September 18, 2021

CAROL: A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS

We met in Columbia when Heather and Patrick were little and I was adjusting to life as a single mom.  Carol was getting a master’s degree in nursing and rented an apartment from my friend Nancy, who introduced us.  She was divorced and had no children.  She always enjoyed Heather and Patrick so much, and over the years, extended her love to their children also.

Spending time together over meals, over a glass of wine, we shared our life stories.  She was such an encourager—the type of caring, nurturing person nurses so often are. Her home was Asheville and how she loved her mountains!

After she left Columbia, we continued our friendship through phone calls and occasional visits.  Some years later she married Tom Parker, a wonderful man who brought her much happiness.  In this photo, she had come to visit me in Columbia during the time my mother lived with me and was growing weaker.  Mother also loved Carol, and once she came down to care for her so I could take a weekend trip with another friend.  

When Patrick and Julia bought a home in Swannanoa, I was surprised when Carol commented she would have thought they could choose a better location.  The first time I went to visit them there, I gave her their street address and she came for a Saturday afternoon visit.  When she drove up, she just stood beside her car.  I went out on the porch to see why she wasn’t coming in and she was sobbing!  

When she drove up, she realized their house was the very house her aunt had once owned.  When Carol and her sister were very young, they and their mother had lived there with her aunt so the mother could work at the Beacon Blanket factory down the road.  Carol’s father was a World War II veteran and he and his son stayed home to keep their farm going. Memories of that hard time for her family were why she’d resisted Swannanoa. Soon she was inside and enjoying showing Julia and Patrick where she had slept and what had been altered or added on to the house since then.  In this photo she’s on the front porch of that sweet little house with Sam and Eli.

I love this photo from a few years later.  Carol, Julia and I took the three boys on a picnic at the Montreat park.  Sam and Eli had great fun on the playground but by the time we made this picture, they were hot and tired.  All three boys look miserable—Sam with his red cheeks, Eli staring up without a smile, and Ezra crying away in Carol’s arms. Carol was the friend for all seasons—loving and encouraging everyone even when they were miserable.  

Her body gave out—but her spirit remained full of love, faith and hope.  I miss her terribly.

September 17, 2021

A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW

This photo was taken at the official party given in my honor when I left Providence Hospital after a dozen years to take another job across the street.  My co-worker Diane came up with this amazing duo who specialized in delivering a personalized tribute to someone. Their in-person presentation was quite a surprise—and pretty remarkable!

First, they requested a color photo of me at work in my office, which Diane provided.  They created a large watercolor reproduction of the photo on heavy folded paper.  Inside friends and colleagues wrote personal farewell messages to me.  They also asked for various stories and anecdotes about my years at the hospital, and from them they composed a lengthy poem.  They printed the poem on a narrow folded white page, which they inserted into my hands on the portrait.  

They came to the party dressed in their tailored black and white outfits with bow ties and plumes of black feathers in their hair.  During their presentation, they held up the portrait card, unrolled the white paper and delivered the poem—sometimes reciting lines, sometimes singing. Some of the stories were heartwarming and others hilarious.  I alternately laughed and cried as they made their way through the tribute.  

I’d never seen anything like it—and never have again.  I wonder if they continued their little business.  It surely was very time-consuming, but a truly different angle.  I kept the portrait card and poem for years but it was too large to store well.  Gradually it became bent and a bit ragged—and I finally discarded it.  Having this photo brings back memories of a unique gift!

September 16, 2021

GOING WEST AND GOING HOME

The dapper young man in this photograph is Tom Ensminger, a younger brother of my maternal grandmother Evalee Ensminger Cate.  According to the U.S. Census of 1900, he (age 20) was still living at home with his parents Charles and Sarah, a 17-year-old brother Tim and a 12-year-old sister May.  Sometime shortly after that, he left home and like so many young men in Tennessee, moved west to Texas. 

I don’t know exactly where he lived there or what job he found.  But in March of 1903 he got word that his father was ill and fearing the worst, he wanted to come back to Tennessee to see him. His older sister Julia wrote to him begging him not to come, as typhoid fever was rampant in their community.  I assume that was what was wrong with their father, too.

Tom was determined to see his father alive again and made the trip home against his sister’s advice. While there, he indeed fell ill with typhoid fever.  The devoted young son died on March 23 at the age of 24.  His father survived and lived on another 13 years. Tom’s family mourned as they buried him in the McMahan Calvary cemetery.  If only he had listened to his sister Julia’s advice, they thought.

My great-grandfather Charles had some interesting customs!  Mother remembered that he always wanted to set a record every Easter weekend by eating a hardboiled egg for each year he’d lived—60 when he was 60 and so on.  No one else in the family could come close to his record!  On Easter weekend in 1916, he was 71.  That Saturday, April 22, the story was that he went to the barbershop for a haircut, and came home to eat all those hardboiled eggs.  And that’s when he died!  The death certificate simply said “sudden death, chronic heart trouble.” One family tradition that was wisely discontinued. 

September 15, 2021

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS

Twenty years ago today these two got engaged!  On the Saturday after the 9/11 attacks.  And truly their love gave hope to us all during that tragic week.  This photo of Patrick and Julia was made during Christmas week of 2001 as they were finalizing plans for their wedding the following May. I’m thankful they got together!

They had discussed marriage and Patrick was waiting for just the right moment to surprise her with an official proposal.  He’d gotten an engagement ring and decided he’d bring Julia to Columbia for the weekend.  I was already working in Nashville and still going back to Columbia every few weeks.  I told him I’d be there if they wanted to come for the September 15 weekend.

Tuesday was 9/11.  By the next day Patrick called to ask if he should postpone.  I encouraged him to continue as planned—reminding him that their engagement would bring us hope and joy.  That Friday I drove on mostly isolated highways to Savannah, Georgia, for a business meeting.  After the morning meeting I went to a noon prayer service at the historic Independent Presbyterian Church there. Cities and towns throughout the country held noon prayer services that day.

On Saturday, Patrick, Julia and I went to lunch at local favorite Rush’s Hamburgers.  As prearranged with him, I then announced I had some errands to run and left.  Later that afternoon he gave me a call that I could come home and that she had said yes. Happy 20th engagement day anniversary, you two!

When Heather and Paul married in October, 2004, this was the cover of their wedding program.

Paul’s artist brother David drew the birds.  Emily Dickinson wrote the poem.  Hope sings on.

September 14, 2021

REAL AND IMAGINARY

This photo was taken when Heather and I stopped by Schuyler, Virginia, to pay homage to a family favorite television show of the 1970s and beyond, “The Waltons.” Earl Hamner, Jr. wrote Spencer’s Mountain in 1961, which was made into a movie two years later.  From that came first the CBS television movie “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” followed by 9 seasons of the weekly television show “The Waltons.” Walton’s Mountain was an imaginary place (based on Hamner’s family home in Schuyler) and the Walton family was based on his family.

The closing scene of each show had the seven Walton siblings calling out “good night” to each other—and “Good night, John Boy” was a line familiar to almost everyone that decade.  When we stopped by to take a look at this little Virginia community, they were having a craft sale outside the country store (which was adjacent to the Hamner home). We strolled around, gazing at memorabilia of the television show and the family on whose story it was based. 

On another trip in North Carolina, Patrick and I once stopped by Mount Airy to take a look at the town that was Mayberry in “The Andy Griffith Show.”  This long-running television show seems never to end because of reruns. These places and characters seemed so real to us! 

We didn’t have a television set until I was in high school, but “I Love Lucy” was the show not to be missed.  I would go to my friend Barbara’s house almost every week to watch it!  And it too continues in reruns and popularity.  Granddaughter Charlotte is a big fan of “I Love Lucy”—although she mostly would find “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Waltons” a bit slow.  

September 13, 2021

VISITING MISS MAUDE AT BEERSHEBA

No one ever loved a place more than Miss Maude Hunter loved the little community of Beersheba Springs on the Cumberland Plateau!  She had dreams of dying on the mountain—maybe even getting picked up from there like Elijah by a chariot of fire.

She lived in an apartment in Nashville and worked. Every summer she would take young people from church to put on a Vacation Bible School at the Beersheba Church of Christ. Tom was one of those Nashville kids—and he caught Miss Maude’s passion for Beersheba.

Many well-to-do families from Nashville and Chattanooga owned summer homes on the mountain—some had been in their family for generations.  And there was a community of year-round residents, many of whom struggled to make a living.  

Maude became friends with Edna Davenport from McMinnville, who had renovated or built several log homes in Beersheba.  With her help, Maude finally was able to buy a small cabin just down the street from the church.  She spent weekends and most of the summer there, planning to come permanently after she retired.

This photo was taken one fall weekend in 1968 when she invited us to bring baby Heather to spend some time with her.  Tom had gotten the crazy idea that we should buy a summer place at Beersheba, too.

Her place was cozy and cluttered. She built a fire in the fireplace and made us feel at home. She cooked up some fried chicken and cornbread, and brewed strong coffee in a little percolator on the stove. Her specialty was bacon crackers—wrap a piece of bacon around saltine crackers and bake them in a 250 degree oven for about two hours.  So crisp and delicious—still a family favorite appetizer!

The next day we met Edna Davenport and within a few months, we had our own log home at Beersheba. Miss Maude’s love for this beautiful spot was irresistible.  The photo of the church there is from a book on Beersheba history.  I think they changed the name of the road in front of her house to Hunter’s Mill Road in her honor.  Even a statue of her wouldn’t be too much!

September 10, 2021

AUNT CHRISTINE COMES TO VISIT

Tom’s Aunt Christine was a lovely person!  She was one of his father’s two sisters—the other one being Connie. It always seemed that Christine had an interesting life, a bit more exciting than her siblings. As a young woman from Columbia in Maury County, she came to Nashville for a job as a ticket agent for Pan American Airways.  Her young Connelly nephews thought it was an exciting job and loved to visit her at the airport.

This photo was taken in the early 1970’s when Christine flew to Columbia, South Carolina to visit us.  My mother Harriett and little Heather are sitting with her in our living room. She always wore her hair up, polished her nails, and dressed smartly.  Her bright eyes and smile conveyed her friendly disposition.

At some point she transferred with the airline to work in the Philadelphia area, where she met her husband Norman Mathey. Unable to have children of their own, they adopted young siblings, Leslie and Jeff.  When the children were young teenagers, their father died suddenly.  Leslie and Jeff had many emotional problems from their earliest childhood and Christine felt very vulnerable and alone so far from any of her relatives.

She decided to relocate to Nashville and bought a comfortable home near her brother Marlin. She worked for several years and struggled to help her children through many painful adjustments.  Life continued to be very difficult for them both.  

I loved the fact that she made the effort to come see us in our South Carolina home. Her fun-loving, adventurous spirit spread light wherever she went. She understood that her children were scarred from their early experiences and showed them unconditional love through the years.  She never tried to be anyone except who she was—and that was her gift to us all.

September 9, 2021

CORN MAZE AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN

This photo was a marketing gimmick at the corn maze at the foot of Lookout Mountain that we visited one fall—but who could resist after seeing those little faces? There’s a long history linking the Faulk and Connelly families together—especially through the close friendship of Brent and Patrick.  They were neighbors in Columbia, went to church and high school together, spent several months during their college years living and working in London, traveled in Ireland with Heather, and have celebrated each other’s marriages and families. Brent drove from Chattanooga to Atlanta to attend the Emory University Commencement when Patrick received his Ph.D. in History.

Brent went to Covenant College on Lookout Mountain and fell in love with the college and the community. He began investing in real estate there, worked several years as a college recruiter for Covenant and then began a career in financial services with his friend Robbie.  He married his lovely wife Ana and brought her and her little daughter Ale to join him on the mountain.

A few years after Patrick and Julia welcomed twins Sam and Eli, Brent and Ana also had twins—son Charlie and daughter Riley.  Since then both have had another son—Niko for the Faulks, Ezra for the Connellys.  How amazing that these two guys are both fathers of twins!  In this photo, Eli (green shirt) and Sam (navy and red shirt) are smiling broadly to show their missing front teeth.  Little Riley is cupping her chin in her hand, with the other hand on her hip—and mischievous Charlie is showing off his belly button!  Ale is a devoted big sister, and loved babysitting the little ones.

Lookout Mountain is a friendly and tightknit community, and the Faulks live on Peter Pan Road.  They moved there from Cinderella Road, I think.  And the kids have gone to Fairyland Elementary School. This mountain ridge is part of the Cumberland Plateau, and home of the highly advertised tourist attraction Rock City.  It’s filled with natural beauty, caves, ancient rock formations and historical sites as well as the fanciful motifs of Rock City. 

Brent and his family are happily established there—enjoying neighbors, their church and the country club.  It’s wonderful to visit people who love their community while living on Peter Pan Road and walking to the neighborhood Starbucks.

September 12, 2021

WEARING LOOKALIKE OUTFITS

Their Grandmama Harriett liked nothing more than making clothes for us!  She’d always sewn for me over the years until I was a “big girl” and wanted to buy my outfits like my friends did. So when Heather came along, she made many adorable little dresses for her!  She wasn’t too familiar with sewing for a boy, so Patrick was more of a challenge.  She did make him quite a few of these little “bubble sunsuits” and then gave up.  This purple and white print denimlike fabric was used for her only attempt at matching sibling outfits.  She made Heather more of a coverall pattern and Patrick the sunsuit.  This photo shows them posing in their “lookalike” outfits at our Beersheba Springs house.

The second photo shows Heather and me modeling our matching deep pink print long skirts Harriett whipped up for us!  We’re standing in the back yard of our McGregor Drive home in Columbia.  Earlier we had matching summer aqua dotted Swiss dresses.

I don’t recall that Mother ever made matching outfits for her and me.  Perhaps it just wasn’t the “in fashion” then.  She did make most of her own “housedresses” though.  Never one for dressing casually, she always had on a neat cotton dress she’d made, wore a girdle and hose always with medium heel shoes.  Anytime company stopped by, they would remark, “Oh, you’re getting ready to go somewhere!” Not so—that was just her “at home” look.  She only had one pair of Bermuda shorts when she went to the beach in her sixties and a few tailored pantsuits she wore in her seventies and eighties.  Small concessions!

September 11, 2021

LIGHT AND SHADOWS: A REMEMBRANCE

Today, the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001, a date we cannot forget.  What image or photograph could ever depict that memory? I decided on this—a candle inside my metal lantern with the outline of trees and the shadowy reflections on the wall behind. 

On that beautiful Tuesday morning in 2001, I had just been working at my Nashville Downtown Partnership job about six weeks and was living in a room at John and kay’s home temporarily.  When the news of the plane hitting the first World Trade Center tower in New York reached our office, my two young staff members asked to go to another area where people were watching on television.  I just sat at my computer in shock, praying. As the tragic story continued to unfold, I got periodic phone call updates from John, Patrick and Heather. 

Thousands of people went to work that morning just as I had or got on a plane to go somewhere and never came home again. As seldom before, we all recognized our vulnerability and that any morning could be our last one on earth.  The stories of the people who were killed that day made us appreciate life itself and our loved ones, and we saw amazing courage and compassion among so many affected—people risking their lives to help others to safety, firefighters and police rushing into danger to save others, airplane passengers storming the hijackers to prevent destruction of another planned target, followed by the horrible days of digging through the rubble for survivors or to identify those killed. Incredible suffering has endured for many.

Many families of those who were killed that day have gone on to accomplish remarkable ways of remembering them that continue to help others. Memorials at the sites were designed to help heal those who remember the lost.

On this 20th anniversary, I feel there is much more to lament.  I listened again to words from people who warned us against vengeance that week in 2001.  Miroslav Volf (Christian theologian and author) was speaking on reconciliation at a prayer breakfast at the United Nations headquarters that morning as the first plane hit one of the World Trade Center. They evacuated the building immediately after he spoke, thinking it too might be a planned target of the terrorists. On a podcast today, he recalled his message on reconciliation at that prayer breakfast and grieved over the path of vengeance our country followed, with trillions of dollars spent and many thousands of lives lost in long unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

I listened to a sermon called “The Day Jerusalem Fell” preached by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago the Sunday after 9/11.  His text was the last portion of Psalm 137—verses so hard they are seldom mentioned.  He grieved the loss of life on 9/11 and encouraged everyone to speak their love to each other. And he warned that America’s “chickens were coming home to roost” in this attack. 

I also listened to a sermon by Rev. Tim Keller at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City from that Sunday.  He cautioned against several false narratives that were already emerging.  One was the narrative of “we are the good guys” and “they are the evil guys.”  No one could dispute that the terrorists’ actions on 9/11 were evil, yet we need not demonize a specific religion or nationality or think our nation totally good.

Lamenting and listening and remembering. Twenty years later.