Posted in Aging process, Cajuns, Caring for others, Changes, Children, Friendship, Grandchildren, Grandmother, I love you, Mothers, Outdoors, Parents

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Tree by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Treemimosa tree

A momma’s love shines through her children, and Mama Joe’s eleven children wonderfully displayed their love for her.  Lizo Vidrine married when she was 15 and she and Joe Latour raised their 11 kids in Ville Platte, Louisiana.  As a kid, I remember going to Mama and PapaJoe’s every week, mostly on Sunday afternoons.  When Dad drove the family from Eunice to Ville Platte my siblings and I played a very lame car game called “Counting Horses” ( that’s a “whole ‘nother Oprah” as one of my good friends would say). We traveled a distance of 17 miles, but to 4 restless kids, it seemed like 77 at least! 

Back then we mostly kissed Mama & Papa hello and then headed to the backyard to mama's familychase Papa’s chickens and eat his scuppernong grapes until he came out yelling at us to leave his chickens alone.  Then we fidgeted inside for 8 or so minutes until Dad gave us each a dime to walk to Mr. Theophile’s tiny store on the corner where we each bought 10 penny candies that were placed in small paper bags.  To get to the store we had to pass Mama’s next door neighbor’s house that would later remind me of Boo Radley’s place.  My sisters and I usually ran when we passed neighbor Gazelle’s because she and her “not-quite-right” daughters lived there with at least 100 cats, and Gazelle yelled at us if she was sitting on the front porch with a gun beneath her chair.  (another Oprah-type tale).

However, many years later, Papa Joe has died and Mama Joe is bedridden and somewhat senile.  Now her seven children who live closest to her have each claimed a day of the week to come take care of her (or pay for a sitter if they cannot come that week).   Usually my momma drives my two sisters and me to visit Mama Joe.  Now the house is quiet and after Gayle, Kelly and I kiss Mama Joe hello in her bed full of pillows, we move to the small living room to read or watch a little t.v.  Momma stays in Mama’s bedroom and time ticks slowly be with the soft sounds of Momma talking to Mama. Later, the sitter arrives and talks with Momma in Cajun French.  Sometimes my sisters and I go outside and pick these hard pears or sour plums from Mama’s trees. Papa Joe had been a gifted gardener, and years earlier he had grown vegetables and fruits galore in his extensive garden.  Gayle remembers when he pulled a carrot from the ground once and handed her the best carrot she has ever tasted!

Mama Joe’s yard also had this mimosa tree I really loved.  Its beautiful softness, the feathery green leaves, with the flowers that looked like pink dandelions remind me now of my grandmother’s soft, strong beauty. Mimosa trees produce fragile, sweet blossoms in the late spring that attract butterflies and birds and that also contrast with the tree’s tough nature.   According to some gardening websites, mimosas do well in droughts and heat, which explains their abundance along southern highways.  Also, they produce these elongated seedpods that drop and spread their “offspring” far and wide.  The Japanese call mimosas the “sleeping tree” because their leaves gently fold for the night.  Like the mimosa tree, Mama Joe had a strong, calm beauty that mixed the Cajun Vidrine in her with the Native American blood my momma always claimed she had. (“Your mama’s great-great grandmother was an Indian princess, for real!”)  Also, her eleven seedpods heeded the Catholic directive  to “go forth and multiply” well. Mama and Papa Joe had 48 grandchildren and over 60 great-grandchildren and I don’t know how many great-grandchildren since the Latours are still healthily multiplying. 

Overall, Mama Joe was a sweet, smiling & laughing Cajun who married at age 15 and raised a family of 11, who only spoke Cajun French until her son P.J. married Polly (an amazing woman from California),  and so she learned to speak English to welcome a new member of her family, who cooked rice and gravy like a top chef, who loved life and good times almost as much as she loved all of her many children and their children, and their children’s children, and so on.  All Mama Joe gave forth was love and joy which she taught my own mother, Geraldine, to do for her 4 children, who then did her best to teach me to do for my 3 boys.  Like the mimosa tree, may all mothers continue to spread strong, soft feathery blossoms of love for their own seedpods.

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PaPa and Mama Joe

Thank you to Uncle Jack (Mama’s baby) and Aunt Faye for helping me with some Mama Joe details!

Posted in Changes, Introspection, Work ethic

Beginnings and Endings

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Beginnings and Endings:

Where you begin is not always where you end.  I had a job on weekends and in the summer from the time I turned sixteen until I landed my first teaching gig.

One of my first high school jobs was at Meyers Family Fried Chicken in Amarillo, Texas.  I was the hostess with the mostess on weekends!  “How many?”  “High chair or booster?”  “Booth or table?”  “  Follow me please.”

Meyers Family Fried Chicken was, as you guessed, geared toward family.  It had a train track mounted at the top of the walls by the ceiling and a locomotive with a long train that ran continuously everyday, from open to close.  

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My time there was pretty non-descript, except when a customer would request a certain waitress or to sit by the window.  When that happened, it would cause tip inequality and sometimes overwork or not enough work for the waitresses.   This, in turn, would cause huffing and puffing and sideways glances at the Hostess.   Although the policy was to make the customer happy, I was less popular than usual when a demanding patron put us out of rotation.  I think Meyers and I parted ways after one year.

My most favorite job in high school was at Montgomery Ward in the Western Plaza.  I breezed through training with flying colors and high scores because I could run the register and count back change with speed and accuracy.  All this awarded me the prestigious title of “Floater,” meaning every time I clocked into work, I had to stop by HR to see what department needed help.

I managed to land a coveted temporary position in the Electronics Department when a full-time/part-time person went on maternity leave.  The Electronics Dept. sold T.V.’s, record players, radios and records.  You know, LP’s and 45’s.  I was in heaven, mainly because cute boys would occasionally wander in looking at records and I could approach with a big smile and ask, “May I help you?”SCAN0006 (2)

 

My other department stents were not as glamorous nor as successful.  Once, while helping out in shoes, I sent customers home with two different shoes in the same box.  (not a matched pair)  And there was one fateful Saturday in the Candy Dept….I’m not sure why, but I never got the hang of scooping, measuring correctly, and bagging.  On Saturday’s it would be flush with harried parents, crying kids, and ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) customers.  I never “floated” back after that one time.

My employment background boasts of teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding at the YMCA;  one summer at Glorieta Baptist Church Camp, working in the Chuck Wagon, making donuts; and two summers in college, as a secretary at an insurance company.

Isn’t it fascinating to look back and see that where you began is not always where you end?  How was I to know at sixteen that the skills and customer interactions then would serve me well later as an educator?  How could I possibly have known that weekends and summers wouldn’t hold a candle to Monday through Friday for 36 years?

Certainly, where I began was not where I ended.  But, it shaped me and molded me and taught me about life and the virtues of an honest day’s work.  So, to that I must say:  “Thank you, Meyer’s Family Fried Chicken!”,  “Gracias! Montgomery Ward!”, and “Much obliged! Chuck Wagon!”

You taught me well!

Posted in Changes

My Journey from K-town to A-town Nancy Malcolm

austin-247_1280My Journey From K-town to A-town

Before 1998, I had never thought much about ATX, The Capital City!  My brother had graduated from The University (of Texas), but I never saw myself living there until…circumstances and a job opportunity came my way.  Quickly and magically I went from living in Killeen, Texas, home of Fort Hood Army Base to living in Austin, “The live music capital of the world!”

To say going from K-town to A-town was a stretch, is a tremendous understatement.  The only thing I knew about traffic involved the ‘backup’ when the train lumbered through downtown Killeen.  Why that train could add an extra 5 minutes to your commute.  In fact, I don’t think I had ever used the term ‘commute’ in reference to going to work or school.  That all changed the minute I moved to Austin.

The apartment locator service I used, failed to truly explain to me the terms:  Austin traffic, commute, rush hour and drive-times.  When they drove me to my workplace from the apartment, it was on a Saturday and traffic wasn’t that bad.  So…I signed the lease, luckily for only a six-month term, because come Monday, that commute might as well have been to Corpus Christi.

I’m pretty sure I cried every day for the first month, as I left my apartment by 6:30 a.m. to arrive at school by 7:30-7:45.  To add insult to injury, the commute coming home was even worse.  Slowly, I learned about merging, street closures, three different names for the same street and road rage!  Gratefully, I did find a home much closer to my school, although the six months of fear was over, the traffic was not.

There are, of course, other aspects of Austin that are more endearing and yet also confusing.  O.K. straight up.. I am a Texas girl who grew up in Amarillo, went to school in Waco and lived 23 years in Killeen.  I did not understand what Keep Austin Weird was all about.  Nor, did I ever recall seeing so many weird people in my whole life prior to living in Austin.

Men with long pink hair biking down the street in flesh colored g-strings; watching a million bats take flight from under the Congress bridge; Alamo Drafthouse; The Cathedral of Junk; Lady Bird Lake and of course, Hippie Hollow Park.  I must say, neither Amarillo nor Killeen had any swimming holes that were clothing optional. (that I am aware of)

I can’t believe I have now lived in Austin for 19 years.  I no longer cry on MoPac, at least not every day.  I love all of the unique and cultural experiences our city has to offer, and even though I am a Baylor Grad, I root for the Horns and appreciate The University for what it is.

Austin has the most inventive, creative, rockin’, educated and physically fit citizens in the United States.  Almost everyone bikes, hikes, runs or kayaks and everyone who has a dog, takes their dog everywhere.

I’m still in awe everytime I drive across the river and glance up to see the Capitol building and downtown silhouette against the sky.  It’s breathtaking and I can’t believe that little old me gets to live here.  I am such a lucky girl!

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