Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome back Friends!

I am doing the happy dance because so many of my friends are back in my life. Here is a little something to get your day going in the right direction. Have a great day!  Heee YaH!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gladys, a quietly remarkable woman

This is Gladys Botkin O'Banion, my grandmother; my mother's mother.

I have been reading a series of wonderful books by Sharon Kaye Penman about the reign of Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.  As I read about Eleanor, I kept seeing my grandmother's face; strong, proud, beautiful and brave, above all...brave.  That was Mommaw alright, beautiful and brave. 

I started thinking about her, and remembering things that I took for granted about her.

She grew up poor, as so many in her time did, but she had brains and talent and pluck. Can you see the "Pluck" in these two photographs? Yep, she was a piece of work as they say. She also had a fairy Godfather who sent her to beauty school .  He was a doctor named Barton. I am named after him, as is my mother, Lenora Barton O'Banion Spicer.  She worked hard and learned a trade. She because a beautician.  Being the wily, practical woman that she was, she did not balk at being whatever here customers saw her to be. Due to her Native American heritage (her father was one quarter Cherokee) she had an "ethnic" look to her. Some thought she was Jewish, so when the Jewish ladies needed their hair done, she was "Jewish". When the nice Italian ladies needed a permanent, she became Italian.  She got a lot of work that way.  Did I mention she was smart?

She was also single-mindedly determined.  When she was a freshman in high school, she saw a skinny, red-haired boy named Louis and she turned to her friend and said, "That is the boy I am going to marry." 

And she did.  And she loved him fiercely and protectively all the rest of their life together.  He was everything to her.  She loved her children and her grandchildren and all of her family and friends, but Elmer Louis O'Banion was the center of her universe.  

She was always much stronger than he was, but she never let him know that. She was the master of making him feel that he was the king of the world, and to her, he was.

When he went Europe in World War II, she was the one who worked to make a living, took care of their three children and anyone else in the family who needed a hand. She was forever taking in strays until they could "get back on their feet".  It would never have occurred to her to say no.  They were "did" for family; that's just he way it was. 

 She made sure that Poppaw had letters and pictures of the kids while he was "over there".  I still have the photographs she sent to him with the notes written on the backs. "We love you Daddy." "We miss you Daddy." 

She was a terrific grandmother.  Not your typical cookies and milk sort of grandmother, but sort of glamorous and elegant.  She could always be counted on for a coke and a good yarn. She treated you like a "person" not a kid.  And she could always make you feel special.

She was "different".  I believe she would have preformed surgery on her kitchen table if need be.  She had us believing that she was a witch with special powers.  If you asked her a question you always got an answer even if she had to make one up. 

Things I rememer about her: She liked strong iced tea with lemon.  She liked Kraft Mayonnaise and bologna sandwiches.  She liked to savor her coffee and cigarette after dinner without being concerned about the dishes; she'd get to them later so "leave them the hell alone." 

She was the kind of woman who could wear a feathered tiara and make it work. God I loved her!
 She never gave up.

She worked from the time she was a teenager until she was 79 years old.  She finally had to start going to the nursing home to "do hair" because some of her customers had gotten so old they couldn't come to the shop any more, so she went to them.

And she didn't abandon them even when they died. She went to the funeral home to do their hair that one last time.

There is one story about Gladys that sort of sums her up.  She had a lady who cleaned for her who had a son.  He was going to quit school to work because they didn't have much money. But Mommaw talked him into staying in school and I am sure, helped them out with money so he could stay in school.  When it came time for the boy to graduate,  he was embarassed because he didn't have very nice clothes to wear to the ceremony, so Mommaw went out an bought him a good shirt to wear to graduation. She gave it to his mother to give to him. I don't know if the boy ever knew; I doubt it. She wouldn't have wanted him too. But that was who she was, a quietly remarkable woman.

She died peacefully in bed at my mother's home two days before her 94th birthday.

(Baby Gladys with her mother, Ellen Links

Friday, June 25, 2010

Same Ole Same Ole...

I have been rather remiss in my writing lately. I put it down to the "summer doldrums".  That no man's land that sets in right after vaction when every day follows the other and every day is the same, "Hazy, Hot, and Humid...chance of thunder storms in the afternoon." Even the weather is boring. I mean, when helping a terrapin across the road is an "event" in your day, you know you are boring.
Remember that movie with Bill Murray, Ground Hog Day?  Well, that is my life right now.

I get up at 4 in the morning, put on the coffee, take a shower, dry my hair, put on the clothes that I picked out the night before, drink the coffee, tell my cat, "It's time for Mommy to go to work and make money to buy cat food. See ya later alligator. Mommy loves you." (same words every day so she knows I'm coming back.) And then I drive to work. Same route every day. Same CD's in the CD player. Get to work, turn on the machines, take 35 minute walk, process and print film, go to the gym, work some more until 4:30. Drive home, have gin and tonic while cooking dinner and watching DVR'ed TV show. Go to bed. Start all over again the next day at 4 o'clock.

If you got bored reading it, think how bored I get doing it day after day. *sigh* I need to change something up in my life.

Just once before I die, I'd like to know what it feels like to be sitting on the terrace of a villa in Tuscany sipping red wine with a dark smoldering Italian man who doesn't even speak English but understands every move I make.
I'm just sayin'....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pawleys: A Homecoming

This is the sight that greets you as you come up the boardwalk to Nod, a small, "quaint" beach house on Pawleys Island, SC.  This is a sight that never fails to take my breath away, and make my eyes tear up, and fill my lungs with sweet, warm, salt air.  Pawleys Island, as welcoming as a grandmother's hug.

Tutt and I have been coming here for ten years. Two weeks a year. Two weeks of wonder and magic, sun and fun and memories. Each year has new adventures. On year, it was the launching of baby turtles into the sea. There is a Turtle Patrol here on the island, and they are serious as a heart attack about protecting the Loggerhead Turtle. They put huge orange plastic nets over the turtle nests and dare anyone, man, woman, child or dog to go near them. Then, when they hatch, they are "helped" along to the ocean. One year in September, I was honored on my 50th birthday to be one of the "helpers". You mostly just watch them go and marvel at the beginning of a 200 years life.

We eat lunch and look out on the tops of dancing beach umbrellas and sometimes catch a glimpse of pods of black dolphins doing a graceful water ballet.  And always to the accompaniment of the gently surging ocean. Music beyond price.

In the late afternoon, we mosey over to the creek dock to share laughter, conversation and the sunset with our friends from the house next door, The Wooden Shoe.
Over the years, we have each lost people in our lives, and together, we have celebrated them and mourned them each in our turn with our friends here at Pawleys. A unique and beautiful tribe.

The first year we came here, I wrote these words in the "House Journal" that the owners liked to keep. Guest were encouraged to jot down a little something in Nod's diary. This is what I wrote in our first year:
Thurs. May 31, '01
Once, the door sills were painted gunmetal gray; now they have been warn smooth by the bare, sandy feet of legions of reverent visitors who cherish the slanting floors, and wooden planking walls as much as we do. "We" being Ann Spicer and Dan Tuttle.  We have had a lovely week. Nod is all we had hoped for and more--we even remarked on that fact while we had coffee on the screened porch last year, while we were staying in a very nice, impersonal condo at Gulf Shores, we longed for a "little house right on the beach".
Thank you Nod...we're home at last.  Ann Spicer, Monterey, Ky.

And as we were gathering up to leave...

Friday, June 1, '01
Time to think about folding our beach umbrella and starting the long drive home.  But I have a secret...on some future trip, probably a business trip to some cold, impersonal hotel, I will open my suitcase and find the fine, white sand of Pawleys and I will remember...

It is a love affair that continues. Age does not dim the magic.