Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Memory Lane: Granny's

My Granny Hill was one of my favorite people in all of the world. She was tough as nails, opinionated, but soft, gentle, and kind when dealing with me or my sister. My sister and I stayed with her quite a lot and tried to sneak in an overnight stay as much as we could. We would have just moved in and lived with her if we could.

Granny lived at the foot of a hill on South Street in Neosho. Her house was a white plank, small home (about 900 sq. feet) with a tiny living room, big kitchen, and a bedroom that ran the length of the whole house. Her bathroom was a closet it was just itty bitty. Granny rented from Mr. Burr, Homer Burr. He was about four feet tall and always wore a straw hat and overalls. He smelled of chewing tobacco and sweat, but kept a gentle grin firmly planted on his face. He loved my Granny and always shocked me because he called her, "Fleetea" I always thought that was so rude she was, "Granny." As a boy the yard was enormous, but in reality it was probably the size of a double lot. just down the alley was a little grocery store where we would always go with .50 and come home with tons of candy, Grape and orange soda and indulge ourselves.

Granny kept her yard immaculate with a lot of plants. Her coolest plant was the Venus fly trap. A plant that is carnivorous is really cool to a 5 year-old boy--well it's still cool. She always said that the plant would bite my finger off and I believed her (the plant's head was about the size of a lima bean). Granny was always telling me bizarre stuff, and I was always believing her. She got the biggest kick out of my gullibility. I was, and kind of still am, convinced that she had a picture of the Booger Man. I also believed that drinking coffee black would turn certain parts of my body that color (boys have it girls don't). I believed that if you dropped a tea towel on the floor someone was going to visit, or if you got a cold chill that a spirit had just passed through you. She was always telling me stuff like that. She didn't have many pictures hanging in her house, but she did have Billy Graham and John Kennedy on her wall. They were places of honor. Even though President Kennedy had been dead for years (this would have been 1975) she still honored him by hanging him on the wall.

Saturday meant going to town with Granny. We usually picked her up around 10 (we left the house as American Bandstand was starting, right after the Justice League was over) and would pull up to her house and honk. She came out of her house with her black pattened leather purse, Coffee can, white sweater, a very starched Cotton dress, knee-high hose, and ked's. The coffee can? Granny chewed tobacco--that's right tobacco. She chewed twisted tobacco, a brand called Good Money, it was twisted in a figure eight pattern. She chewed a hunk of tobacco always and would spit in that can. We went to Consumers for her usual groceries, and to Wal-Mart, sometimes we had to go to JC Penny to buy her clothes, but not often.

Granny loved steak sandwiches and french fries and had a weakness for ice cream. She really loved every thing that I loved. She also had a huge thing for Long John Silver's. "Let's go to Silver's for some fish. I just love that fish and mouth won't be happy until I get some." She always got the two piece fish, hush puppies, and Cole slaw. She ate every single bite of that fish! She didn't have one tooth in her head and could gum everything and eat just like she had teeth.

Granny was about 5'2" tall, she had a bowed back, snow white hair pulled into a tight bun. She had very distinct Cherokee Indian characteristics. Her skin was very wrinkled all over. I can remember holding her arm and feeling that very loose, cold skin on mine. Her hands had worked so hard for so long, you could almost see every row she hoed, every diaper she changed.

Granny told great stories and would get herself tickled at some of the things she had done. I always asked her to tell me stories and she would oblige. Just listening to how mean her whole family was makes me VERY thankful I didn't know them as I'm convinced I would have been killed early on. She tole me that once when she was in school (she only finished the 3rd grade) her school master was upset with her behavior and said he was, "gonna wear me out." " I told that teacher he could and better make it a good 'un 'cause I's gonna go home an tell my Daddy and brothers what he done and they come up and take care of him." As she tried to finish the story through the laughter, "that ol chicken didn't lay a finger on me cause he knew Daddy'd kill him, after all my brothers got through working him over." I totally believe that it would have happened. Most of Granny's brothers were all killed, murdered, or died in prison. One was drowned because he was cheating at Poker, one spend life in prison for killing a man because he took a tomato out of his garden, the list goes on.

One of my favorite Granny stories I've heard a thousand times and never, never get tired of it. Granny's husband (he left after Uncle Bill was born and she never remarried) was an alcoholic and at times could be very abusive. There was one time that he was drunk and not in a good mood, Granny became his target. He beat her up pretty bad, which made her really, really mad that he would to that to her. When he passed out to sleep it off, she tied him to the brass bed. "Well...we had a feather bed and when you tied someone in, they didn't move. I waited for him to wake up 'cause I wasn't going to waste what I was going to do on a sleeping man. He woke up and started fussin' that he was tied and that he better get untied. Well I walked in to the bedroom with my iron skillet and beat the fire out of him. He was laid up in that bed for three days getting over the beatin I gave him." Granny told me that she looked him in the eye, "and I said if you ever so much as touch me again you'll never wake up." He didn't and can you blame him.

So, so many great Granny stories. I'll post many it's so fun to walk down memory lane! I found a picture of Granny and will try to scan it and post it so you can see how sweet she was.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Memory Lane: Aunt Mae's House

One of the most precious people in all of my life was my Granny Hill. Her name was Fleeter Ann Hill (Robinson) and she was a spit-fire if ever the term existed. My Granny was born in the late 1800's and lived a share croppers life with her huge family. Her Father was a Methodist minister and very, very strict. I remember hearing stories about my Granny's family that would curl my hair.

Granny got married when she was 12 and had her first baby (Mae) by the time she was 13. In all she raised10 children of her own (Mae, Raymond, Brownie, Edith, Robbie, Robert, Pauline, Alvin, Claudine (died at two months and Billie) basically as a single Mom. Pauline gave birth to Raymond Paul and Dorothy Jean. Pauline couldn't or wouldn't, you know how family protects the skeleton closet, care for either and sent them to live with her brother (Raymond raised my Uncle Paul) and Mother (Granny raised my Mom, Dorothy).

As a result of my Granny raising my Mom I always associated my "greats" as just aunt and uncle not knowing the whole story of how Mom was raised by her grandmother. I never once met my Grandma Pauline, I know she died of cancer but didn't really know her. I did meet my Grandfather once, Clarence, but can't remember anything other than he gave me a rifle when I was five, which I had no idea why on earth a man would give a baby a rifle. I guess there are some parts of the U.S. where children are equipped with weapons and then go out and slaughter innocent things as some kind of rite of passage to manhood. I don't really get hunting. Holy Cow!

Robba and Granny were my jewels, I loved them so much. I really got a kick out of my Aunt Mae, but didn't really know her well as we only saw her once a year unless the year contained a funeral. My family has funeral relatives that only come together to commemorate a death and then disappear until the next death. Aunt Mae was a mean Chicken Fryer--I can still smell her house and taste the chicken. I swear it squirted juice! The last time I saw my Aunt Mae was in the Springfield, MO hospital about four days before she died. She has a ferocious cancer of the stomach and throat and was very, very weak. She loved my Dad as her own and called him honey. "Honey, I's sorry I cainst get up outs dis bed an cook you a mess o' chicken, but my ol' body is just plum tuckered out." That was the last thing I remember about her. Aunt Mae wore very sheer cotton sleeveless shirts, capri jeans, white socks, and Keds--that was her uniform. She wasn't afraid to cuss, smoke, or tell nasty jokes. I think she thought I was red because I spent my entire time around her completely blushed from head to toe. She had bottle cap thick glasses and not front teeth. Her skin was as smooth as silk. I can still smell the scent of Ivory on her skin, it's the only thing that she ever used.

This post for some reason has been directed toward my Aunt Mae, it was not intentional, but my heart is totally pouring out memories of her so here we go.

Aunt Mae lived in Marshfield, Missouri in a retirement community. the kind with duplexes all built the same way, aluminum screen doors and white wooden doors with those three skinny windows stair stepped. Her house was immaculate and always clean as a whistle. We went every summer to see her and spent the day just, "chewing the fat." Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy with the scrumptious bits of chicken crust mixed in, Fresh Corn, Chow Chow (passed on that duke), and Cream Pie. That was just standard Aunt Mae dinner. I never had anything else but that. I always wanted to sit at the table and soak up the stories but I would get shooed out to play. Let me just say that there really isn't a lot that a law abiding, God and Father fearing boy can do in a senior village other than walk around and kick stones. Any noise caused the neighbors to come peepin out the window in pursed disapproval of the "children." Any wave toward the direction was met with a swoosh of the curtain.

The best story of my Aunt Mae comes from my Dad, the first time he met her. Dad and Mom were just dating (Dad dated my Mom's best friend, Glendal, and dumped her to date my Mom that's a good post for another day.) when she wanted him to come meet her Mom and Aunt. It was summer and summer's meant sitting outside listen to the the outdoor orchestra sing their sunset songs. We only went in after about the fifth mosquito bite. At any rate, Dad pulled up to the house and Aunt Mae and Granny were sitting in the yard. Aunt Mae had on her uniform and was sweating up a storm. She never wore a bra (forgot to mention that). As my Dad walked up to her to say hello he noticed that her shirt was unbuttoned revealing her breast. He was mortified (I get mortification from my Dad, it's almost a spiritual gift in our family) and immediately stunned into utter silence and turned beet red. "What's the matter honey? Ain't you ever seen no titties before?" That did it for my Dad...he could have died right there on the spot. Aunt Mae laughed harder that she ever laughed before, Granny laughed harder than ever before, my Mom wanted to crawl under a rock and die and my Dad was just standing there jaw-dropped and awkward. From then on he and Aunt Mae were friends.

Aunt Mae had a wild bunch of kids, Billamae and Bud were the only two I remember. My uncle Bud (Again, if they were male they were uncle regardless, no cousin. Kid's were cousins, adults were aunt or uncle) had a lazy eye and looked like the love child of the guy from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Penguin from Batman. He drove a huge Honda Goldwing and never said a word.

Aunt Mae love me and my sister. "Come over here and give you Aunt Mae some sugar honey, you sure got some good sugar." That was the last thing she said to me before she died.

Her funeral was held in a tiny country church on the hill in the country. It was a fitting end to a person who lived such a tumultuous life. I remember seeing her casket being carried out the door of the church and watching every man in the room weep openly and loudly. The memory of my Dad sobbing with his face buried in his hands still haunts me. It just shouldn't be right for one to grieve that much. We all knew that the world had lost many, many things and would not be the same world ever again.

Granny buried all but one of her children (Uncle Raymond lasted four years past Granny's death) and had to be carried to the casket. She would lay on the casket, pet her baby's hair, kiss their cheeks, and wail. I can't say that I've ever seen someone grieve like that. She wore the same black dress to each and everyone of her baby's funerals. Looking back on those childhood moments I'm thankful that I witnessed such intense agony over the death of a loved one. It helped prepare me for being a minister and remaining composed when the family is in such mourning. I've conducted about fifty funerals in my career and have yet to see anyone come close to the level of sorrow my sweet, Granny expressed over the death one of her babies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Five years..just yesterday.

Saturday, June 9th was a milestone for us. Titus turned 5. He's been waiting to be 5 since he was 3. I guess 5 is just some magical number for him. "What today is it, Dad." "Today is Tuesday, Bub." "Am I five yet?" "No, you won't be five until Saturday." This was the course of conversation for about a month. He was counting down the days until the great event and I was mourning the milestone, he's just growing up too fast.

The story of how Titus came into our life is amazing and wonderful. This picture is of Titus two days old. Kendra and I released our desire to naturally have a baby (I call it the death of fertility, and unless you have been down that road you can't get in touch with the grieving that happens when you realize that natural conception is not possible.) and pursued adoption. We worked with Christian Homes in Abilene, Texas and went through about a four month process. We had to apply, then attend a weekend orientation, read four books, have social workers interview us, answer about ten pages worth of information, and do a letter to the birth mother, plus a photo album. The birth mother letter was placed in a book which was given to all expecting mothers under the care of Christian Homes. When a mother came across a letter that intrigued them, they would pull it and request the photo album. The photo album contained pictures of us, our home, our family, and just the things that showed what life in our house would be like.

We had three opportunities to be matched with birth mothers and turn them down due to the circumstances which surrounded the child, they are long stories the end of which is we didn't feel that it was a match. From the time we were "in the system" until Amanda chose us, it was about nine months.

June 6, 2002:

Kendra and I were catering a wedding. I had done the pre-marital counseling and would perform the ceremony for Evan and Christiana at the Botanical Garden in Fort Worth, and Kendra would do the catering for the reception. We had rehearsal on the 7th and the wedding would be on Saturday the 8th.

June 8, 2002:
As I was performing the outdoor ceremony in the scorching heat of a Texas summer, wearing a dark suit and sweating my butt off my phone kept ringing. I had put it on silence in the event it rang and was getting really perturbed that someone was calling me, and calling me. Everyone at our church was at the wedding, and if they weren't they knew I wad doing the wedding. After the ceremony, I was walking down the path to the reception and getting ready to stand in the receiving line to shake hands. I looked at my phone and saw three missed calls. All from a 325 area code. I called the number back. "This is Iris..." "Hello, this is Will Spoon I have some missed calls from this number--" "Mr. Spoon, I'm a case worker for Christian Homes [my hands are shaking as I type because drawing all of this memory up is bringing back every emotion I experienced as if it were happening all over again] and I'm calling to tell you that you have been matched with a birth mother. She chose you yesterday and wants to meet you on Monday in Sherman, Texas at the Denny's. There's a catch." "Gulp...Ok, what's the catch." "Well she is due to deliver on Sunday... but no one delivers on their due date. Check with Mrs. Spoon and plan to meet us at Denny's around 9 on the 10th..Ok, congratulations I'll talk to you soon." My hands were ice cold and sweating, I was shaking like a leaf and could hardly talk. I made my way to the kitchen where Kendra was in full serve mode. "Kendra drop what you are doing and come with me right now!" She handed the bowl of fruit to our friends who were helping and rushed over, she could tell I had to talk. "What's wrong?" "Nothing we've been matched with a mother and we are meeting her on Monday at Denny's in Sherman, Texas. She's due tomorrow, but the lady said no one delivers on their due date, but we could be holding our baby in less than two weeks." As we stood together and cried the tears of joy we were feeling the rush of, "holy crap! came over us." We had prepared the room, but didn't have much else because everyone had told us to not worry about it we would get it at the shower. We didn't want to take away from Evan and Christina's day, but had to share. There was a whole lot of celebrating going on at that reception! After cleaning up the reception we went home and changed then went to Target with our friends Tonya and Mistee to clear the baby aisles of essentials. We had to come with a diaper bag packed, not knowing if it were a boy or a girl.

June 9, 2002:
8:45-Our church was under construction and we were meeting in a high school for morning services. We had rented out office space and I was there getting the finishing touches put on stuff I had to take to the school when my cell phone rang. "Hello?" "Will this is Iris, get to Sherman, Texas Amanda is in labor and having your baby! We are at Wilson-Jones" "Ok...OK...I am on my way." Kendra did not have a cell phone and was already at the church. Our Youth Minister was the only hope I had of reaching her. "Tim, this is Will I have to talk to Kendra. Our birth Mother is in labor and we have to get to Sherman right now. I'm on my way to pick her up." Tim said that when he told Kendra he had to say, "Kendra...Kendra! Breath!"

9:15 on the way to Sherman.

9:45 "Hello...Will, this is Iris. Amanda had a baby and want to talk to Kendra." "Hello, this is Kendra." "Mrs. Spoon...this is Amanda and I just had your baby--it's a boy." "Thank's a boy,'s a boy." The friends who were following us said all they could see were Kleenex flying out of the box. We were both just beyond ourselves with tears of joy and anticipation in getting to the hospital to see our baby.


This is the first time Kendra held her baby. You can see that her purse is still on her shoulder. We had just walked into the room, minutes after Titus had been born. He had yet to be bathed, and had just been swaddled.

This is the first time I held my baby boy. I can still remember the feeling of putting my lips on his forehead for the first time. The sweet warm skin of my new son. It was a moment in time that exists in real time no matter how many seconds separate me from then to now.

The emotion of the day was just too much for me and tears just wouldn't stop flowing. That was a paper towel, my eyes were raw by the time we went to bed. This picture is of Titus having just gone to the nursery from the birthing room. He would have his first bath about thirty minutes after this. We were allowed in the nursery because no babies were born that day other than Titus.

A very proud Momma and Daddy, giving our boy his first bottle. We had 65 people at the hospital wishing us well. We were so happy.

Our beautiful baby boy, Titus Andrew. Amazingly enough Amanda wanted to name him Tyler Andrew, never having heard of the name Titus. God's hand was all over the connection of Amanda to us, Titus was clearly one of God's most amazing creations-He really outdid His self.

I have more to tell, but have to go. See you soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Paid in full! Thanks, duct tape girl.

I tend to get really excited over rather ridiculous things, like free coffee, an open lane at Wal-Mart, or no wait at my favorite places to eat, that gets me excited. I love to find a bargain and think I'm getting a steal, like a shirt I found for $4 the other day, I was giddy. Well, I'm excited because my little piece of internet history has hit the 1,000 mark on views to my "meaningless" blog full of meaning and memory to me. I would give something away, but I don't have anything to offer. I can fold a foil gum wrapper into a boat, any takers? Mildred has had something like a million views a day ever since she was discovered by another blogger. Well deserved and about time because she actually has something to offer and some really cool stuff to see, me I'm just ranting and rambling on about things in my life that I find to be of interest.

With summer having me in a choke hold until late August, I fear I won't be able to post with the veracity that I once did, which is a relief to many, but I do miss it. I'm also using my posting time to help a friend of mine get photos posted on her blog. She is working as a missionary in Peru and the Internet cafes they go to for their email and Internet fixes have bizarre keyboards, and Spanish too. She said the grammar and punctuation keys are not in their usual places and other things to make writing more readable are hard to find. I kind of chuckle because I am notoriously bad and punctuation and grammar and know exactly where every stinking key on the keyboard is!

We just wrapped up our first summer activity, the Quest program for a Christian University in Edmond, Oklahoma. I had a sneaking hunch that we were in for an interesting experience when I found out that the scheduled activities didn't start for children until 6 and weren't over until 10 PM! Add to that the fact that the last day of school was the very day we were having this thing. Kind of like hurricane forecasters looking at patterns of weather and knowing it's going to be a booger, well I saw all of the signs of disaster and knew it was coming.

None the less I pressed on and made my plans to fill the night with four hours of action-packed fun and meaning. I chose to base all of the evenings events on, "God is out of control" particularly our control. The first big game we did was a stuffed pants race. The kids took a pair of men's sweats and stuffed them with paper until they looked like sumo wrestlers, then they had to run around the theater we were using on the campus and first one back won. The kids loved it! After that game we went to our stations that I had set up for them to do: science wow, game, craft, snack, and a sit down and chat station. Oh...we had six kids show up, I prepared for 50 and had 12 volunteers on hand. The kiddos were...going to be spoiled.

The second big game we did after our break was the best. This game made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed in my life--for real! The idea was to get one of the kids from each of the four groups represented (we broke the kids up in groups to send them around to the stations, it's eats up a lot of time to move groups from one station to another) and wrap them in duct tape, sticky side out. Most of the kids were wrapped just around their arms, one girl was wrapped head to toe, like a mummy! It was actually shoulder to toe with the bottom torso slightly wrapped.

On, "go" the kids would drop on the floor and roll around picking up candy that had been scattered, the one who picked up the most candy was the winner, easy enough, huh. As the kids dropped to the floor and began to roll, the girl with the head to toe wrapping turned sideways to roll when she did that she hit another girl--STUCK! These girls were completely stuck together and couldn't budge. "I'm stuck...ouch...I'm stuck" "Get off of me I'm trying to roll in candy! Move!" "I'm stuck. I'm stuck." This girl was stating the obvious, but we were kind of waiting to see what would happen next...when it did. She kicked her legs hoping to get a good jolt to free herself and SMACK! She stuck to another kid. Now, not only was she stuck to a girl at her head, she was stuck to a boy at her feet. I was doubled over on the floor with tears rolling down my face. Watching these kids try to get unstuck from each other was too much. (I'm waking up Teensy as I type because I'm still laughing out loud about the very thought of this.)

I have some pictures of the whole thing, I'll post those when I get to my computer at work and download. It was totally great, worth the two months of planning and 10 hours of my busy summer--paid in full!

Working with kids is an awesome adventure and well worth all of the pain that comes along because you are gifted with things like the duct tape girl sticking to her other challengers and all of that stress just rolls away. There are other deeper things that keep me going, but they aren't nearly as funny. That's why I have been at this for almost twenty years (19th summer).