Monday, December 10, 2012


Yesterday was the Jackson family Christmas party.  For those who aren't aware, my husband has an enormous gigantuan family.  His mother is one of nine children.  The ages of those nine now vary from approximately 55 to 80.  Their families therefore, have had families, and theirs have had families, and so on.  It's overwhelmingly indescribable how many humans have come from those nine.

A good majority of them attended Eloise's Christmas party yesterday.  I may've written about it before.  At any rate, the reason for mentioning it now is that one of the many MANY cousins, in particular the one named Diane, was running late.  She called to report the reason for her tardiness.  "Edie and Ethel are not cooperating with me."

Edie and Ethel are Ronny's Grandfather's sisters.  So they are his* great aunts. Ethel is Diane's mother. They have both passed on and gone from this earth and have been dead for years.  A decade maybe.

But they were giving Diane a hard time.  Yesterday.

I didn't bat an eye. I believed it.  Didn't even need to hear the story to believe it, but here's the story anyway.

Edie and Ethel made a peanut butter cake that was legendary.   I recall people lovingly, laughingly fighting over the last slice, the last bite. I remember having a slice of it at every family gathering for years and years.  Decades maybe. I recall that when I had a slice of that cake in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, life was good and nothing else mattered. There were generally dozens of people sitting or standing about, but when I sat down with that cake and coffee, all I heard was crowd buzz. My thoughts were focused on absolutely nothing other than the gloriously resplendent piece of cake before me. Bite of cake - sip of coffee.  Bite of cake - sip of coffee.  


It was a totally homemade cake.  We call that a scratch cake - so that being the case, rarely does anyone make it anymore.  After Edie and Ethel passed on, it became a sweet memory.  Several have the recipe but rarely does that cake appear at a gathering.  .

So Diane decided to make it for the Jackson family Christmas gathering yesterday.  (As a sidenote, she became everyone's new favorite cousin yesterday.)  I heard comments like "I haven't had this cake since Grandmama was alive!"  (That's been 35 years.)  And "Oh wow, I had forgotten about this cake.  It reminds me of when I was ten and spending the summers in the country with my cousins."  That comment came from a cousin older than me - not sure how much, but I'm 53 - wait - 54.

So back to Diane being late to arrive to the party.  When she called to report that Edie and Ethel were not cooperating, what she meant was that she couldn't get the cake to come together.   Couldn't get it finished.  Couldn't get it done.  It cracked, it wouldn't go together to be iced correctly, whatever.  Anyone who has made a homemade cake knows how many things can go wrong in the process.   I don't know whether she was joking when she said Edie and Ethel weren't cooperating with her, or whether she really felt their presence and that they were giggling and getting in her way.  I didn't ask her.  But when Aunt Andrea announced that was why Diane was late, not a soul at the party blinked an eye. Everyone within hearing distance either laughed, grinned, or nodded.  There were a few comments like, "I bleeve it!" or, "Oh, they were up to their tricks, huh."

Personally I can hear them giggling over the ruination of a cake - their signature cake.  They were both a hoot and a half.  I can still hear each one of their laughs, I can still see their hands as they grasped mine, and I still use one of their homemade salve recipes.  I hear them laugh sometimes when I make it.

But back to the cake.  Yesterday, the sight of it, the scent of it, the texture of it, and ultimately the taste of it evoked memories of not just Edie and Ethel but the gatherings to which they brought that cake and the years I've been blessed to be a part of this family.

Diane just recently lost her sister.  Other than telling her I was sorry for her loss, we didn't speak of it or anything related, but as Ronny and the kids and I drove home through the countryside late yesterday afternoon, I wondered if making that cake for the party might have been the same kind of memory for Diane.  A healing gesture, a coping mechanism, an offering.   I don't know her that well, but I would be willing to bet her mother and aunt, Ethel the former and Edie the latter, were with her for a reason while she made that cake.

Thanks Aunt Edie and Aunt Ethel.  You two are tooooooo much. I love you.

Your humble great niece in law,

* I said 'his' for purposes of ease of understanding the family relationship.  They are however in truth "our" Great Aunts.  They became mine in 1981 when I married my sweetheart and were mine until they passed - by marriage - but still mine.

Friday, December 07, 2012


The traditional Christmas scripture is found in Luke.  The second chapter is the one most folks recognize, recite, put on plaques, Christmas cards, and so on.

You know how when you were a kid and you sang America the Beautiful every morning in school, standing facing the flag with your right hand over your heart and you thought "of the I sing" was "of the icing"?  Ok so here's Luke, chapter two verse nine:

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid."

Throughout my childhood I wondered why the angel of the Lord was sore.  What made him sore?  Can angels be sore?  How could that even be?  And do they have first aid kits or aspirin*, Ben Gay* or physical therapy in Heaven to help an angel get over soreness?  Masseurs?  Chiropractors?   Is there an angel infirmary?

These were the thoughts bouncing around in my noggin' every Christmas throughout my childhood.  Funny what a child's takeaway can be.  My Mom or my Sunday School teacher or the Preacher would be reading me this scripture from their King James Version Bible, and they felt the point they were making was that our Savior had been born and was lying, swaddled, in a manger.  The Host of heaven was busy praising God (verse 13), so who was handling infirmary or PT appointments for sore angels?

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed that I realized the true meaning of the scripture, and thennnn, in the aha moment, I realized it wasn't the angel that was sore at all!!!  It was the shepherds in the fields.  Now I knew those guys had to be in trouble if they were sore, because we all know there's no physical therapy or aspirin in the sheep fields.  Duh.

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed that I realized the true meaning of the scripture, that it really didn't matter at all who was sore, that the point was the Savior had been born that day.  Duh.

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed - that - tah dah, nobody was sore during the entire event.  Well thank goodness.   Cauz if you were so lucky as to have angels appear to you in a beautiful field in the evening with green grass and trees all around you and beautiful dark blue sky and brilliant stars above you, and talk to you personally about good tidings, great joy, and our Savior being born, it'd be a real bummer if you weren't feeling your best.

*I attended elementary school from 1963 through 1968.  Aspirin was it for OTC pain relief, and Ben Gay was it for  the topical muscle rub stinky stuff.  No Motrin, no Aleve.  No Bio-Freeze or Icy Hot.  We used hot water bottles and heating blankets.  The times they were so simple then....... *sigh*

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


School.  It seems like a few days ago I was wringing my hands about whether or not to commit to a one year licensure program in cosmetology.  I remember talking to my friends and my sister about it, lunching with my husband and discussing it (I distinctly remember the genuine look of disbelief and shock on his face when I brought it up) and even thinking to myself as I shook my head, "WHAT are you even THINKING, going to school, and for a profession where you'll be standing all day, working weird hours, and receiving tips, of all common things.  My Daddy will flip."  And as my husband said, "You could actually make some money if you went back into your much can you possibly make cutting hair, anyway?"  It was a few weeks, maybe months, before it sunk in for him that it wasn't about the money or the position.  It is for men.  Almost always.  They are what they do, and women are who they are.

For the record, I'm 53 years old.  Wait.  54.   Born in '59, never can do that math.  I must have a mental block.  At any rate, yes I do still think about what my parents will think.  It doesn't keep me from anything, but I think about it.  There I said it.  I think about what my family will think too- my husband and my children.  Other than that, generally I don't give a big fat flip what anyone else thinks, but always value input should they care to share it.

The reason I knew my Dad would disapprove is that when I was a senior in high school, I had no ambition whatsoever.  No direction, no motivation, nuthin.  All I knew was I wanted out of the house.  I worked after school and on weekends for a family friend who was a beautician (yes, that's what they were called.  Frankly, I wish the term would return to vogue or trendy status.  It's too hard to say  c-o-s-m-e-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t.)  At any rate, I announced one day that I wanted to enroll in beauty school when I finished college.  My Daddy looked beyond incensed (about like my husband first did in aforementioned lunch date) and when he regained his ability to speak he said to me, "You must have lost your mind.  You are GOING to college.   Pick one.  I'll drive you there."

True story.

Of course it was the right decision.  The degrees served me well over the years and besides that, I lived by myself or with a roommate for four years.  In doing so I learned several valuable life lesson, including but not limited to how to take care of myself without my parents being in the same home, how to live alone, and how to live with a roommate.  Priceless stuff.  Every kid should have the experience.  I might've, sorta, kinda, (shhhh don't tell) also learned how to party.  Might've engaged in that activity a little too much.  Lesson learned there as well.  Now I have a teenager, and remembering the party days evokes feelings from quite a different perspective.  Interesting.

So back to the finishing school thing.  Incredible that it has been a year and a month since I enrolled, and it will be a month or so until I am a licensed master cosmetologist, which is way too much of a mouthful for what amounts to a beautician.  Hairdresser.  Stylist.  Haircutter.  Tonsorial artist.  Actually that one is a whole different licensure, but I digress. The point is, I don't feel the need for any politically correct posturing regarding the job name, and any of those terms suits me fine.

Now then.  Here's my plan.  Since it is so close to Christmas and my kids are off for a couple of weeks for the holiday (Remember.  It's a "holiday break".  NOT a Christmas break.  Insert huuuuge eyeroll and teeth sucking here.) I am waiting until the first of the year to begin my assertive blitzkrieg on West Cobb County and surrounding areas.  My freshman foray into this area is an exciting thought.  I am such a weirdo like that.  I always enjoyed employment interviews and approached them as though we were interviewing each other, with obvious deferment on my part to the interviewer leading the meeting. Besides interviewing for traditional beautician positions I also have a few novel ideas to flesh out.  A couple of out-of-the-box approaches are floating around in the grey matter just waiting to be developed.

So.  Home with the kiddos for vacation.  First time in a year.  Ohhhhhh the plans.  Museums, plays, movies,  bike rides, hikes, day trips. My kids roll their eyes when I excitedly discuss the possibilities, but they're gonna LOVE it.  They are. Even if I have to persuade them they are.  The truth is they will most likely talk me into ditching a couple of those plans in favor of staying at home and hanging out, eating cereal for brunch and making popcorn while watching movies, listening to music or playing video games, but so be it.  Time together is time together.  My favorite quote regarding this concept is from Mamma Mia - so I guess actually it's from an Abba song called Slipping Through My Fingers- where Meryl Streep laments:

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
barely awake I let precious time go by
then when she's gone, there's that odd melancholy feeling
and a sense of guilt I can't deny
what happened to the wonderful adventures
the places I had planned for us to go
well, some of that we did, but most we didn't
and why, I just don't know

I cry every single time I hear that song.  I can already feel that my incredible firstborn gift, my fifteen year old, has one foot out the door, and my delicious ten year old - my baby - is following in his brother's footsteps, pulling further and further away from Mom.  Yes.  I know it's a developmental thing for boys.  The knowing of it does not help.

So, it is finished.  Now on to the next phase - the next phase of my newest and hopefully last, professional incarnation.  On to the next phase of my childrens' development.  On to the two and a half weeks I am blessed to be able to spend with said children, and on to whatever the future holds.  I'm smiling at it all.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she rejoices at the time to come."
Proverbs 31:25