Posted in #Confessions

True Confession #1

1971

A Fork in The Road

            My junior year in high school I was invited to the senior prom by my crush, Clay Thornton.  It was exciting to be included with his senior friends and to dance the night away, pretending to be way more worldly than I was.  Before we left my house, Daddy announced, “Be home by 11:30, Nan.  Nothing good happens after midnight!”  Even though I was about to be seventeen, my curfew never changed, no matter what.

            Clay was tall, handsome, polite, smart, and played on the football team.  I had also been wearing his letter jacket for quite some time, proving to the world our mutual admiration.  We dated on and off my whole junior year and until he went away to college.

            I started my senior year fresh, unattached, and looking forward to graduation.  In the ‘70’s, at Tascosa High School, in Amarillo, Texas, you were assigned to a home room alphabetically.   I had been with the same “C” students for three years.  Once we got alphabetized in the tenth grade, that was it, until we graduated.  Mr. Thompson was our homeroom teacher and also taught government and economics.  He had been in the Naval Reserve with my dad, which was awkward, and he chewed on cigars that he carried in his front shirt pocket.  He was gruff, crusty, and personally I don’t think he gave a hoot about what we did as long as we were quiet.

            There was one student in our homeroom who was not in our usual classes, Tim C.  He was super tall, exceptionally thin and had an odd way about him.  We knew he went to special classes, but no one was out right rude, just dismissive.  Tim was quiet around our rowdy “C” students, so sometimes I went out of my way to say hello to him or smile when passing in the hall, to which he would raise his hand in a half wave and speed off.  I tried to be kind, while also tolerating a few snickers at Tim’s expense.  Wanting to do what’s right and wanting to be popular is a hellish place to be.

            I had plenty of dates my senior year, almost every weekend.  When I wasn’t working at Montgomery Wards in the stereo and record department, I enjoyed going to parties, attending games and definitely looked forward to my senior prom, graduation and going off to Baylor University in the fall.  My grades were more average than Daddy would have liked, but I thought of myself as ‘well-rounded’ and didn’t worry too much about it.

            I was home one evening in February, when my dad came to my room. “There’s a boy named Tim on the phone who wants to talk to you.”

            I couldn’t think of anyone I knew named Tim until I picked up the receiver.

            “Hello?”

            “H-hii N-n-ncy, this is  Ti-im Coley from h-h-home room.”

            “Hi Tim,” I said calmly, feeling awkward.

            “H-how are y-y-you?”  he asked.

            “I’m fine.”  I could feel my eyes widening and my heart started to pound. I kept thinking ‘ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh.’

            “W-w-well, I have s-s-something to ask you.  It’s very i-i-i-important.”

            “Yes?” My mind racing, I thought oh no, he’s going to ask me on a date.

            And plain as day he said, “Will you please go to Prom with me?  M-m-y mother w-w-will take us and bring us h-h-home.”

            Sitting on the floor of my living room, right beside the bookcase clutching the phone so tightly I thought I might faint, my mind went blank.  I was unprepared and nervous and suddenly I burst through the silence with, “Uh, Tim, it’s awfully early to be asking, isn’t it?”

            “I-I kkknnnow, I’ve been wanting t-t-to ask since last y-y-year.  But my mother said I had to wait.”

            “Thank you, Tim.  I need some time to ask my dad.  Can I let you know soon?”

            “OK. S-s-s-ee you tomorrow.”

And with that, we hung up.

            It was all my foolish mind could think to say as I stalled, not wanting to hurt his feelings.  Instead of just saying no, I prolonged my torture by being dishonest.  I thought if I could just wait a few more weeks, someone else would ask me and I would be off the hook.  All I knew was I could not go to the prom with Tim C.  What would my friends say?

            Almost three weeks went by and my agony was palatable.  Every day at school was a game where I tried to hide so I wouldn’t run into Tim.  I finally, in my angst, wrote Tim C. a note.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for inviting me to prom, but I forgot someone had already.

 asked me a long time ago, so I have to go with them.

                              Thank you, Nancy

            The next day after the bell rang, I dropped the folded note onto his desk as I hurriedly left homeroom.  In my blinded teenage fog, I thought I had done a good thing and was happy the ordeal was finally over.  One side of me was happy and felt free but the other side of me kept saying, “I think you hurt his feelings.”

            You cannot possibly say anything to me I haven’t said to myself in the last fifty years since then.  Tim C. never spoke to me again.  He would look down when I walked by and he avoided eye contact even more than before my sorry excuse.  I disappointed him and myself.

            February turned into March into April, and there was not one prom invitation extended to me by anyone else.  As much as I dated and had friends, the closer it got to prom, the quieter my social life got.  Couples paired off making special plans.

            In 1971 girls did not go to dances in groups, it just wasn’t done.  It was a date’s only situation, and that was a situation I was not in.  The night of my senior prom, I was at home. 

            I was in my room when my dad knocked on the door and came in. “Honey,” he said, “you’re just too pretty.  The boys were afraid to ask you and they probably thought you already had a date.”  He hugged me, and in that moment, I broke into sobs of hot salty tears.  I wanted to tell my daddy what I had done and how I lied to Tim and hurt his feelings.  I wanted to confess this awful secret and get it out of me.  I was so disappointed in myself and my cruel actions, but I knew my father’s disappointment would be worse to bare.  I didn’t deserve his kind words and sympathy.  I deserved to be dateless the rest of my life.  And worse, I let my shame keep me silent about my actions for many more years to come.

            The night of my senior prom I learned a huge lesson about honesty and decency.  The laughs and embarrassment I thought I would have gotten for being Tim C.’s date might have instead, been a lesson in love and kindness for all of us.  There is always a fork in the road, where we make a choice that brings us up higher or takes us down lower, and the choice I made was not the best.    

Perhaps Tim C. doesn’t even remember me now, but if I could, I would tell him how sorry I am for my behavior.  And if I could do it all over again, I would choose differently.

I learned something inside all my disappointment, and shame.  I learned how I wanted to treat people and that being a kind human being was more important than potential popularity or perceived coolness.  I learned honesty really is the best policy, and that morals are private, but decency is public.

Posted in Cajuns, Mothers

Poulette by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Geraldine Latour (aka Poulette)

Momma’s nickname was Poulette (Cajun for lil’ chicken) because she was always pecking around, picking up, cleaning, cooking, just forever in motion.  I remember Momma with a dishrag always in her hand, ready to clean any surface she passed. One of my favorite Poulette memories involves a hibou (Cajun for owl).  

I was in high school and awoke in the middle of the night to strange sounds from the front of the house. I crept down our long hall towards rustling clinks and clatters in the kitchen. Was someone fixing a midnight snack? I froze mid-step when I saw a three-foot brown and white owl perched in our kitchen sink. It settled its wings and met my open-mouthed stare with a slow blink and a freeze-tag pose. 

Like a first grader, I ran back down the hall to my parents’ bedroom.

I entered the dark room and said,“Hey! There’s an owl in the kitchen!” in a loud whisper as if embarrassed to utter such an unlikely statement.

  Dad raised his head to ask,“Wha?  Huh?”

“For real! An owl’s in our kitchen,” I said.

Daddy shook his head, lay back down, and rolled over.  

  But Momma was already putting her robe on and coming my way. 

“A hibou? Let’s go,” she said. 

We held hands as we walked down our long hall past bedrooms where my siblings slept and stopped at the orange Formica wall-mounted kitchen table four yards from the kitchen sink to have a staring contest with the owl. We now clutched each other’s forearm and accepted the reality of what we saw. The owl sat content in the spotless, stainless steel sink below a clean window with blue flowered curtains. Momma and I took measured breaths as if we were about to duck underwater for a long swim. Then she let go of my arm and tiptoed to the laundry room to the left of our kitchenette table. I headed back through the den to open our heavy back door. We had wordlessly planned to shoo the owl outside.  

Poulette emerged from the laundry room holding a broom like a long spear as she slowly advanced toward the kitchen sink. Her strategy was to scare the owl towards the opened door and sweep him outside. A sensible plan until my blind cat Cupid dashed inside just as Poulette raised her broom spear toward the hibou. I screamed because I believed the owl would attack Cupid. Momma changed direction and hurried to the door. Her rule of “No pets in the house!” had been broken!

Chat! Chat!” she yelled and tried to sweep my cat outside. Cupid dashed underneath the den’s couch thrilled and amazed to be indoors.

The owl watched our shenanigans without moving a feather. Momma stood next to me as I held the door open and she tapped the floor with the end of her broom handle like it was a sentinel’s staff, as angry at the cat for getting inside as she was annoyed to have an owl in her kitchen.

Momma with her kids, (Kelly, Gayle, Ginger & Emile)1960

We sighed in unison just as the owl decided to spread its incredible wings and fly toward us. Momma’s broom went under-the-arm and we hightailed it toward the living room.

Mon dieu!” said Momma while I let out an extended scream and forgot about my hiding cat. The owl calmly settled on a foot stool next to the sofa and became a statue again. 

We clutched forearms again.With our backs now against the front door, we suddenly had the same idea: Open both front and back doors to create a draft! 

So I opened the back door while Poulette turned the broom into a lance and headed back to the den and her hibou adversary. I noticed the broom’s bristles shake when I followed her and hid behind the fully opened back door and peeped out to watch the confrontation.  

Momma and me, 1959

My 5’ 2”, 100 pound mom, who shrieked and hid when she saw a tiny lizard, was now a warrior.  Her broom became Excalibur and she swung it above her head before thrusting it straight at her opponent. The owl had been looking longingly out the huge picture window in the den, but it now did that slow creepy head turn as Poulette advanced. 

With her broom sword ten inches in front of the owl, Poulette yelled, “Shoo! Shoo!” Then she lowered her weapon to sweep the air around its feet. The owl blinked twice, opened his wings, and smoothly flew out the back door as I cheered from my hiding place. Poulette whooped and alternated wielding her broom like a sword and sweeping the doorway.

“We did it!” I bragged as we hugged and danced by the door.  

“What a big hibou!” Momma declared.  

“But not too big for a poulette with a broom,” I said. 

She hugged me again and said, “ Cha, I need to sit down.” So we rested in the kitchen, took deep breaths, and laughed.

We never did find out how the owl made its way into our house. Maybe it was stunned or slightly hurt and a strong wind blew the back door open, so it coasted in. Maybe some prankster put it in our house. It stayed in our backyard in one of our live oak trees for an hour before taking flight and leaving us.

The Hibou event became part of our family folklore, an unsolved mystery.  However, one part of that story holds no mystery whatsoever: Momma Poulette had heroic bravery when it came to protecting her “chicks.”  Years later she may have no longer rushed about the house cleaning and organizing her family’s lives and ended up in a wheelchair before she passed away in 2015. But whenever she looked at me with her crystal-blue eyes and gave me her pure-love smile, I still saw the Poulette spark and remembered how she handled that hibou that weird pre-dawn morning.

Momma Poulette, 2012

Posted in #Confessions

Progress Not Perfection

            I admit I have visions of grandeur.  I see my home and the belongings therein, as neat, tidy, and organized.  I know how Martha Stewart folds her towels so she can have the perfect linen closet and I have watched Marie Kondo on Netflix enough to know if I am over-burdened with unnecessary things.  I envision my possessions in their uncrowded, beautiful spaces, but my follow through is lacking.

            Besides my usual ‘junk’ drawer in the kitchen, there is ‘the pile.’  I confess that I am a stacker.  Beside my refrigerator is a stack that started with two pieces of mail I intended to do something with.  I should have opened the mail and immediately taken what action was necessary:  pay the bill, return information requested or discard the paper.  I postponed the action, which lead to this.

            Two pieces of mail turned into three cookbooks I haven’t used, a bulk pick-up reminder, one cat toy, a sequined seashell from my granddaughter, a white board and a flyer with coupons for pizza, which is now expired.

            Remember when Covid first started, people were posting on social media about using their time wisely to do home repairs or clean out closets?  Boo and I spent hours playing dominos and spades.  We walked and napped equally, and never cleaned one thing.

             Organizing my closet in an ongoing project that never gets completed.  I have sorted by what I wear and what should be given away.  I have refolded, rehung, and repurposed.  I tried to keep only what I love and brings me joy, but I kept hearing my dad’s voice, “You might need that to paint in someday.”  Another problem was when I asked myself if I loved an article of clothing, I would often answer, “I used to love that. I might wear it again.”

The ten prom dresses I wore when I was a high school administrator and had to chaperone Prom, a long black crocheted vest I might use for a 70’s costume someday, a navy- blue suit I wore two sizes ago that was my all-time favorite, a couple of wedding dresses (that’s probably too much information), and an old chambray ‘work shirt’ with candy cane’s embroidered on the pocket and collar are all examples of ‘my problem.’

            A few years ago, my dear friend Linda came over to help me organize my closet.  We took everything out and laid it on my bed, dresser, and floor.  She was overly polite as she pulled out twenty-two belts and ten formal, cocktail purses.  “Wow,” she said, “maybe you can decide on just a few you like the best.”  (I told you she was polite.)  The next few hours flew by as she challenged me to give away things I hadn’t worn or didn’t even like.  But, somewhere along the way, she pointed to a stack of hangers on the bed and asked, “Don’t you think you have enough?” 

“I have a problem with hangers,” I confessed.  “I like good hangers, remember Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest?”  Linda gently guided me to throw some away and donate the others, but secretly, I wanted to order more from QVC so I could hang everything on the same color hanger. When a salesclerk asks me if I want to keep the hanger, I always say yes.  I even have a few wire hangers that have crocheted coverings that Auntie Sue gave me years ago.  I know I have a problem, but I just can’t get rid of those.

            At one point, I thought I would just call and schedule a visit with Marie Kondo, here in my home.  If I had her here, in person, I thought I could change.  But sadly, her website says I will never get her, only one of her consultants at $100 an hour and paid travel expenses.  So, I took the $100 and bought cute baskets and containers to store more stuff in.

            Once, my daughter and her friend took everything out of my pantry and organized just like it was a grocery store.  “Mom, that expiration date was three years ago!” she began, and it went downhill from there.

 “Mom, why do you have three devilled egg plates?”

 “Doesn’t everyone?” I countered.  “Besides one day all of this will be yours and your sisters.”

 “Mom, do you ever use any of these cookbooks?”

 “I used to,” I lamely answered.  “Before you were born.  Besides, I love cookbooks.  They’re so pretty and colorful and I always find things I want to cook.”

Eye roll from daughter.

Lastly, “Mom, what’s the fascination with so many cans of black beans?”

“Once, I thought about going vegan.”

Disgusted eye roll.

My meek and sometimes weak answers did not deter them as they made me throw away out of date items, and tiny bits of saved crackers or chips that wouldn’t even feed a bird.  Don’t even get me started on the stack of grocery bags and bottles of wine.  “I don’t want to run out,” I whispered under my breath.

            Almost everything I own is either potentially useful or sentimental and that is why I have such a hard time letting things go.   I seem to lack inspiration and dedication, but, at the same time I can’t give up the dream of one day being color coordinated, pared down and organically organized.  I just hope you won’t think less of me as I straighten my piles and keep the three pairs of shoes, I haven’t worn in two years.  I might need them to paint in someday.

Posted in Cajuns, Family, Food

Louisiana Gold by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Champagne’s grocery store in Eunice, Louisiana keeps the fresh crawfish tails in a special cooler in the back that customers don’t have access to. At the check-out you tell the cashier how many pounds of crawfish you want and they go to the “vault” in the back and return with your treasure. Before they ring up the pricey seafood, they count each of the crawfish packets in front of you.

Boiled Crawfish from Slim’s Spoon in Austin, Texas at Thicket Food Park

“You wanted four pounds: one, two, three, four.”

And they bag them as if you’re at a bank where the teller counts your stack of twenty dollar bills.

(I dramatically imagine this is what a big drug deal is like. “Three kilos of cocaine: one, two, three.”)

When I first witnessed this transaction, I asked the cashier why they did it this way.

“Had to,” she said. “Folks would get home with their crawfish and call us and claim they’d paid for four pounds, but we gave ‘em only three.”

I nodded and thought, “Fresh crawfish tails are like gold or diamonds  – precious, expensive, and hard to get.” They’re only available a few months a year and are mostly found in south Louisiana.

Crawfish, like small lobsters, have a rich sweetness that reminds me of being eight-years-old, barefoot on a May afternoon when I felt at home with myself and my family. My biggest worries involved sister fights and what sins I’d need to own up to once a week at school when the nuns led our class to that week’s Confession session. (Was it a sin when I made up a few extra sins because all I could think of was ‘I talked back to my mom’ or ‘I lied to my sisters’?)

I had not become fully aware of my cerebral palsy yet, and I didn’t realize the embarrassment of my left-leg limp or my left-arm crookedness. I played freeze tag with my friends and cousins. I bossed around my little sisters, and I believed my parents had more admirable traits than bad ones. Life was good! I took rice and gravy dinners and Friday fried catfish for granted.

However, I knew crawfish was special! Our huge Good Friday boil was one of the year’s biggest Keller family events. And crawfish etouffee was reserved for company from out-of-state or a wedding rehearsal’s supper or St Edmund’s Spring Fair.

I grew up around great Cajun cooks: my momma, Grandma’s hired help – Lee Ester Anderson and later Vivian Hill, my Uncle Jake, and a long list of Eunice ladies I knew. They cooked the Cajun Country way. “First you make a roux…” “Use the Holy Trinity: onions, bell pepper, and celery.”  “Add green onions and parsley at the end.”  “Cook until done.”

I didn’t start cooking like a Cajun until I moved to Texas and missed the gumbos and sauce piquantes. I had Mercedes Vidrine’s Louisiana Lagniappe cookbook that was really four combined books ( Beaucoup Bon, Quelque Chose Piquante, Quelque Chose de Douce, and Joyeux Noel). I practiced and used the best ingredients: LeJuene’s garlic pork sausage and crawfish tails from south Louisiana when I could get them.

My favorite crawfish etouffee recipe was read to me over the phone by Momma. A friend from her bouree card games had shared it with her. 

I like it because the crawfish tails are boss and do all the talking in that recipe. There’s not a roux or fancy veggies like mushrooms or asparagus trying to steal some of the attention. The recipe begins with the holy trinity cooked in a half stick of butter, and later you add a bit of white wine, the crawfish, some parsley and “C’est tout!” Of course, you use your favorite spice mix. I use Slap Ya’ Momma, partly because it’s made in Ville Platte and that’s where Momma’s from, but it also has the right amount of cayenne pepper. I have made this recipe for birthdays, Easter brunch, and special guests who visit us. 

This past week our good friend Della was in the hospital and going through scary procedures and tests, and when I asked her what she needed, she answered, “Some of your crawfish etouffee.” I was thrilled to see her eat two servings from her hospital bed when we were allowed to visit.

Cooking good food for the best people I know brings me true joy. And when that food is part of my Cajun upbringing, the joy doubles and does backflips.  Our Louisiana motto is, “Lassiez les bon temps rouler!” and that advice usually involves people dancing, laughing, and drinking. It also involves a big Magnalite pot simmering on a stove.  

My best memories are times spent in my grandma’s kitchen (which later became my momma and dad’s kitchen) where people of all ages crowded together to tell Thibodeaux & Boudreaux jokes and exaggerated stories while they ate good food. Whether we had Louisiana gold like fresh crawfish or strong coffee and hot bouldin, it all tasted better because we shared it with those we loved. 

Posted in Nature

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

My backyard sanctuary is home to two new families.

Being an amateur photographer and Birder I use words like cute or sweet to describe the new families that have inhabited our decorative birdhouses on the patio. I call them chickadees but I’m not positive they are, so maybe one of you will know for sure.

Every year these little birdies spend a week or two preparing a new nest for their springtime babies.  It is hard work to fly back and forth, collecting leaves, string, feathers, and twigs to weave elaborate homes for their soon-to-be eggs. Below you see our bird taking in a rather large piece of white, paper-thin material.

Building the nest

When the nest is built, the mother-to-be will unceremoniously enter the nest, lay eggs, and begin to brood.  Although, we saw the birds building their nest, we were surprised when we peaked in one day and saw the mother looking back at us.  Even if the mother were to be scared away, she will come right back for the two-week incubation period. 

We definitely saw the little brown bird building the nest in the bluebonnet house, but during Easter weekend our son-in-law peeked into the white house and saw babies. How, we wondered and when did this happen?

Shortly after Easter the babies hatched in the bluebonnet house.  We do not hear their faint cries yet, but there is quite a commotion that ensues nearly all day long as the parent birds fly back and forth, looking for food and bringing food to the babies.   I read that when the eggs first hatch, the female will brood the young and the male will bring food.  After brooding both female and male will search for food.  Right now, I’m assuming the male flies out to locate worms, seeds, insects and berries. When his beak is full, he flies to one of the patio chairs and surveys the area.  Then he will fly to the roof or a plant near the birdhouse, and after looking around, he will land on the perch, glance around, then stick his beak into the birdhouse.

Boo, Emmy Cat, and I are mesmerized at their beauty and diligence.  We spend way too much time watching from the window and sometimes from outside, as I sit at the table quietly observing. Usually after a few minutes the birds will resume their work after they’ve decided I am no threat.  Even the other birds watch with anticipation.

We have stacked more plants on the rack to deter any neighborhood cats or other animals from disturbing the new family, while we wish we could do more to keep them safe, nature has its way.

I would love to know from you fellow backyard Birders if these are chickadees?  And are the brown ones in the same family? The brown and black/white birdies are both going to both houses! What’s going on? Boo said this is like an episode of Sister Wives!

Inquiring minds want to know!

Emmy sits for hours watching her birdies.

Posted in Family, Grandmother

My Practice Grandchildren by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Each of my three grown sons have wonderful ladies in their lives. Two are engaged! I’m thrilled to know they have love in their lives that has helped them navigate the trials and tribulations of the pandemic. I also have a selfish wish I never say in front of these very groovy couples: I want grandchildren!

One day I want to brag and smile when I tell friends about the unbelievable beauty and intelligence of my offsprings’ offspring. But until then, I will be happy with my three beautiful and intelligent “practice grandchildren.”  Jaco, Sunny, and Guppy!!!

I first met Jaco when he was a baby and his mom and I walked our dogs together in my old neighborhood. She would walk towards my house early in the morning led by her dog Lou, a regal Great Pyrenees, and Jaco faced forward in a Babybjorn carrier. As Jaco got used to me, he’d kick both of his chubby legs and give me excited smiles when my dog and I came outside. After several months of shared walks, he’d say “Mi-Mi!” when he saw me. ( However, Natalie and I were not sure if he was referring to me or my dog Millie). He shared the same wide-eyed joy for an adult who tickled his bare feet or for a dragonfly that landed on his mom’s arm. (Babies from 4 to 10 months old are very easy audiences!) But on a stroll down a trail in an off-leash dog park when Jaco was the wise age of two and a half, he gave both of my knees a spontaneous hug and said, “I love you so much!” My heart filled with a rush of love that reminded me of that tummy flutter that happens in the early months of pregnancy.

Now at age four, Jaco has matured beyond such displays of affection. During our walks he talks nonstop about the movie Cars and quotes Lightening McQueen as if he’s the cartoon car’s agent. And his long light brown curls bounce when he’s reimagining a favorite movie scene until he stops along the trail to point at the ground and say, “Look!! A roly-poly party!” So I stop and marvel with him at the crowd of bugs squirming at the base of a cypress tree. His sharp eyes miss nothing, and his curious intelligence has that “carpe diem” attitude towards the natural world so that walking with him is always part Discovery channel and part Comedy Central when he makes up silly rhymes or remembers some of Tow-Mater’s best jokes. I’ve watched Jaco grow from a stationary baby to a super curious toddler to a confident older brother and he makes me believe the world can be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows!

Sunny

My second “practice grandchild” fits her nickname like fine crushed ice settles neatly into the thin paper cone of a snowball on a summer afternoon. Sunny’s presence is always as welcome as a cold treat on a hot day. Almost 3 years-old, Sunday Joy (my friend Crystal’s granddaughter) daily surprises her parents and friends with a capacity for love and creativity that’s only surpassed by her intelligence and wit.

Her clothing style reflects her multi-colored personality. Some days her flowered dress will match the colorful barrettes in her hair and her rainbow sneakers. Other days she’ll wear  a couple of shirts, multiple scarves, five bracelets, a floppy hat and be naked from the waist down. Whatever outfit she chooses to throw together, she owns it whether she’s prancing in the backyard with her dog or chasing Oma Crystal around the living room. She started talking early and by two, she was belting out classics such as “The Wheels on the Bus” like a young diva or holding a small notepad and pencil while asking, “May I take your order?”  when pretending to be a waiter at her parents’ bar and restaurant, the Cavalier.

Sunny & Crystal at The Cavalier’s Wickie Walkup
Musical Sunny Bunny

Her grandpa Ric, who died of cancer before she was born, was the most soulful, wise, and loving human I’ve ever known. He had a smile reminiscent of Paul Newman’s grin in Cool Hand Luke. His joie de vivre lit up his whole face and shone through his mischievous eyes.

Sunny smiles like Grandpa Ric and she laughs like Oma Crystal, explosive and free. The way she greets a friends with a sweet-toned, “You want to play with me” reveals her big, generous heart, and the way she says good-bye with a hug shows her exuberant love. 

Every time I see her smile it’s like I won the Trifecta in the day’s biggest race. I always greet her as “Sunny Bunny! Sunny Bunny!” in a bouncy voice because she’s 26 pounds of laughs and smiles and JOY. 

I met my third “practice grandchild” the day she was born. Two years ago Natalie, Jaco’s mom, had a midwife help her deliver Gillespie, and I was lucky to be her first visitor because I picked up Jaco to give his parents a few hours of rest.

Guppy has large brown eyes that watch the world intensely. She took her time getting used to me. Like her brother, she surveyed me from her mom’s BabyJorn carrier. She did not smile as quickly as Jaco did. I had to earn Guppy’s smiles. During our dog park walks, I’d chat with Jaco about ladybugs and cacti. We’d find cool sticks to use as canes or drum sticks. And his little sister listened and watched, taking it all in and waiting for the time she’d have lots to say. The first time she called me, “Gingah,” it was barely above a whisper and she looked embarrassed by my huge smile and watery eyes. When she started walking she revealed her bold adventurous side. Her curiosity pulled her toddling ahead of us on the dirt trail. Soon she’d be climbing through a hole in a fence or chasing a butterfly without a thought of us. 

She first showed her trust in me at a playground this past fall. She held my hand and guided me to the bright yellow plastic slide and let me help her up the steps before she went down the slide backwards and head first- a daring toddler full of confidence.

This Easter I dyed eggs with my “practice grandchildren” in Crystal’s backyard. Sunny, as hostess, made sure we all had enough Annie’s cheddar bunnies. Jaco sat next to me and reminded me of Lightning McQueen’s best scenes as he carefully placed eggs in blue, green, purple, and pink cups of dye. Guppy sat across from her brother and often dropped her eggs on the wooden picnic table where they cracked, so she’d start to peel the boiled egg, giving more attention to eating than coloring. Natalie, Crystal, and I used white crayons to draw flowers, stars, polka dots, and names on the pre-dyed eggs. The artistic dying of eggs interested the kids for 30 minutes before Sunny led her company to the yard’s sandbox and toy cars and trucks and a bubble machine. I felt honored to share an Easter tradition with my three favorite kids. No matter what trouble the news focuses on, I have hope that my “practice grandchildren” will continue to make the world sweeter, brighter, and better.

Posted in Boo, Nature

Rocky’s Back!

           “Shhhhh! Do you hear something?”

            “I think it’s the dryer.”

            “No, listen.”

            Boo, the cat and I were all looking up toward the ceiling in the den.  We stood up and walked, almost in synchronized form, following the sound as it moved around overhead.

            “Whoa,” Boo said.  “Whatever is in our attic is huge!”

            After the third night of sounds, Boo determined it must be a large squirrel.  At first, he used the regular sized trap we had once caught a rat with.  He shelled some old pecans and put some inside the trap with a line of pecans leading up to the door.  We continued to hear sounds the next night, so he went up to the attic and the trap was still set, but the pecans were gone.

            Gol darn it!

            Once more we tried the same trap and got the same results.  No pecans and no squirrel.

            A few days later, Boo came back from Home Depot with the mac-daddy of all traps and declared, “This will get him!”  Him or her, whatever it was, could not out smart this trap.  It was 32” long and 13” wide, with a large metal handle and a spring trap that was sure to surprise.

            “Why don’t we just call Critter Ridders?”  I suggested.

            “No, it’s personal now.  It ate half a bag of pecans.”

            Looking in the pantry I gasped, “You gave that ‘whatever it is’ the good pecans from my friend Cynthia?  I was saving those for another pecan pie.”

            “I can’t set my trap with just any ol’ pecans, now.  This is serious.”

            And so, Boo went back into the attic, set the mac-daddy trap, and put the good pecans leading up to and inside.  “This will get him.”

            The next night was silent, so Boo went up to check and the pecans were gone, and the trap was still set.  “Damn it to hell!”

            “That bastard has got to be thirsty now after so many pecans, so Boo put a plastic container of water inside the trap and more pecans.  “There goes our pecan pie,” I sighed.

            Fast forward to 3:00 a.m. and a loud Snap! Bang! and Thud!  We both bolted from the bed and Boo said, “We got him!”  The last thing I remember was Boo saying he was going up to the attic to check.  I went back to sleep, but the cat, with an anxious look, jumped into bed with me.  I admit that later I realized I should have spotted Boo as he went up those creaky attic stairs at 3:00 a.m. but, I didn’t.  I vaguely remember him saying it was a raccoon when he got back in bed.  But the next morning Rocky Raccoon was in our trap sitting in the garage.

            “He looks so cute,” I said.

            “Well, he’s not that cute.  He chewed up the water bowl and hissed at me as I carried him down.”

            Boo fed him a few more pecans and drove him to a park about a mile away from our house.  We were so happy and both of us were proud of Boo’s courage and ingenuity.  “It’s the water that got him!”  he said, and we high-fived.

            THREE separate people told us that one mile was not far enough away and that sometimes raccoons will come back to the same house.  We laughed!

            One week later, early one morning while the cat and I were sittin’ ugly, we heard something in the attic.  Emmy cat jumped to the top of her kitty condo and sat looking straight up at the ceiling, then her wide green eyes looked at me like ‘what the heck?’

            When Boo got up, he went straight to work preparing the trap, water, and pecans, and two nights later…Snap! Bang! Thud! 

            This time I spotted Boo as he ascended the treacherous steps to the attic.  I heard the usual string of cuss words as he yelled down, “He’s back, and he broke off the handle of the trap.”

            I don’t know if you are familiar with raccoons, but they have long, slender arms, with long, sharp nails.  That’s how he was able to get the pecans without even going into the trap the first time.  

Boo began the slow descent down the rickety attic steps, while both hands held the trap.  One step at a time, slowly he tried to stay balanced while Rocky continued to move around.  He had thrown an old towel over the cage to help protect his hands from Rocky’s clawing.    

            “Be careful, Babe!”  I hollered, trying to be supportive while standing behind a large shovel, ready to defend myself if necessary.

            “Mother trucker!”

            Before I knew what happened, the trap, raccoon and all, tumbled down the last few steps and landed upright on the garage floor.  “Boo!!  You dropped him!”  I yelled.

            “What about me?  That bastard tried to claw me while I was carrying him down.  He might have rabies.  I could have fallen too.” 

Well, Boo had to go to work so Rocky spent the day and night in his cage with the rest of the pecans.  Boo even rigged a water dispenser to the top of the trap so he could get water.

            The next morning when I went out to check on Rocky, he didn’t move and didn’t open his eyes when I rattled the trash cans and made more noise.

            “He’s dead!”  I whispered to Boo, while he was still asleep.  “I think the fall killed him.”

            “%!*&!”

            When Boo came outside, Rocky perked up and opened one eye.  He was still alive!

Boo bungeed the trap to the inside of the truck bed and we took off for greener pastures, so to speak.  As we drove, Rocky put his arm out of the cage and with the air in his face, seemed to be enjoying a leisurely ride in the sunshine.  He looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and almost smiled.  Approximately ten miles away, we found a lovely, wooded area and let Rocky out of the cage.  He paused just for a split second, as if to say farewell, but instead he pooped in his cage which fell onto the truck bed then he sprinted out into the woods.  Our raccoon days were over.

            Lest you think we are foolish, or suckers for pecan-loving raccoons, we will somehow find the point of entry.  For right now, Boo declares we do not need professional help, but I am asking for prayers that no accidents, hazards or other rodents befall us, and that Boo is able to repair the damage that no doubt is on the roof and in the attic.  But for now, I will bid adieu.

And to quote the famous Ice Cube, “Bye Felicia!”

Posted in Family

Hammock by Ginger Keller Gannaway

My two younger sisters and I grew up down a winding gravel road on the outskirts of a small south Louisiana town in the 1960’s.  Spaced out two years apart, we shared our clothes, our secrets, and our hot and spicy tempers.  Without nearby neighbors we were each other’s everyday friends, especially in summers.  As the oldest, I’d often hold my sisters close and tight before sending them off and away on a long yo-yo string.  We were pros at hair-pulling, hitting, and biting, yet we also shared a tight connection and learned how to balance our differences.

Shared Birthday Party (1964) Notice how both Gayle & Kelly’s hands are on the Barbie case.

On a July afternoon in 1964 after some predictable kitten races and boring inside hide-and-seek games with my sisters, I wanted some alone time. So I decided to test our new green hammock that stretched stiffly between two live oak trees on the side of our home. I crawled up in the “lounger” with a paperback between my teeth, but my sixty-three pounds could not make the weaved nylon bend and dip. I was in no way cocooned the way magazine pictures of hammocks told me I should be. I stretched out and put the small round blue accent pillow I’d borrowed from our living room couch under my head. The hammock was as tight as Aunt Fanny who clutched her change purse like a Cajun guarding the last bowl of gumbo.  I opened Pippi Longstocking to my bookmarked chapter and told my body to relax. 

The sun’s rays peaked behind hundreds of small green oak leaves and gave my book’s pages a dappled look. I repositioned my pillow and held the book above my head long enough to read two pages. Feeling a stitch in my neck, I sat up and swung my legs over the side of the hammock. My ankles extended two inches over the edge, the blue pillow slid down to my lower back, and my weight still failed to create an indentation. My eight year-old self-awareness told me that I looked ridiculous.  Then I heard my little sisters’ voices.

“My turn! My turn!” yelled Kelly as she ran toward the hammock wearing a new lime green seersucker two-piece short set.  As the baby of the family and with dimples deep as a mother’s love, she grew up thinking all should bow to her charms. Gayle, wearing one of my hand-me-down t-shirts and elastic waisted shorts, followed carrying three library books of different sizes. As the middle girl she fought the unfairness of life with the determination of a seasoned Mardi Gras parade-goer grabbing beads.

“I just got here,” I said pretending that sitting on the unyielding fabric was comfortable. I cleared my throat and wiggled my hips as my round pillow fell to the ground. “I ‘m reading,” I said. With her hands above her head, Kelly pushed the hammock back and forth.  

“I got books,” said Gayle as she dropped two books next to my pillow on the ground and held the remaining book over her head. “I have Alice in Wonderland.”  

Kelly stopped pushing the hammock to beat the area under my butt with her fists. “Read it! Read it! Read it!” she said. The kid had excellent rhythm for a four-year-old.

I loved reading to my sisters, but I also loved bossing them around. “Pick up the pillow, Gayle. Quit messing with the hammock, Kelly!”

My youngest sister continued pushing the hammock and made me drop my paperback book while my middle sister struggled to join me in my position of power.  “Lookit what you did, couillon!” I said to the former and, “I didn’t say you could get up here,” to the latter. 

Gayle tossed her hardcover library book up towards me hitting my left cheek and knocking my brand new glasses askew.  Kelly’s strength matched her stubbornness, and the hammock moved enough to keep her sister from climbing in.  Then Gayle’s sideways hip bump landed Kelly on her skinny bottom and gave my middle sister confidence to believe she could join me in the hammock. She extended her arms and tried clawing her way onto the slick green lounger.  Her clear blue eyes framed by black pixie-cut bangs peeked up at me. From her seat in the dirt, Kelly kicked at Gayle’s legs.  

To avoid an all-out fight, I decided to give in and help my siblings join me. I pulled Gayle’s right arm hard enough to dislocate her shoulder, but her determination to be first in the hammock kept her from yelling “Owww!”  Kelly had scrambled to her feet and went back to moving the hammock back and forth. 

“Stupid face!” said Gayle as she settled in next to me and set the library book in her lap and looked down on Kelly.  Now with two sisters seated, the baby of our family had trouble rocking the hammock.  She stuck out her tongue and bit down to concentrate on annoying us.

“If you stop pushing, you can get up here,” I said and reached out a hand. Kelly smirked and lifted two dusty arms. I succeeded in pulling her about three inches off the ground. “Help me,” I told my hammock companion.

Poopee!” Gayle said to the sister below us before I grabbed her elastic waist band and Gayle pulled both of Kelly’s shoulders up and over.  Our combined weight made the hammock finally relax a bit in the middle. Three small butts settled next to each other.  We all gave our attention to the book now in my lap.  Kelly leaned her head on my shoulder and Gayle popped the thumb of her right hand into her mouth as I opened the classic story.  I straightened my blue cat-eyed glasses, and with a sister to my right and a sister to her left, I ironically began, “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister…”

Posted in Contemplations, Gratitude

I Need Something Sweet by Nancy Malcolm

            There are days, we all have them, where it seems everyone and everything around us is sharp. Sharp tones or answers to our questions that feel snippy and harsh.    I call these tender days, a day when tears are close by and thoughts are deep.  On these days I feel alone in an alien world that thrives on being blunt or quick.  “I need something sweet, Lord,” I whisper in a quiet prayer.  “I need something sweet.”

            As I get older the tears fall more readily.  They often are on the brink, ready to fall and just as close is a smile open and ready to fill my face.  Maybe it’s because I realize I have less time to waste on foolishness, or hurtful people or things that don’t serve a loving purpose.  I appreciate more the answered prayers that are sent to me.  I feel the more I ask for sweetness in my life, the more is sent to me. 

            On one such tender day, two years ago, I was volunteering with my elderly Hospice patient.  She had wanted to go to the grocery store, just to look around.  I pushed her wheelchair up and down the aisles as she looked at make-up, smelled the candles, and marveled at the various types of crackers. We perused the Hallmark cards and bought some candy.  She just wanted to feel normal for a change and I wanted that for her too.  We had spent an hour wandering the aisles, when we got in line to check out.  The woman behind us kept staring and smiling at us and finally she said to me, “Is this your mother?”

            I smiled at my patient and said, “Oh, how I wish she was.  We’re just good friends.”

            The woman replied, “Well, you look beautiful enough to be mother and daughter.”

            And my patient said, “I wish we were.  She is the sweetest girl in the world to me.”

            I bent down to hug my little friend, and we both had tears in our eyes.  That was something sweet.

            I always find when I whisper my need for something sweet, God is waiting and willing to send it.  A smile from a stranger.  A love pat from my husband.  A phone call from my daughter.  A thank you from a friend.  There’s goodness on its way in many different forms if I am open to see it.

            My dear friend Mary, who has since passed away, always encouraged me in my photography.  She would call and ask if I wanted to walk the trails at the Wildflower Center, “Be sure to bring your camera,” she would say.  Then as we walked, she seemed happy for me as I found butterflies or dragonflies just begging to be photographed.  “Look over here!” she would say. “This butterfly is just waiting for you.”  She never failed to compliment me or brag to others about my talent.  She was something so precious that I can live on the memory of her sweetness for years to come.

            I feel the blessings when I encounter kind and generous souls inside my day.  The friendly cashier, gracious friends or a loving card in the mail.  I feel so lucky because my inner whisper, “I need something sweet,” seems to send my guardian angels into overdrive sending me all manner of beautiful expressions.  Even now as I sit at my desk, there is a gorgeous red cardinal outside my window especially for me to enjoy.

            I pray to be reminded that when I whisper, “I need something sweet,” there are others, too, who are whispering.  Perhaps it is within my power to be that source for someone else.  I want to be mindful of their whispers, too.  Take note of the whisper in your heart and the hearts of others. Ask God to let you hear the whisper and give you the courage to answer the call.

In loving memory of Eunice J.
Posted in Confessions, Friendship, Nature

I Kill Plants

I Kill Plants
by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Bless me, Mother Nature, for I have sinned.

I kill plants.

No matter the species, I can strangle any root system or poison any shoot system in the modern botanical nomenclature.

I do enjoy plants, especially herbs like mint and basil and flowers such as magnolias and azaleas. I have tried for decades to keep small cacti and large-leafed friends alive, yet like a demented serial killer I can destroy what I admire.

Relatives and friends have tried over the years to break the curse of my plant murders. Just last year Cousin Claudia, who can work magic in any yard with her easy-going optimism, gave me a “condo warming” gift: an air plant. “You can’t kill it,” she said as she set it atop my great-grandma’s pie safe where it gasped its final breath thirteen days later.

Master Gardener Cynthia

I have a knack for overwatering or under-watering green things. In 2018 when we planned to sell our house, I needed indoor and outdoor plants to help give our place a welcoming vibe, so my Master Gardener friend Cynthia showed up to help. She is a modern day Artemis who is in tune with nature’s trees and flowers as well as the woodland creatures. She chose hearty plants from Home Depot for us and wrote detailed directions for their care before she left me alone with the blooming babies. Cynthia also got me a teen-aged ficus for staging the place for prospective buyers. She decluttered our home and had chrysanthemum “pops of color” for the front yard. My place was as neat and clean as a young private awaiting her first morning inspection from a hard-nosed drill sergeant.

Thankfully, our house sold in less than a week, and Cynthia swooped in to rescue the nervous yet brave plants from my clutches because she’s known me for many years and has witnessed my starving, drowning, or burning of healthy plants. Even if she believes the deaths were caused by neglect and not premeditated crimes, I wonder if she’d let me off with involuntary manslaughter if she were a juror at my trial for killing more plants than a low-grade natural disaster. Against her better judgement, Cynthia entrusted me with the ficus after she ran out of room in her Nissan Cube when she packed up the staging plants to offer them a safer home .  

Cynthia’s Own Garden

That spunky ficus managed to stay alive for eighteen months. When this year’s February snow surprised Texas, I brought the plant inside, hoping it had more life to live. Yet in days its leaves developed black spots as it shriveled in the corner of our guest bedroom/office and bid adieu to the cold, cruel world. I soon discovered I had horribly over-watered it when after the snow had melted, I hauled it outside and heard water sloshing around in the heavy planter it was set inside.

I used to feel guilty about dismembering, suffocating, maiming, and torturing innocent plants that came under my care. So many people love digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and tending their flowers and vegetables so that they later enjoy the beauty and bounty of their gardens. 

In 1970 my favorite movie was Barbra Streisand’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Her Daisy Gamble character coaxed flowers from the soil by singing to them. The movie’s opening begins with “Hey, buds below! Up is where to grow!” as Barbra sings, skips, and swirls around an expansive rose garden while hundreds of flowers bloom with the help of the camera’s time-lapse magic. I loved that song (“Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here”) almost as much as I loved the  66 groovy outfits that costume designer Cecil Beacon had Barbra changing into during the movie. Her flowered babydoll p.j.s matched her flowered sheets which matched the flowered wallpaper of her bedroom!

“Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

I digress.

Drowning or starving plants is not the worst confession I could make. It’s not like I throw every curse word I have ever heard at my cat when she meows incessantly at three a.m. for food. Or I fear newborn babies because they look like fragile, unpredictable aliens. I’m not a monster!

Crystal and her Orange Tree

And to be honest, I have not killed every plant I have ever owned. I still have a weak ivy Cynthia left behind when she staged my house. A perky good luck bamboo from Crystal lives on my kitchen window sill. Crystal follows the law of averages rule when it comes to plants. She once told me, “I plant so many plants, trees, and vegetables, something is bound to survive!” 

Crystal’s Law of Averages Yard (and Ripley)

So my murder rate is close to 87% if I consider all the plants I have ever known. 

Does a lawn count? The front yard of the home we sold had more St. Augustine grass than bald, brown patches two years ago. Also, the backyard had winter rye grass whose soft green blades stayed alive long enough for us to close the deal on the house. However, my son Evan was responsible for readying the backyard and planting those grass seeds. He even called to remind me to water the yard regularly until the tiny green shoots poked out of the dirt as if Barbra Streisand’s voice beckoned them to a world of promise.