Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Souvenir

         Recent news events brought to mind something I hadn’t thought of in years.
         When I was a child, we’d visit my Grandmother in North Carolina, who I called Memaw.  Now technically, she was my great aunt… it’s a long story.  Suffice to say she raised my Mom as my “real” grandmother (who was Memaw’s sister) died when Mom was only 3.  Memaw was the oldest of 11 children and was married to the brother of my “real” grandfather.  For years they tried to have children.  After three miscarriages, at the age of 42, she had Sonny, who was born with a hare lip and double clef palate.  For years he endured surgeries to correct those birth defects. (I’m sure there’s a PC term for that now, but when he was born, that was it.).
         Stay with me.  This really does relate back to today’s news.
         Mom used to joke, “I didn’t have you for me, I had you for Memaw.”  Maybe it was because I was the first born too or the fact Memaw was the only one in the family I ever grew taller than.  We simply connected on a different level.  She taught me to crochet and I swear she passed down those “farm woman” genes to me, right along with the peach cobbler recipe.  There was an unspoken rule that you didn’t praise anything in her house too highly, because she’d try to give it to you.  I once commented on a cute little 3 legged clay pot on the sun porch.  Yep, it went home with me that day.  I’d later learn during a tour of the Catawba Indian Museum that her 25¢ garage sale find was an authentic piece of Catawba art.  The man at the museum told me if it was signed on the bottom, it was made to sell to tourists.  If there was no signature, it was older and, to his mind, better because it wasn’t a tourist trinket.  Mine is unsigned and I treasure it.
         That’s sweet, but how does this relate to today’s news?
         Sonny lived at home with Memaw for most of his adult life.  Except for the year he went to live in Washington, D.C., where he worked for the C.I.A..  Yes, that C.I.A..   I’m not kidding.  We use to ask what he did, only to have him gravely whisper, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”  Coming from the guy who threatened to pummel us if we ever stepped foot in his room, we believed him.  (And yes, we did get inside once, only to be disappointed to find that the “weirdest” thing in there was a collection of  Mad magazines). I was in my late 30s before he finally admitted that, as a photographer, he’d worked in a lab, analyzing photographs.  He swore it wasn’t pictures I’d be interested in but if the C.I.A. was looking at them….
         Sometime before Sonny returned home for good, he sent Memaw a souvenir sign, which she hung in the bathroom.  I’m sure the mother in her believed a gift from a son deserved to be displayed.  The fact that it hung in her bathroom probably was a silent commentary on exactly what she thought of its content.  And yet, for years I’d look at that sign and grin, knowing deep down it was probably weird for a teenager to find such subject matter amusing.  So yes, when the day came that Memaw asked me if there was anything I’d like to have, I shyly noted I’d like the sign in the bathroom.  She seemed mildly surprised, but she was not one to refuse the request of a grandchild…especially one as sentimental as me.  I don’t remember why we didn’t go get it right then and there.  It was probably time for peach cobbler.
         Somewhere along the way, the sign disappeared. Memaw was distraught, for she had promised it to me.  I told her not to worry.  If it ever turned up, I’d still be glad to have it.  It never did.  I wonder if the C.I.A. came by to repossess it?
         I may not have it in hand, but the sign’s image never left me.  Today, it’s slogan is truer than ever.  The sign was a cartoon of an old fashion toilet, the kind with a tank high above the seat and a pull chain.  In the background was a faint image of the Capitol building.  And written in bold words at the bottom…

Flush twice.  It’s a long way to Washington.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017

And the answer is...Yep

During Hurricane Matthew last year, we got a generator: living out in the country, there are only 4 houses on our electrical line and only 2 are currently occupied.  That means during storms, we're generally the last to get power back.  Since we lost power an hour into that storm and thought we'd be out for days, Hubby called a buddy 2.5 hours away, who had no storm, had him pick up a generator (the last one!) and meet him halfway to make the exchange.  That made me feel better.  We used it for 1 day before power was restored.

And yet, seeing Hubby pull that generator out a couple of days ago to change it's oil and gas it up made my skin crawl.  It's not the thought of the "things" you can lose, it's the sheer strain of the unknown.   You hope for the best, prepare for the worst and stand ready to roll up your sleeves to dig out.  The thing is, no matter what Al Roker or Jim Cantore say, I just don't trust hurricanes to stay on a specific path.

Why?  Because hurricanes are fickle and Ma Nature is in an extremely bad mood lately.  And because my first foray into the world of hurricanes was in 1989 with Hurricane Hugo.  You know, the storm that might smack Charleston, S.C., then move on?  Well, he came 180 miles inland as a Cat. 4 and made my hometown look like a war zone.  I spent the morning before and the night of Hugo's arrival in the Civil Defense office, answering phones. The weirdest part?  We were in a basement office and couldn't hear the wind.  It took 4 calls with me asking people to turn down their radios/t.v. so I could hear them before I understood that background noise was WIND.  For months afterwards, I would watch people flinch when the wind picked up and wonder why.  One day it hit me: I only heard the wind one time in the basement.  It was at the height of the storm and as it whistled and screamed around the corner of the building, even the phones stopped ringing.  The man next to me whispered, "Oh shit!" as we all nodded in silent agreement.  Then the phones began again and we were back at work. 

Last year we had two hurricanes in 2 months: Hermine in September and Matthew in October.  The year before that we experienced the "1000 year flood" with a rain storm that made me consider building an ark.  I think many of us in the south are "storm weary".  Sure, we know hurricanes happen, just like people in California know earthquakes are a possibility.  But you can't live in fear.  So what do you do?

Acknowledge the reality, prepare...and live your life.  Be ready to pick up the pieces if necessary while hugging your loved ones a little tighter.  Because that's what counts.  People, not things.  And when the chips are down, 99% of people will do the right thing and reach out to someone in need.  That's the real America.  Strangers helping strangers out of compassion and the acknowledgement that we're all just people.  (Cue Barbara Streisand singing, "People...people who need people".).

So if you're safe and dry today, send out good thoughts to those whose world is a bit wobbly from wind, rain, storm surge or fear of the unknown.  Hurricane Irma is still a day away from us, but it really does help to know someone out there is thinking of you.  

Now excuse me while I go out and give the Old Gal a hug.  :)