Posted in Christmas, Entertainment, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Growing up, movie theater, movies, picture show

Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Big Jim

Liberty 1927
Liberty Theater, 1927

My siblings and I in a way grew up in a movie theater.   Grandma Keller owned our hometown’s two movie theaters, and she let her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren get in free.  My brother and sisters and I saw every movie that came to town. That lasted until 1968 when the ratings system began (G, M, R, and X). My parents viewed the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema as free “babysitters.” We sometimes were dropped off at the show with paper bags holding hamburgers from Ruby’s Cafe if Momma and Dad’s night out began early. I remember strolling past a line of movie customers and waving at Miss Pearl (the ticket seller) as we made our way inside. A new ticket taker would get, “Our grandma is Mrs. Keller,” if he tried to stop our jaunty picture show entrance. Continue reading “Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway”

Posted in First Car, Friendship, Growing up

A Fine Ride

Impala

 

I haven’t always been a rule follower…in fact when I was 14 years old, I started to drive. This urge to drive took over my common sense like a speeding dart heading for the bullseye!  Not having a driver’s license did not seem to bother me and I was even able to convince my best friend that I could teach her to drive, as well.

 

At the time, my Dad drove a white, ‘63 Chevy Impala, so logically that was my car, too.  It was perfect!  I could get three people in the front and four or five in the back.  What could be better than taking your friends for a spin?

 

On this one particular day, my Dad had taken his ‘company car’ to work, leaving the Impala parked carefully in the garage.  As soon as he left, I found the keys to the Imala and began making my plans.  I’m not proud of this now, you understand, but for some reason, at that time I had no remorse.

 

My friend, Nitia,  walked over to my house and we took the ole Chevy out for the day.  Long, LONG ago, 50 cents would buy a lot of gas, so we came prepared to fill it back up if necessary.    I can’t remember where we went, but I’m sure it involved ‘seeing and being seen.’  There was probably a boy or two and maybe a trip to the mall incorporated into our plan.

 

After our joy ride, I was making the turn leading back to my house.  Unfortunately, it also went right by Nitia’s house.  This would have been ok except her dad was outside watering the yard.  When we noticed him, it was too late to turn around, and I instinctively yelled, “Duck!”  For some reason, I thought that was a good idea, and I ducked too.  It must have been a subliminal message or sheer ignorance, but surprisingly we crept safely by her house, ducked down in the front seat.  When we made it to my house, we parked back into the garage and congratulated ourselves on having a great day and dodging her dad.

 

Later that night at dinner, Nitia’s dad turned to her and said, “The weirdest thing happened today.  I saw Nancy’s Dad’s car drive by and no one was in it.”  Of course, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about and miraculously, her parents never called mine, but that was a very close call.

 

All during my 9th and 10th-grade years, I sporadically took that grand ‘63 Chevy Impala out for a drive.  I learned to drive in that car and finally got my driver’s license in that car.  It was my signature ride until I went to college and had to leave it behind.

 

If that ole Chevy could talk, it would keep us entertained for days with stories of friends, secrets, near misses and more fun than should be allowed.  I eventually told my Dad about some of my car adventures.  He was shocked, to say the least, but managed to chuckle since it obviously was past the statute of limitations for being grounded.  

 

There might be another story or two about that ole Chevy, but for now, just revel in its sleek, thoroughbred beauty, and imagine yourself at the wheel!  It was a fine ride, yes indeed!

 

Posted in Aging process, Caring for others, Children, Food, Introspection, Leftovers, Sharing

Leftovers by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Leftovers by Ginger Keller GannawayLeftovers

A few days ago my middle son gave me a late Christmas gift: a coupon for 2 free dinners at the restaurant where he works. “Cool! Thanks,” I told him with a hug. Closer reading of the coupon revealed my son’s name & “Merry Christmas” written on it.  A re-gift, but still a free meal.

That same evening my youngest son stopped by to give us a gallon zip-lock bag full of hush puppies from the assisted living place where he works. Then he also handed me a to-go container with seafood sweet & sour soup from a nearby restaurant. I said, “I bet your dad will like this.”  “It’s good and spicy,” he told me and then added, “but I did pick out all of the seafood in it.”

Stale hush puppies and seafood-less soup.  Thanks??

How do I feel about these leftover offerings from my sons? Have Gary and I simply taught them to be generous and frugal?  I know neither of us looks like we miss any meals, and we are not ready for what my dad calls, “Wheels on Meals” yet.  Should we feel offended?

Back when our boys were little, friends gave us their unwanted used furniture: a book shelf here, a side table there.  Once a house cleaner brought us a framed picture to brighten up our bedroom. WTF!? Was our home such a decor disaster that virtual strangers saw the need to spruce up the place?

We did put everything given to us to good use (except for the picture which we gave to Goodwill after we fired the house cleaner when he helped himself to a bottle of white wine out of fridge one day).

Do we look like folks who need others’ leftovers? Should we take offense?

Pie safeI have bought desks, a dresser, a bed frame, small tables, book shelves, and clothes from thrift stores. Even our dining room table first belonged to a teacher friend’s family.  And my wooden pie safe that first belonged to Momma’s grandmother is something I treasure.  I truly appreciate old, used things. 

But old, used food??  Of course, we often enjoy leftovers.  Dishes like spaghetti, chili, and gumbo taste better as leftovers; the flavors become richer.

The word “leftovers” may sound tired and sad, yet leftovers can be delicious and comforting.  We just need to make sure the casserole or dessert shoved to the back of the fridge passes the sniff test before microwaving it for Papa.

No shame in leftover food, furniture, or clothes.  So I hugged my two sons and I will look forward to the free dinners as Gary adds brown rice to rich seafood broth for his supper. Merci beaucoup, ya’ll.

Posted in Auntie Sue, Gratitude, I love you, Sittin Ugly

Happy Birthday, Sue!

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Dear Auntie Sue,

I miss you something fierce!  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of you or see something that reminds me of you.  I think of you every time I go to Walgreens and remember how you loved to get out and just look around.  How you always bought a new Farmer’s Almanac and a Revlon lipstick, Wine With Everything, even though you had two in your purse.  “Just in case, “ you would say.

 

I think of you every time I go into my closet and see the Rhinestone pins and necklaces you gave me from your overflowing jewelry box

.DSC_0119                                  IMG_1854

 

I hear your voice when the weatherman flashes Oklahoma City on the map.  You would call and ask, “Are you having any weather down in Austin?” And then proceed to say, “It’s so windy here it would blow the hair off a dog!”

 

I think of you every time I don’t want to go for a walk, because you braved the elements every day, even using your walker.  You had a path inside and out at your retirement home, where you would walk one mile in the morning and one in the afternoon.  “I’ve got to walk or die,” you’d say.

 

I miss the way we would laugh, especially at ourselves and tell the same stories over and over again, each of us acting as if it were the first time!

 

I miss you telling me how much I look like my mother; how much you love me and can’t wait to see me again.

 

I tried to come for a visit every few months or so.  At the end of our time together, you would ask me when I was coming back.  You didn’t like to say goodbye and didn’t want any long farewells, tears or fuss.  As I would make my way to my car, I would turn around and look for your face in the window and you were always there waving back.  We would stand there and look at each other for those few seconds and my heart would ache, already longing to return.

 

I like to think that maybe on your walks upon the streets of gold, you might pause in front of a big picture window looking down on us all.  I like to think you are smiling and waving, your hand pressed to the pane and you hear me say, “I miss you something fierce.”

 

My dear Auntie Sue was the Original Sittin Ugly Sistah!  She was funny, sweet, loving and true to herself.  She loved God, her family, eating a good steak and Bob Wills!

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Posted in Aging process, Dancing, Introspection, Mosquitoes, Worries

Mosquito by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mosquito

by Ginger Keller Gannaway

mosquito
By RA Keller from Clovis Crawfish & his Friends

How long do mosquitoes live?  This persistent skeeter has been stalking me for days. He starts his shaky flying routine ‘round my head and over my morning coffee. His uneven circles tease my eyes. Midday he’s at my desk with a whine that wants to be a buzzing, and his sad circles resemble a drunken stumble.  At 10:33 p.m. he reappears in the worst way: like a ghost insect skittering around my face one moment and disappearing after I swat the air with my book. I practice patience and wait for Mr. Invisible to land on my hand and bite me so I can better aim and destroy him. However, this sly bug outsmarts me and won’t reappear until I give up, turn off the lights, and settle down for sleep.

His finale is the whine of insanity around my ears with his half-second landing and leaving over and over. My batting the air and even throwing off my covers only increases his craftiness. He disappears long enough for me to believe I have squashed him before the irrrrrrrrrr…irritating whirr returns, and I cover my head with the comforter because it’s better to suffocate than slowly go insane!

This mosquito madness is a metaphor for the worry that consumes me. The dark side of the street is my mind’s preferred hangout.

What if my oldest son never signs up for Obamacare and needs a heart transplant?

What if my dad lives to be 104 and Gary and I never get to live abroad?

What if our home with a cracked slab splits in two, and the morning sun shining in my eyes is NOT from a bedroom window but from a monster crack in my roof that reveals an unwanted piece of sky?

Realistic fears square dance with cray-cray ones, and the fiddler speeds up until all I know are swirling images of catastrophe.  The foot-tapping of the caller and the clapping of the demented dancers become a David Lynch scene of horror:  “Forward and Back” &“Do Sa Do” with hillbilly dancers who sport massive mosquito heads!

So I swat the sick scene from my brain’s “Oklahoma”-meets-“The Fly” dance number, and I scrub the toilet or dust a bookshelf. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I even Google “life span of a mosquito” and I now believe this demon skeeter will die before I do. Yet is there a mosquito nest in my bathroom cabinet? Do houses on cracked slabs harbor an alternative universe of zombie mosquitoes that never die?! (No more Stranger Things for me).mosquito swarm

I must get out of my head and my house, so I head to the farmer’s market. Wait a sec! Are those fruit flies around the blackberries? Or is that soft buzzing really a whinnnne!!??mpsquito1

Posted in Boo, Food, Husbands, Marriage, Sharing

Split or Share?

childrensharing

 

Split or Share:  

 

My Boo is a Saint!  When we go out to eat, I will usually order the veggie plate with grilled chicken and he will order the chicken fried anything with cream gravy, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.  He knows full well, that I will want a bite (or two) of his and he’s okay with that.  “I’m a sharer, Boo.”  he’ll say, “But, not a splitter.”

 

Sometimes I want to split.  “Let’s order the filet and split it,”  I’ll suggest.  “I want my own filet.”  he’ll say.  “You get what you want.”  We have friends who split.  I don’t know why, but it seems sweet and romantic; not to mention economical and lower in calories.  It’s a sign that they ‘agree’ on everything and even their taste buds are in love.  You think I’m probably reading too much into it????

 

Sometimes I try to dance around it by saying, “Why don’t you get the filet and I’ll get the salmon and we can share?”  He is not fooled by my tactics and will readily say he doesn’t want salmon but I am welcome to a bite of his steak.

 

I have to admit that it’s one of the things that first attracted me to him.  He shares his food.  He doesn’t mind if I stick my fork onto his plate to taste just a bite.  He never says a word when I use my fingers to pluck a piece of fried okra from his bowl at Luby’s.  He always gives me the 1st bite of his dessert and he’ll even give me the best bite of his hamburger.  And, when I foolishly say I don’t want any popcorn at the movie, he’s already planning to set it between us.  He’s a saint, really.

 

To all of you splitters out there….I applaud you, but I’m sticking with my sharer.  He knows I will most likely order the healthy option and yet want a few bites of his delicious unhealthy choice.  By the way, I always ask if he wants a bite of mine, too, but usually, he declines.  That Boo….he really is a Saint!

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Posted in Austin, Texas, Cajuns, Friendship, Support

Jockstrap Friends by Ginger Keller Gannaway

bike-original-mm-jock-strap-whiteJockstrap Friends (by Ginger Keller Gannaway)

Bette Midler has long known, “You’ve Got to Have Friends.” From the first friend I made in kindergarten to the dog-walking friend I made a month ago, friends have given me the support and the empathy I need to stay sane. 

Ever since I read Rebecca Wells’ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I daydreamed about that group of best friends that sticks together even after troubles may temporarily pull them apart. They snap back together even stronger.

Growing up in south Louisiana, my sisters were my closest friends, but technically they’re sisters, and each has her own best friend. I also have a first cousin I’ve gone through tragedies and comedies with, but she too has her own best friend.

In Texas I have friends who could be BFF’s, but they have friends they’ve known longer than me, and these friends know “where more of the bodies are buried” than I do.IMG_4335

So the single-best-friend-in-all-the-world is not my reality.

Instead, I have a group of Jockstrap Friends: friends who are close and supportive and know all my stinky secrets. (I considered calling them Bra Buddies, but a brassiere does not have the smelly, sweaty essence of a jockstrap). Jockstraps hold “the family jewels” in place, and in the bumpy, unpredictable ride we call Life, jockstraps have the comfortable elasticity to protect our most precious “friends” from sudden shocks and shoves.

Jockstrap Friends show up at hospitals and funerals as well as weddings and birthdays. IMG_4339 (1)In extreme situations they will even clean your house, cook your meals, hold your hair back while you puke, and take off work to drive to the International Crawfish Etoufee Cookoff in Eunice, Louisiana with you. Once three of my Jockstrap Friends even decorated my whole home for Christmas when my son was in the hospital!

Jockstrap Friends share many of your tastes in food, music, and movies. They accept your idiosyncrasies the same way your family does; however, you laugh more with Jockstrap Friends. Ya’ll share a 100%  breathable cotton kind of comfortableness without them “riding your ass” the way family members might. You “show your butt” with a jockstrap friend and still maintain “optimum support and comfort.”mardi gras with mark

At times I’m sad I don’t have a one & only best friend, but it’s probably better to have a mess of Jockstrap Friends.  That way whenever my next catastrophe hits, if one friend is having a hip replacement and another is flying to Oregon for the birth of her grandchild, I’ll still have that one friend who will help me clean out my grandma’s attic in August, help decorate the church’s activity hall for Momma’s memorial, or read the first draft of my YA novel.

Posted in Gifts, Gratitude, Introspection

The Unexpected Gift

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The Unexpected Gift

A Gift is defined as something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation…to bless, favor, bestow or endow.

 

Most of the time, gifts are given and even anticipated on our special occasions and celebrations.  We look forward to beautiful wrappings and a loving sentiment, maybe something chocolate or favorite flowers.  However, occasionally we receive an unexpected gift.  Suddenly, with no warning, no fanfare..a gift arrives unannounced.

 

This unforeseen bestowal is usually not wrapped, at least with outward paper and bows.  It almost never has a gift tag announcing the recipient,  because these unexpected gifts come in unassuming packages tied with love and ensconced in undeserved grace.  Sometimes they lie within the outer trappings of a thing called ‘duty’ or ‘guilt.”  They hide in unattractive paper, a grimy hand or eyes crinkled with age.

 

In August 2014, my oldest daughter waited to receive results from her recent medical tests.  I remember we sat in a small examination room as the doctor blurted out all manner of medical jargon and then abruptly announced, without flinching, the diagnosis of ‘cancer.’  We sat there for a long time after he left the room, our fear and sadness hung in the air like a dense veil, covering even the light.  For six months, I watched her face frightening challenges.  I sat beside her as ‘healing poisons’ traveled through her veins, and she never gave up.  We cried together and talked together and reassured each other, even though we could vividly taste our horror and panic. But, as time went on, the gift arrived.  

 

The gift surprised us with unexpected laughter at the most inappropriate times.  It came wrapped in knowing glances and hands held tight; it bloomed within us as we grew closer and more accepting of each other.  Our unexpected gift grew out of the fire and ashes, and we knew that no matter what, this gift of love and acceptance was meant for us.  

 

Let there be no mistake….an unexpected gift is real and genuine and meant exactly for the one who is brave enough to open it.  I have heard before that there is a ‘gift’ inside every hardship, every problem.  There are unexpected gifts hidden in lessons to be learned and attitudes to be adjusted.  There are gifts in forgiveness.  Look closely, lest you overlook the unassuming blessing.  Look closely among the thorns, for your rose may be just about to bloom.