – they were all at home answering the door and giving out goodies. We would go trick or treating from about 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., which is how and why we could collect so much. Once we were home, it was time to begin going through the bag to see how much ‘loot’ we had accumulated. This candy stash would last us until the Mayor’s Christmas party.

Another of my personal ‘holiday’ favorites during my teen years included celebrating the Oklahoma Run, known as 89’ers Day – April 22. That was great! We dressed in costume for the day – and it was a school day, at least in the morning.  There were festivities at school, including being able to put people in jail for certain offenses; there were, of course, get-out-of-jail cards as well as penalties that could be paid to be released. Because there was a parade in the afternoon and the band and clubs would participate, school was dismissed in time to get downtown for the parade. The parade began downtown on Broadway and marched from there down Robinson Street to SW 25th and then headed west for a few more blocks. Again, it was a great experience to be enjoyed as well as to learn and relive, in a way, our State’s exciting history. I hear kids in the school system today indicate they hate Oklahoma history as a subject; I think once again instituting a school and community-supported 89’ers day might bring back a sense of joy in our Oklahoma heritage. I used to think Oklahoma had the best history stories of any state – I’ve since learned some other states’ stories and know they are good as well; the opportunity to celebrate your state’s and country’s history is foundational to a sense of loyalty and patriotism. Shared experience is one of the things that bind people together and should not be allowed to disappear from our memories.

Another holiday that was celebrated more spectacularly then than now was Easter. Families would hard-boil eggs, decorate and then hide them for Easter egg hunts. I remember one year going to visit my cousin, Bobbie Louise, and her family and having our Easter egg hunt in the little park across the street from their house. This was also a time when children could visit the Easter bunny in the same way they could visit Santa Claus at Christmas.

My brother, Mickey, and me with the Easter bunny.

My brother, Mickey, and me with the Easter bunny.

Easter not only was the day celebrated in honor of the resurrection of Christ, it was the time of celebrating new life in the earth’s cycle. It’s the time of year when vegetation begins to surge to life with green leaves opening up on the trees and flowers beginning to break through the ground. To mimic that aspect of the renewal of life, people always got a new outfit to wear for that Sunday. It was the day when you could put away your black or brown shoes and get out your white ones – white couldn’t be worn prior to Easter Sunday. Going to church on Easter Sunday was always a breath-taking display of pastel colors in the women’s apparel.

Modeling Easter clothes - note the yellow shorts below the hemline.

Kay modeling Easter clothes (1 1/2 ys) - note the yellow shorts below the hemline.

Little Miss Hollywood - note the matching hat I'm holding for Kay.

Little Miss Hollywood - note the matching hat I'm holding for Kay.

High fashion for Easter was important!

High fashion for Easter was important!

The movie musical Easter Parade depicts the importance of dressing up for that day; I’m sorry Easter isn’t celebrated any more by dressing up for the occasion. Even though our attire doesn’t have anything to do with the resurrection of Christ, I always felt it was an outward show of the inner transformation and ‘newness of life’ that was a part of the celebration of that Christian experience .

For our family’s later holiday traditions, see Kay B’ Place holiday post for February 20, 2009.

The River of Life

I was listening to Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic poem entitled Die Moldau about a river running from the mountaintop down through Prague and eventually to the sea. I have always been moved by the melodic beauty of the song but on that day I just sat and let the beauty of the music wash over me as I experienced the music of the river as metaphoric truth – the truth that our lives resemble a melody.


Listen as Smetana creates his story musically: the Moldau begins as two little springs in the mountain, bubbling and trickling, join together to create a living, moving, growing river. Soon the bubbling develops a voice – a beginning melody, not totally defined, that winds its way down the mountain. Every time the river goes by a city or village, the music and activities of the city hide the melody of the river; then as it gets beyond the activities, the bubble begins again and the melodic song returns. As the river continues on, the rocks in the river create an area of rapids and the melody’s place is taken over by tension and rolling timpani and clashing cymbals. Of course, it’s exciting, and has its own kind of beauty, but it’s not the melody. As the rapids dissipate, the rolling bubble is heard again and its melody erupts in a joyous song. Finally the river gets quieter and quieter, more and more at peace as it approaches the end of its journey – to meet and join with the sea. As the sea rolls in and the river rolls out they meet and the river is united with the whole body of water in a great and satisfying clash of cymbals.

That’s the way it is with life and with us. We, too, have a voice – a special melody that is our own. But sometimes a loved one, or a job, a crisis or a national calamity comes along and our voice gets hidden in the circumstance – and we’re left with just a nagging sense that something is missing. My mother expressed what was missing for her when she talked about remarrying after my father’s death. Her new husband asked her, “Why do you love me?” and she said, “Oh, that’s easy; because you listen to me.” It is such a deep need within us to be heard and yet sometimes the very voice with which we speak isn’t even our own voice – it is the voice of all the people and responsibilities and circumstances around us.

I read a book once entitled, “Do I Have to Give Up Me to be Loved by You?” It’s a book you don’t have to read – just spend a little time with the title and you’ll know that’s what happens to our melody as we wend our way along the river of life. We give away little bits and pieces of our song – one of life’s barters that takes a heavy toll on who we were created to be – in fact, for many of us, our song may be completely covered over. As Norman Cousins said, “The tragedy of life is not in the fact of death, but in what dies inside of us while we live.”

Another song flowed into my mind from the Gaither musical, Alleluia, A Praise Gathering. The musically accompanied narration depicts the life of Jesus and Christianity as a song – a melody – as the narrator tells us, “It was a … simple lovely song for every man.  Right from the first, some tried to ignore it.  They said, ‘There’s no song!  It simply doesn’t exist.’  Others just tried to change the tune.  They made laws to stop it.  Armies marched against it.   They killed some who sang the song.  They screamed at it in fury, they tried to drown it out.  Finally they nailed that song to a tree.  They said to themselves, ‘There . . . that should take care of that.’” Then a subtle ding, ding, ding, ding, ding grows audibly – the melody isn’t dead – they couldn’t kill the song – the Song Goes On!

There it is again – the truth of life as a melody and not just any melody – your melody. Everyone of us, at one time or another, like the river, has allowed activities or people around us to drown out our song – so much so that at times we may not even remember our own melody. In forgetting our melody, we may hear someone else’s song and think, ‘that’s a pretty song.” For example, I watched a 17-year baritone practicing a solo – the last note was just too low for him. He tried and tried and it just wasn’t there. Finally, he decided to have the choir director, a bass, sit on the front pew with a microphone and when David got to the very last note, George picked up the microphone and sang the low note. But that just won’t do – it has to be our song. I have my melody and you have yours. Make your own kind of music. As Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil said, “Even if nobody else sings along.”

In this river of life, your mission is to uncover your song (not discover it, because it’s been there all along) and once you uncover it, sing it for all you’re worth. When the river of life joins with the sea of eternity – the sea will not be complete without my melody or without yours.

Into the Kitchen

Kay found a suggestion for genealogical remembrances [week #6 Genealogy Blogging Prompt] – writing about foods and food-related events of your family. Kay’s Into the Kitchen post is evidence of her good (though sometimes slanted) memory, insight and creativity. I thought the subject interesting enough to approach it from my also slanted memory, insight and slightly less creative approach.

Having been raised in a time when fewer convenience foods were available, my mother had to practice the full cooking scenario and she did it very well. On the other hand, mother was always open to the newest tools, gadgets and time-saving devices – including canned goods – and added them to her repertoire as early as possible.

Somewhere around 1949-50, Mother bought a pottery pitcher (gray with blue stripes across it) and she started making a mixture of orange juice and lemonade that she kept available during the hot summers. It was clearly a favorite for Mickey and me.

My favorite cookie has always been chocolate chip. When I was about nine, I decided to make a batch and I followed the directions on the package with diligence. With great anticipation I took a bite of the still warm cookie and was so disappointed – they weren’t at all like I expected. I called Mother at work and started to cry as I told her of my failure at cookie making. She tried to calm me down and asked me to tell her in detail the process I had followed. I got the recipe and started reading off what I’d done. When I got to the part about putting in the butter, Mother said, “That’s what happened. Donna Marie, I’m sure your cookies are very good; it’s just that I use shortening instead of butter and that would make a difference in the taste. Next time, use shortening and your cookies will be just fine.” She was right and from then on they always were.

One of my favorite foods mother made was one I never managed to reproduce – salmon croquets or patties. I found a recipe for them not long after I married but they weren’t anything like mother’s; hers were firm and not falling apart flaky, slightly crunchy on the outside and delicious. I remember several times having one or two of those left after dinner and picking them up and taking them with me as I walked out the door. They were great! After several disappointing attempts at making them, I asked her how she fixed them and she told me she started with a roux. Well, I had no idea what a roux was. She told me it’s a little like cream gravy and is also sometimes referred to as a white sauce. So, I tried that, but it merely thinned out the salmon so that it held together even less. The best I could ever do was to use crackers both mixed with the salmon and then as a coating as well, but it never was the same.

Daddy’s favorite food was Porterhouse or T-bone steak. Mother rarely bought it, but if Daddy went to the store, he was likely to come back with that. Another favorite food for Daddy was crackers and milk. Sometimes at night he would seem to get a hunger attack and he would go to the kitchen, get a glass and crumble crackers in it and pour milk over it. I don’t like soggy foods of any kind so this practice always amazed me. I asked him about it one time and he said when he was a boy they sometimes didn’t have sufficient food and that was something that would be available; apparently he learned to enjoy it.

Mother’s favorite was pork chop – she always said she loved to gnaw on the bone after she  finished with the meat. By the way, Mother washed all meat before she cooked it. I don’t mean just running water over it to get the blood off the surface; I mean rubbing it with the running water and even squeezing the meat to wash away as much of the blood from the inside as possible.

I don’t remember ever even hearing about a grill until long after I married, so mother and daddy both cooked pan fried meats. After the meat was clean, Mother would dredge it in flour, salt and pepper and put in the waiting hot oil.

I also don’t recall having what people referred to as ‘Sunday dinners.’ We got our first TV, probably around 1948 or 1949 and from then on we generally ate in the living room, plates in our hands, while we watched television; in fact, I have no recollection of eating at a table though I assume prior to TV that we did. When I married into a family with a mother who was an old-fashioned cook who truly enjoyed cooking and practiced it as a skill, including fixing three meals a day served on a table with the whole family gathered to eat it, I was ill-prepared, to say the least. Although I enjoyed eating in front of the TV, I managed to compromise with meals on the table for dinner the majority of the time during my marriage. Now that I’m single, I’ve returned to eating in the living room while watching TV.

Daddy had been a cook in the Merchant Marines and one of the things he cooked was something he called Sphaghetti Red – I didn’t have a recipe but it was something like macaroni mixed with browned hamburger meat, tomato sauce and seasonings. I always liked it and it was something I made with some frequency.

When I was in high school, if I got in trouble for something, Daddy had two possible punishments. One was to make me cook cornbread. I don’t know what the connection was to punishment and, surprisingly enough, being forced to make it as a punishment didn’t stop me from making it later when it was a proper complement to a meal. The other was to go to the kitchen and take out all the dishes from the cabinet and make me wash them again.

One of the things Mother made that I continued to make, at least in a similar manner, was meatloaf. Mother used a half and half mixture of hamburger meat and sausage, egg, onion, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and bread crumbs. I don’t always use the sausage but it’s good both ways. The real key to the meat loaf, in my opinion, is to generously spread catsup over the top of it before you put it in the oven.  One of my favorite vegetable complements that mother made was what she called Scalloped Potatoes. When I began searching for a recipe for those potatoes, I discovered that’s not actually what she fixed. Scalloped potatos basically only have a white sauce poured over the layer of potatos before baking; what Mother made was Potatos au Gratin – meaning it also has cheese. I really like the flavor of the Potatos au Gratin with meat loaf so that was the typical starch I made to go with it. These are really easy to make: peal and slice a layer of potatos into a casserole dish, sprinkle flour, salt, pepper and cheese over the layer of potatos and then dot with butter; continue with another couple of layers of potatos, flour, salt, pepper, cheese and butter. Pour milk over it until you can see the milk between the layers. Cover the casserole and bake for about an hour at 350°, then remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes. To complete this meal, I also usually made green beans and a regular baking powder biscuit.

When we lived in Blair, Oklahoma (Kay was about one), I made my first German Chocolate Cake. That’s an indelible memory for me – when I put the first bite of that cake in my mouth, I made a high-pitched, closed-mouth singing noise of joy. I love a homemade German Chocolate Cake and would still make the same song-like noise to this day [by the way, a box mix cake isn’t even in the same world as the original homemade variety].

The golden brown crunchy biscuits Kay mentioned in her blog was a recipe I found in an older Betty Crocker cookbook than the one I got as a wedding gift in 1959. We were living in married student quonset huts in Shawnee, Oklahoma at the time; our neighbors were named Zonna and Earl and the cookbook belonged to Zonna. She told me about the biscuits and I made them, loved them and continued to make them from that time forward.

In the ’60s, when I was working at OSU, I didn’t have enough work to keep me busy at my first floor (first office you came to) desk job and my boss wanted me to look busy, so one of the things I did was type recipes from magazines (on an old Selectric typewriter). I clipped the pictures from the magazines and glued them onto the pages and put them in a notebook. Some of these recipes I made only one time but still remember how excellent they were. For example, Sauerbraten that called for marinating several days in  a mixture that included red wine (unavailable at that time in Oklahoma) and ginger cookies [excellent recipe], a red cabbage dish that had green grapes cooked in it, and a sautéed carrot recipe that was delicious.

Also when I was working at OSU, we had a Christmas party and someone brought a Date Nute Candy that, when I put it in my mouth, I was overwhelmed with sensations of taste and smell that were clearly out of my memory. I loved the candy and asked for the recipe. When I made it, I realized why I’d had those strong sensations of taste and smell memories: it was out of my childhood and was something my mother used to make so long before that I’d forgotten all but that sense of taste/smell. The sensation of smell was that this candy was poured hot onto a wet cotton dish towel, wrapped up into a roll and put in the icebox to cool before slicing. As it cooled, the smell of the candy mixed with the smell of the dish towel.

In the ’70s, I went through a healthy cooking phase. Some examples of how that manifested itself would be: because margarine wasn’t natural it was considered to be less healthy than real butter, though the saturated fat content of butter had its own  problems. I solved that dilemma by buying real butter and allowing it to soften to room temperature. Then I added an equal portion of a healthier oil, such as Safflower, plus lecithin (the lecithin halted the solidification problem with the real butter and allowed it to stay spreadable at refrigerator temperatures). I also made my own mayonnaise. Additionally, I made a lot of healthier (tongue-in-cheek) desserts, such as the calorie and fat dense Carrot Cake that had carrots, pineapple, nuts and raisins in it and Cream Cheese Frosting on top, the Lazy Daisy cake made from oatmeal [a recipe my Mother used to make], and Grandma Brown’s Fresh Apple Cake, to name a few.

As to food-related events, the most important of those was probably the annual Thanksgiving weekend retreat the youth at Grey Stone Baptist Church took. I was a traditional cook and made everything for Thanksgiving from scratch. I would get up around 4:00 a.m. and put on the turkey and make hot rolls. Next came pies – pumpkin and pecan. I made the crusts for both pies and the custard for the pumpkin, but Wayne was very proud of making the custard for the pecan pies (it was his favorite) and I was always pleased to let him. While I was making the crust, I always made an extra crust that I rolled very thin, spread it with soft butter, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar and then rolled it up to be baked along with the pies. That was something Mother had made that I always enjoyed and so I made it everytime I made a pie and it’s a real treat. Then I would peel sweet potatos and chop them up in very small pieces and start them cooking [Kay always wanted small pieces because she wanted every potential part covered in the brown sugar/syrup/marshmallow gooey stuff]. While everything was cooking I would make dressing, green bean casserole, mandarin orange salad, cranberry sauce and homemade whipped cream. I was raised by Mother to time all my cooking so that every dish served was served cold if it was to be cold and hot if it was to be hot and I was always successful in that.

1975 Thanksgiving Retreat Volleyball Game

1975 Thanksgiving Retreat Volleyball Game

After Thanksgiving meal was concluded and cleaned up after, we got our stuff and went to the church for the drive up to the mountains with the youth group for a time of fun, games, fellowship and Bible study. Absolutely some of our best times were spent in the North Carolina mountains on Thanksgiving weekend.

One of those recipes we enjoyed in the 1970’s that would likely be good today for Kay with the occasional houseful of teenagers would be the Peanut-Buttered Popcorn.

peanut-buttered-popcorn

AnceStories – My Birth

When were you born?
June 22, 1940

What day of the week did your birthday fall on? (If you don’t know, use this perpetual calendar.)
Saturday

Do you think that the old nursery rhyme about being born on a certain day of the week accurately reflects your personality? Why or why not?
Saturday’s child works hard for his living – not for me. During my younger years women were expected to be stay-at-home moms. Later when I worked I was a secretary and mostly had jobs that were interesting – church secretary, psychical research, etc. Later still, when I had to support myself completely I was fortunate to find multiple jobs that allowed me the flexibility to choose what I did and when. Some might say I worked hard because I was never really off work, but I preferred to work doing things at odd times if it gave me the flexibility to respond to what life needed.

Were you born on a holiday? If so, which one?
No, though years ago the first day of summer fluctuated between June 21 and June 22; now it is always on June 21. That isn’t a non sequitur – I always considered summer a holiday (though in my mind summer was June through August – the months of summer vacation from school).  When my daughter was born, I insisted to my doctor that she be born during the summer and he told me summer wouldn’t be over until September 22. I told him for me summer ended on August 31. He did quite well – Kay was born at 10 minutes until September.

Which famous person do you share your birthday with? What is your opinion of these people?

  • Eric Stretch – 1980 (boys band)
  • Carson Daly – 1973 (TV show host)
  • Kurt Warner – 1971 (quarterback)
  • Amy Brenneman – 1964 (actress, writer)
  • Dan Brown – 1964 (writer)
  • Keith Bauman – 1959 (my fabulous son-in-law)
  • Freddie Prinze – 1954 (TV star)
  • Cyndi Lauper – 1953 (pop singer)
  • Meryl Streep – 1949 (Oscar-winning actress)
  • Lindsay Wagner – 1949 (TV star – Bionic Woman)
  • Todd Rundgren – 1948 (musical innovator)
  • Ed Bradley -1941 (investigative reporter)
  • Kris Kristofferson – 1936 (singer-actor)
  • Joseph Papp- 1921 (Broadway producer)
  • Billy Wilder – 1906 (movie director – specialized in comedies)
  • John Dillinger – 1903 (public enemy/criminal)

I had to look up a few of the names – particularly sports and pop music. The majority of these seem to be actors, pop musicians, writers and producer/directors – all mostly directed toward pop culture. It’s interesting there aren’t any people listed in politics or military or anything really serious – probably the most serious would be Ed Bradley, the investigative reporter and he’s truly just another performer. Do you suppose it means June 22 specializes in mostly frivolous people?

Do you share a birthday with any of your ancestors or relatives? Or is your birthday the same date as an ancestor’s or relative’s date of marriage or death?
None that I know of

What is your astrological sign? Do you think your sign fits you? What about your Chinese sign? Do you believe in astrology?
I am a Cancer and find that though some of the descriptors fit me, many do not. From reading about astrological signs, it is said we tend to move toward the previous sign in traits – that would be Gemini and I probably fit more of those descriptors than the Cancer ones. I tell people that since Gemini is referred to as the Twins, what it means is that as I move more and more into Gemini, I actually become triplets.

The description for Gemini is: Keyword: “I think”. The Gemini person is versatile, inquisitive, intellectual, whimsical, nimble, articulate, lively, active, curious, independent, talkative, sociable, mercurial, and creative. They can also sometimes be restless, scattered, dual or two-faced, inconstant, rash, gullible, gossipy and superficial. Suitable occupations are where constant variety and/or travel are guaranteed; such as commercial traveler, writer, journalist, clerk, teacher, printing and publishing.

For Cancer the keyword is “I feel.” That is actually one of my language pet peeves. People today say “I feel that …” Anytime you have to add the word ‘that’ following ‘feel’ you know you aren’t discussing a feeling at all but are, in fact trying to soften the impact of what you think or believe. The occupations suggested are the more compassionate, caring ones such as nurse or even hairdresser. Ain’t no way!

My Chinese sign is the dragon. I didn’t sense any great affinity for the descriptors of the dragon. I actually found more descriptors that, in my opinion, suit me in the Chinese month that represents my birth – which would be the horse.

Though there have been some times when astrological predictions have been eerily accurate (and mostly humorous), I don’t believe there is any foundation for basing anything on such calculations.

What major events happened on the day you were born? What happened the year you were born?
Apparently France signed an armistice with Germany following their defeat in battle after a month of siege. The majority of the news for 1940 was war related. On some lighter news, both Pinocchio and Fantasia were released by Disney Studios. Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his third term (the only one in history to do so).

Books written in 1940 included Kitty Foyle, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, Mrs. Miniver, The Nazarene and Adler’s How to Read a Book.

Entertainment was provided mostly by the movie industry and radio, though the FCC developed the rules for commercial television in 1940.

Where were you born?
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Were you born in a hospital, at home, or somewhere else?
I was born in Wesley Hospital, the doctor who delivered me was Dr. Henry Harris. It’s interesting that the newspaper births for June 22 didn’t include one for a girl ‘Willis’ child, but there was a daughter born on that day at Wesley Hospital to Mr. & Mrs. J.T. Harris (J.T. was how daddy was often referred to). I suspect that somehow the doctor’s name got substituted for the family name, although the address listed was 1400 E Park Place while my birth certificate indicates 2112 N Shartel as my parents’ home at the time of my birth

Why were you born where you were? Were your parents living in that town, or somewhere else?
Mother had returned to Oklahoma City from Virginia – though they did live in Wewoka for a time, they all returned to the City when her brother-in-law, Edson, moved back here with his oil business. Mother remained here all the rest of her life, with the exception of a brief sojourn in Texas. Daddy had apparently returned to Oklahoma City after his stint in the Merchant Marines and also lived here except for that same brief time in Texas.

Who was in attendance at your birth?
Besides the hospital staff, I assume Daddy was there. Because Bernita was with mother when Mickey was born, it is possible she was there with mother at my birth as well. I think they took birth seriously after the death of their mother in childbirth.

Is there an interesting story related to your birth?
Nothing I remember hearing – other than that mother really wanted children.

What do you know about the history of the place where you were born?
Oklahoma City was founded on a single day – April 22, 1889 as a part of the land run. It is the capital of Oklahoma, though that was not without controversy since Guthrie had been the territorial capital. Like many of our Oklahoma cities, it literally grew up overnight.

Do you still live in the place where you were born? Why or why not?
I do now live in Oklahoma City, but that has not been consistent – Besides Oklahoma City, I have lived in Altus, Blair, Shawnee, Stillwater and Perry, Oklahoma; Gainesville, Fort Worth, Graham, Odessa, Wichita Falls and El Paso, Texas; Long Beach, California; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Durham, North Carolina. The majority of the years 1959 through 1981 I lived away from Oklahoma City with brief sojourns here in 1963 and 1966.

I enjoy Oklahoma City because we are centrally located in the US and have four full seasons every year. It is a large enough city to provide services I enjoy but not so huge as to feel anonymous to me. I also generally appreciate the Midwestern value system.

See if you have a copy of the earliest photo taken of you, and add it to your journal.
Late 1940/Early 1941

If there are other earlier pictures of me I am unaware of them. This was clearly taken when foliage was gone from the tree and in obviously cooler weather, so I would assume November through February of 1940 to 1941 and most likely the earlier since I don’t appear to be more than six months or so.