May 25, 2021

BEING A VIP GUEST IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE

In late 2015, the manager of the lovely new downtown Omni Hotel sent some of us at the Downtown Partnership an invitation to attend a cocktail party and sample delicious dishes prepared by the hotel chefs—with a great discount price for a guest room!  I thought it highly unlikely I’d have a better chance to stay at a new luxury hotel, so I jumped at the chance. I invited Kay Eaves to join me there for the experience.

Live music at the party was provided by talented violinist Avery Bright (a good friend whose wife was also a Partnership staff member) a cellist and guitarist he enlisted.  The guitar player was none other than Jesse Isley! His father had been on staff at our Columbia, South Carolina, church years ago—but I’d not seen him since he was a little boy. I knew he’d moved to Nashville to explore music opportunities—and had seen him at a few concerts but not met him.

After sampling all the delicious food items and listening to great live music, Kay and I retired to our elegant guest room. Our views of the night skyline were spectacular!  The hotel had provided us with a complimentary bottle of champagne and chocolate coated strawberries.  We laughed and talked and sipped champagne—and then had a wonderful night’s sleep on fine linens and thick pillows.  

It was a taste of elegance—a grand way to start the holidays—and then when morning came, we went our separate ways to work and daily routines.  But the magic lingered!

May 24, 2021

TEXAS TURKEY!

I’ve been fascinated by this little photograph for many different reasons.  First of all, I have no idea who the attractive young woman with the turkey is!  This was in a group of photos my nephew Joe sent—they had belonged to his mother Tootsie.  Most of them were either photos of me or were of people he couldn’t identify.  

On the back of this little black and white photograph are two stamps identifying the film developer, The Fox Co. in San Antonio, Texas, and the date April, 1946.  Several brief sentences written with a pen resemble Tootsie’s handwriting but I never heard that she ever visited San Antonio—and it’s certainly not a photo of her.

The inscription reads: “This gobbler is dead.  He got his leg hung in the tree.  Poor thing.”

The frame house in the photo looks like a farmhouse. It would have been fun to eat at the table and chairs on the back porch. The young woman definitely has that post-war style about her! The long curly hairstyle, bright lipstick and nail polish—she could almost be a model. The turkey seems to be enjoying her attention—I wonder why she didn’t look at the camera and flash a smile! It’s almost as if she had a premonition this gobbler was going to die sooner than planned.

We never raised turkeys although when I was little, Arley bought live turkeys which he killed and cooked in water over a wood fire outside in a big iron pot.  Certainly didn’t make for a fancy presentation – a browned roast turkey to be carved on a platter. But somehow I imagine those turkeys were tastier.  Perhaps this young woman’s family enjoyed a meal or two from this unfortunate gobbler.  

May 23, 2021

AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME

Ernest was a recent graduate of David Lipscomb College when he and his wife Glenda came to Athens where he became the minister of our small church of Christ congregation.  The church had recently undergone an expansion and renovation and this new pulpit, the pews and the communion table (which is now in my Florida room) were contributions from my father.  

I was 12 when they came—and felt like they were my new best friends!  It was a difficult and lonely few years for me—with Arley’s health declining.  By 1952 he was partially paralyzed from a stroke and spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He worried whenever I left the house so I spent most of my time in my room reading book after book.

Glenda was a beautiful brunette from Puryear, Tennessee and had met Ernest during her freshman year at Lipscomb.  He was a junior and they married during his senior year.  His family lived in Chattanooga, so the Athens area was familiar to him.  He later told me that our church offered him a rental house near the property, $200 a month for preaching plus some extra pay for doing the church janitorial services.  My parents both loved them and invited them to eat with us really often.  Ernest would occasionally take my father to the barbershop or for drives to give Mother a break.

I absolutely loved spending time with this couple—they didn’t ever talk down to me or treat me like a child.  Ernest was very intelligent and well-read and always willing to discuss books, current events and philosophy with me.  I also learned a lot from him about what college life might be like.  A favorite memory is when he and I were so eager to see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Ernest managed to get a family from church who had a television set (which we didn’t have) to invite us to watch it at their home.  Glenda was eight months pregnant and not nearly as excited about staying up late and driving to watch the coronation as we were.  When we finally started home, she said she was going to lie down in the back seat—which she did!  Their son Ernie was born that July.  Arley died on August 12 and Ernest conducted his funeral.  Just a week later—on August 19—Mother fixed a birthday lunch for Glenda.  She was just 21 and a happy new mother!

Later that fall, they moved to Murray, Kentucky, where a larger church had offered them a more stable position. I was devastated—but so thankful for the two hard years when they had been such loving friends to me.

We stayed in touch over the years—with them living primarily in Birmingham and Montgomery.  In the mid-1980s they moved to Nashville where their son Ernie and daughter Elizabeth were living. I saw them occasionally when on visits—and then when I moved to Nashville in 2001, we had some lovely visits both in their home and mine.  Once when they were here for dinner, I suddenly realized we were sitting at the same dining room table as the one pictured above on Glenda’s 21st birthday!  We were amazed at that thought!

Ernest continued being very curious and eager to learn, and he taught computer courses for seniors at the downtown library. He self-published quite a few books, and this memoir was his last.  Notice the Athens pulpit photo on the cover, as well as pictures of him with Eleanor Roosevelt and George Wallace.   Always beautiful and gentle, Glenda enjoyed living near her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren here in Nashville.  Our bond remained strong.

May 22, 2021

FROM FARMER TO SOLDIER TO FARMER

Harriett’s older brother Clifford Cate was a handsome young farmer—living at home in McMinn County with his parents, sister Della and young brother Jack—when he was drafted into military service in World War I. His draft registration card was dated June 5, 1917. He probably was  drafted at age 28 in 1918. I don’t think he went overseas. I recall conversations about so many of the soldiers getting the Spanish flu.  I’m not sure but he may have had the flu.

There were 130,000 soldiers and sailors from Tennessee during World War I.  Sgt. Alvin York of Pall Mall, Tennessee, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions when he single handedly killed over two dozen German soldiers (leading them to surrender)  after his patrol suffered heavy losses and captured 132 prisoners.  After the war, the state of Tennessee gave him a farm and a popular 1941 movie Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper told his story.

I’ve always really liked this photograph.  Uncle Clifford is the one on the far right. I don’t know who the other two soldiers are but can just imagine they may all be from rural communities or small towns.  Surely they were proud to be decked out in their military gear and go to a photogaphy studio for a picture to send home to family or girlfriends.  Note the numeral 15 at the lower left.  I think the pose is interesting—obviously very staged.  Uncle Clifford simply has his hands in his coat pockets but the other two soldiers seem to be all arms!  And all four arms  of the two soldiers are on Uncle Clifford.  

I know his family was thankful to have him back home after the war ended in November, 1918.  In the 1920 U.S. Census he is back home working with his father on their farm on Blue Springs Road. On September 1, 1920, he married Abbie Hutsell and they began establishing their own successful farming ventures in McMinn County. In World War II, they had three sons who served in the military—and all returned home safely.

May 21, 2021

STAGES OF A FRIENDSHIP

Over the years, it seems that friendships move into different stages.  Some people seem to maintain friendships from childhood all through their lives, but the pattern in my experience has definitely been more like varying stages with friendships.

In this first photo, I’m standing on the beach at Jekyll Island with my friend Anne.  We met at the hospital where we both went to work after getting divorces—she was head of the Physical Therapy Department, I of the Medical Records Department.  She had two sons—I had a son and daughter—and we both were struggling to adjust to our sudden change in status.  We began to share our life stories, to plan outings together with our children, and that summer, we rented a cottage at Jekyll Island together.  We had many things in common—but there were also many differences.  Anne was very energetic and physically fit—she would wear ankle weights as she went about her work at the hospital.  Me, not so much.  She’d grown up in Georgia as the only girl with three or more brothers.  She’d gotten her physical therapy training in the Navy—and she often used profanity. We’d both had a beloved brother die several years before. She was raising her sons as Catholics (their father’s preference), I was moving to the Presbyterian church with my children.  Our faith was what kept us going.

Stage 2 photo.  In the next stage of our friendship, Anne had married J (on the left) and they were living in Greenville, South Carolina.  She continued to work but now enjoyed a comfortable home and financial security.  She and her sons had joined J’s Episcopal church.  He surprised her with a lovely December birthday brunch at a Greenville restaurant.  Alice (back row) and Phyllis (front right with her husband Jim) had worked with Anne at the Hospital.  By this time, I was Director of Public Relations and had built a new home.  It seemed that we both had found more stability and happiness.  

Stage 3 photo.  This photo was at my last Christmas party in Columbia in 2001. Here I’m talking with Earleen and Anne.  She and J had built a huge new home in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, her sons were doing well and both were married.  J was continuing his insurance business.  I was already working in Nashville and a year later, I would have sold this home, bought my home in Nashville, and Patrick and Julia would be married. So many life changes—and they seemed to be moving in a very positive direction.  

I don’t have a Stage 4 photo—but there were significant changes.  When Sam and Eli were about 4, their family began attending a small Anglican church in Asheville—and Anne and J were leaders there!  They commuted from their home.  It was a joy to have Anne know my twin grandsons and she showered them with love.  They had suffered severe financial losses during the past few years—and were desperately trying to sell their large home.  Yet she continued to be the strong and generous person I’d always known.  Now there is little communication.  She wrote me during the pandemic outlining still more heartaches and reversals for them. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We are still friends.

May 20, 2021

PLAYING WITH DOLLS

This photo surfaced only a few years ago.  My nephew Joe went through some old photos from his mother Tootsie and sent me some of them.  Here I’m sitting on the sidewalk at our house on Eaves Street holding my latest doll.  I’m probably about 8 or 9 years old.

A new doll was always on my Christmas list.  Usually I’d spend weeks poring over the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog to make my choice. I generally preferred baby dolls—but sometimes chose one that was more of a little girl.  One of my last ones was a bridal doll complete with veil. I had a collection of items for the dolls—baby buggies, cradles, beds.  Mother made small quilts and pillows for my dolls, and sometimes dresses from leftover fabric of dresses she made for me.  

When I got a new doll, the others stayed around even if they didn’t get as much attention any more. My active imagination inspired me to act out some dramatic skits with my doll “children”—the prerogative of an only child. And sometimes my best ideas for a plot seemed to come just before bedtime. I’d beg to stay up an extra hour or so to “see how it turns out!”

It’s hard to describe what the dolls represented for me. I lavished love and attention on them—and always wanted them close by.  Even when I no longer played with them, a few favorites remained in my room—maybe with their hair hopelessly tangled or falling out and even a missing eye or limb.  They weren’t collector dolls—just well-loved companions.

Paper dolls were also big favorites.  I was always excited to get a new book of them and cut out all the dolls and clothes.  I remember movie star paper dolls—Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple—and even the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. 

May 19, 2021

CHEF CHARLOTTE’S DEBUT

It was a pretty remarkable accomplishment for someone who was not quite 10 years old!  In July, 2017, Charlotte and I came up with the idea for her to prepare a company dinner (with Grandmama as her assistant).  We had quite a few planning sessions.  First, she decided on a menu.  Most items were favorites that she’d eaten often at my house—the salmon patties, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, and spoon rolls. We found recipes in my cookbooks for a strawberry-spinach salad and an Edelweiss pie for dessert.  She found a cherry-limeade beverage recipe online that she wanted to have with the fruit-cheese appetizers.

Next we made our grocery shopping list and she went with me to Kroger’s to buy everything we’d need. We also bought fresh flowers for the table centerpiece. She made invitations for her guests—her parents and friends Mark and Lisa.

The day before the dinner she came over to begin preparations. We set the table with linens, china, crystal and silverware—and she made a flower centerpiece. For each recipe, I reviewed the steps and techniques with her in advance.  We made the deviled eggs, prepped the salad ingredients, made the cherry limeade and mixed the batter for spoon rolls that afternoon.

The afternoon of the dinner we prepared the other menu items. Paul, Heather, Mark and Lisa were duly impressed by the tasty and colorful dinner.  Charlotte was quite proud of herself—and I presented her with her own apron at the end of the meal.

May 18, 2021

A LOVELY WEDDING DAY

May 18, 2002—a lovely wedding day for Patrick and Julia in Maryland!  I thoroughly enjoyed the weddings of both my children—and continue to rejoice over their marriages.  When I recall this wedding weekend, my mind is filled with images of so many friends and family who came to celebrate with Patrick and Julia.

Heather was living in Charlottesville and a few months before the big day, she and I drove up to Annapolis to have lunch at Julia’s parents’ home and then went with Patrick and Julia to look for the perfect spot to host their rehearsal dinner.  When we walked into a dimly lit Irish restaurant and pub called Galway Bay, we knew we’d found it!  There was an Old World charm to the dining room and the Irish catering manager was gracious.  We could reserve a fairly large dining room for the event but our expected number of guests was somewhat larger than their maximum. He was cheerfully confident they could accommodate us anyway—and we selected two delicious menu options. 

With a name like Connelly and a honeymoon planned for Ireland, Galway Bay was perfect.  It was a lovely evening—and the room was packed!  No one complained about being in cramped quarters.  Wonderful dinner conversation and then so many speeches by special friends and relatives of the bride and groom.  Lots of laughs, a few tears and ever so many hugs.

We enjoyed meeting all the Shoemaker aunts and cousins.  Bill and Barbara were so gracious and welcoming to everyone there to celebrate their only daughter’s wedding.  Julia’s older brother Dave was a groomsman.  Her other brother Jon (a Navy pilot) was away on active duty, but his two adorable little girls filled in for him—as flower girls!

Our family is much smaller—but I was thrilled that three of my nephews and their wives made the trip to Maryland for the weekend—Buzz and Becce, John and Kay and Jerry and Marilyn.  And Bill Connelly and his son Will came, too.

I had moved to Nashville the year before—but of course we had many friends in Columbia, South Carolina.  Those who traveled up for the wedding included the Faulks, the Christians, Barb Perrin and Earleen Michels, Terry Cook, and the Crumps.  A whole new set of friends there were grad school classmates at RTS Orlando—Dan and Elise Claire, Bob and Jill Reid, Todd Jones, Glenn Lucke and others. Add to those, many childhood and college friends of Julia’s—and you’ll have an idea of the atmosphere at the rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception. 

Happy 19th wedding anniversary, Patrick and Julia!

May 17, 2021

St. James Park, London, 1993
Grounds at Windsor Castle,1993


TREES FOR QUEEN ELIZABETH II’S PLATINUM JUBILEE

This photo is one Heather took on the day in late November, 1993, when we toured Windsor Castle.  The grounds were lovely and stately trees were plentiful.  One of my strongest memories of our brief visit to London is that the trees were so much older than any I’d ever seen in the United States!  I particularly remember standing under an ancient huge sycamore tree in St. James Park. The second photo is a view of swans at that historic London park.

Today I was reading about plans for the June, 2022, Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Next year will mark her 70th year as monarch—the first ever to reach that milestone.  A major aspect of that planned celebration is the Queen’s Green Canopy—which encourages people throughout the United Kingdom to plant new trees through 2022 and to protect ancient woodlands and forests.  For the Platinum Jubilee, they will highlight 70 irreplaceable ancient woodlands and identify 70 ancient trees. The Woodland Trust is offering 3 million free saplings to schools and communities. 

In March, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth planted the first Jubilee tree at Windsor Castle.

She has planted well over 1,500 trees during her reign in many countries of the Commonwealth.  And she was actually in a tree when she became Queen!  She and Prince Philip were touring Kenya and staying at Treetops, a guest house in a giant Kenyan fig tree when the word came that her father King George VI had died—and she was now the monarch.

Here’s a link showing photos of the queen from age 11 to her 90s planting trees.

Prince Charles made a promotional video for honoring his mother’s Platinum Jubilee by planting a tree, which he said is a symbol of “faith and hope in the future.”  A “tree-bilee” sounds like the perfect tribute for the 70th anniversary of this queen.

May 16, 2021

THE NEXT DAY

This morning I watched Morning Prayer with the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral on YouTube, which became one of my favorite daily routines during the pandemic.  Today’s Gospel reading was from John 16 and in his homily, the Dean mentioned a lovely aria from Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem.  He said it was his favorite and he’d just listened to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s wonderful rendition of the aria, Ihr habt nun Traurigheit.

And then I remembered something amazing that happened in 1992.  This photo shows a page from a gift someone gave Mother for Christmas in 1991.  She loved scriptures but was no longer able to see well enough to read them herself.  Confined to her improvised room in my home, she was gradually weakening.  And yet she had her own morning liturgy.  Her dear companion weekdays while I was at work was Lessie. She prepared Mother’s daily glass of orange juice, one cup of coffee and often a homemade waffle or sourdough bread toasted. Once she’d gotten her bathed and dressed for the day, she would tear off the previous day’s date from the bedside calendar and read the verse for the new day.  The verses were always from the King James Version, Mother’s favorite translation and often they were verses she’d memorized.

By early August, it was clear that Mother had passed a threshold—and home care no longer was feasible.  She needed attention around the clock. Reluctantly, I found a bed for her at a nursing home near where I worked.  The morning calendar ritual stopped on August 5 when she went to Manor Care.  She died there about 11:45 pm on September 17, 1992.

A few weeks later, I was going through her personal effects at home and the little Bible verse calendar surfaced.  For some reason, I decided to see what the verse would have been for the morning after she died—and this was it—John 16:22.  It felt like she’d sent me a message—and was strangely comforting.  The first few words of the verse were omitted on the calendar—“And ye now therefore have sorrow…”

A short time after that I was listening to a classical program on public radio.  The piece and its German lyrics seemed vaguely familiar.  Suddenly an aria so hauntingly lovely came on—and I literally walked over to the radio and stood there spellbound.  It was Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (ye now therefore have sorrow) from John 16:22. When I researched the Requiem, I read that Brahms wrote it after being deeply grieved by his mother’s death in 1865.  Also it was distinctive in that unlike the traditional Requiem it did not offer prayers for the souls of the dead but instead focused on comfort for the living.  Brahms also included Isaiah 66:13a in this aria—“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.”

The almost random way I heard and responded to this aria seemed to underscore my initial reading of the Bible verse for September 18—the next day.  This juxtaposition of sorrow and joy is so real—and yet I could have missed it!  And today, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral reminded me once more. Grace.