People Watching

SatterfieldsEating lunch at a local restaurant, I couldn’t help but imagine the story behind the man sitting behind my husband.

This man was alone.  He was neatly dressed with not a hair out of place.  His wardrobe was casual blue collar – a sports shirt advertising motorcycles tucked into neatly pressed blue jeans.  His hands were clean, but probably not professionally manicured.

He was tearing up a garden salad while intently listening to his phone.  The restaurant was a bit noisy so seeing the phone held with the speaker right in his ear was not surprising, but he never talked, just listened.  A podcast, perhaps?  Audio entertainment for dining alone? No, maybe voicemails.  Someone working outdoors couldn’t hear his phone and might use lunchtime to catch up on missed contacts.

Had he been wearing galluses over a white shirt and pleated trousers, I would have thought he was waiting for a jury’s verdict.  Or getting dirt on a witness from his private eye in the field.

I was impressed with his power lunch.  Then the waitress brought the rest of it.  One-half of a roasted chicken, three vegetables and bread.  With his trim physique, he doesn’t eat like that every meal unless he is doing some physical labor somewhere.  But not a sign of sweat anywhere.

Hmmm…  “the man in the gabardine suit is a spy.  His bowtie is really a camera.”

 

Father’s Day Singing

Mama Daddy & me 1952My Daddy was a church-going man; an old-line, foot-washing Primitive Baptist.  Most Sundays (and some Saturdays) were spent going to one of the churches in our regular rotation.  Each church held services only one weekend per month, having a service and conference on Saturday, just worship on Sunday.

The third Sunday of the month was not the weekend for “his” church, the one where he was a member and church clerk, so we often visited different churches on that weekend.  Sometimes on the third Sunday in June, Father’s Day, we would go to Damascus Methodist Church in the community where locals would gather for a gospel sing.  Gospel groups from all around the area would come and sing.  There would be a mix of congregational singing, too.

It was always a memorable day with friends and relatives and friends of friends and friends of relatives coming in and out and visiting and listening to great harmony.  It was especially joyous for me and my mother if the Oakes Family came to sing.  L.A. Oakes was Mama’s first cousin.  He and his wife sang beautifully and were joined by other strong voices over the years.  It was always a thrill to hear them and to visit with them.  And to tell people, “I’m related to them.”

Some of these groups were accompanied on a piano, but never any other instrument.  And some of them sang a cappella.  We were accustomed to that.  Primitive Baptists do not use musical instruments in their song service, so the pure harmony of humble voices sounds more heavenly to me than any other.  Nonetheless, a good gospel quartet with an ivory-pounding accompanist thrilled me, too.

I miss being with my Daddy on Father’s Day and every day, for that matter.  I know the image our culture has portrayed of Heaven includes harps.  But for the corner of Heaven where my parents are now, I hope there is some good, soul-stirring, a cappella harmony being lifted today.

Not Wet

Not WetAs I approached my fourth birthday, I was looking forward to kindergarten at Miss Emily’s little red schoolhouse.  My only sister was 19 years old and away at college, so I didn’t have playmates of my age around all the time.  My mother recounted hearing me ‘talking to myself’ while playing alone on the front porch of our house.  It seems I was describing the fun I would have with other children at this fantasy land.  According to my mother, I included an outhouse as part of my description.  She was amused and horrified that I added that detail.

Nonetheless, I like to think of the behavior as conversing with my imaginary friend; it sounds less  like a diagnosis of some sort that way.  At the time, I didn’t know what the big deal was anyway.  My spinster aunt who lived next door could be heard engaging in conversation with unseen friends all the time.  I loved Aunt Nellie, so if she talked when no one else was around, what could be wrong with doing that?

I no longer talk to imaginary friends, but I do enjoy imagining stories when I’m observing perfect strangers.  What did that mother say when her son came home with that tattoo?  Does that lady know her boots don’t match?  It seems like she would notice they are different heights.  What does the future hold for the couple huddled over paperwork in the doctor’s office?

Today, while browsing in an antique store, I looked down to see “Not Wet” painted in the midst of s shiny spot on the floor.  I can only imagine how many times the owners were informed that there was “something spilled over by the chalk paint.”  I think they should have just planted a mop nearby and watched to see what happened.

Tidying Up

Kaffe baskets in basketFriends and I were discussing the Tidying Up bestseller at dinner last night.  I’ve not read the entire book, but I have read a lot of it.  First, let me say that this woman’s definition of tidying up is different from mine.  My idea of tidying up means someone is coming over and it’s time to run the sweeper and stash some items in the closet.  (I will admit that I later straighten the closet and periodically purge it of unused items, but not on a rigid schedule and not enough to invite visitors to admire.)

Though I agree that “stuff” can get in the way of living your life, I’m here to tell you that cleaning can do the same thing.  Balance, people, balance.  Don’t be a hoarder, don’t live in squalor.  But, then again, don’t obsess over everything being perfect.

I wonder how many people on their deathbeds wish they had taken one more load of unworn clothing to the Salvation Army.  Can you tell that I spent yesterday cleaning and wished I were sewing?

When it comes to my quilting stash, I do sometimes find the need to straighten it to see what I have.  Sometimes I share remnants with other quilters.  It is fun to see their faces light up when they find a fabric I’ve used in a quilt they like and now they get to play with it, too.

My working style is that I have several quilt projects in progress at one time.  I sometimes get bored with one technique or another, but often the reason is location.  I always need a project that is portable – to stitch while watching tv or sitting on the porch, or recently, while riding in the car.  Once that phase of the stitching is done, that piece might get set aside until I have time to prepare it for the next level.

I do keep the fabrics that I’ve selected for a given project together until it’s completed.  I use baskets to contain them.  Sometimes there are lists in the baskets telling me what is  cut, how many are remaining to be stitched; maybe a sketch of the layout possibilities.  I will confess that there are a couple of projects that I like seeing the blocks in a basket – so I’m not anxious about assembling those at all.  Alma Allen and Barb Adams depict vignettes of such collections in their books and on their website.  They inspire me to enjoy all phases of the quiltmaking experience.

Susan Lenz explains that the beginning phase and the finishing phase of projects are exciting.  But one doesn’t need to be excited all the time.  The stitching phase is relaxing – so psychologically, I’m centering myself with my working style.

I have come to realize that sometimes I slow down on a project before it’s finished, not wanting to finish until another is at its relaxing stage.

Jude Hill says of one of her magic feather posts, “And yet there is still stitching.  Maybe I have slowed down even more.  Just to make it last.”

Oh, yes, I’m in good company if my working style bears any resemblance to Alma Allen, Barb Adams, Susan Lenz, and Jude Hill.  But it may not look tidy.

Grandpa Tom’s Chair

Grandpa Tom's ChairThis chair sits in our kitchen near the door.  It appears to be an empty chair, but it isn’t.  It is filled with memories from six generations in my husband’s family.

In 1903, when Tom Gilreath was thirteen years old, he rode a horse from Suches to Blairsville, via Sosbee Cove.  A distance of twenty miles, across a mountain, meant that he had to spend the night on his way there and on the return trip.  Tom’s mission was to pick up four chairs which had been hand made for his family.

Many details of this story been lost over time, the bare essentials I’ve outlined are all we’ve been told.  But a thirteen year old boy who had to take his food and bedding and find his way to his destination and home must have had some frightened moments.  Hmmm, four chairs, a boy, and his belongings – does this mean he walked the twenty miles home?

And his mother, Margaret, don’t you know she was worried?  Though I guess she was accustomed to wondering how things were going for the men in her life.  Tom’s Dad, Jonathan, was a circuit riding preacher as well as a farmer.

That made Tom a man earlier than many even in those days, I suppose.  Their Dad being gone to minister to others meant that the children had certain responsibilities.  Tom recalled going out on cold winter evenings and breaking the ice from around Jonathan’s boots so he could dismount from his saddle and stirrups.  Maybe his older brother Henry had to stay home and tend the farm – that would explain the younger one going on the mission to collect the chairs.

I’m sure when you examine an old chair in an antique store you appreciate the craftmanship of assembly without nails.  But next time, look a bit beyond the pegs and think about how the chairs were delivered.  Maybe on horseback, on a mountain road, accompanied by a lad whose mother was trusting that he would be unafraid.

This chair is empty in the photo, but sometimes it serves as a staging area for things we need to remember to take with us as we head our the door.  I did not know Grandpa Tom when he smoked cigars, but those who did say they can smell his tobacco when they see one of these chairs.  All four of the originals are still in the family.