Watching the Martins

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It was a beautiful morning when Susan and I traveled out into the country to visit our friend Sherry and watch the martins. Sherry had invited us pretty urgently, cautioning us that she thought they were about to leave for the season. In fact, there weren’t as many that day as there had been earlier, she said, but it was still a great show.

Charles and I have tried to attract martins but never with success. We’d love for them to feast on our mosquitos. But now I know we didn’t try hard enough. If you erect a whole community of martin houses in the open with lots of sky view, they will come. That’s what Sherry and her husband, Jerry, have done, Sherry having the vision and Jerry the skill and muscle to make it happen.

Sherry served us coffee and muffins on her generous porch. From there, looking across the peaceful blue swimming pool, we could see the martin condominiums with birds flying in and out the openings. Some would take to the sky while others were taking care of housekeeping.

“There really aren’t many today,” said Sherry anxiously. “Ya’ll should have come sooner when the place was packed.”

“We didn’t come just to see the birds,” Susan assured her.

“And anyway, it seems pretty lively to me,” I added. “We certainly don’t see them at our house.”

“There’s a nest with eggs about to hatch, I think,” said Sherry pointing to one of the martin mansions.

“Well, they’ll have to stay a while longer then,” I said. “They’ll have to wait for those babies to grow enough to fly with the rest.”

“That won’t take long,” said Sherry. “You know how fast our children grow. They grow up overnight.”

That brought on discussions and stories about grandchildren. Pictures were passed around. We became so enthusiastic we almost forgot about the birds.

Then I noticed the sounds of chickens clucking and chuckling around the porch, tending to their morning’s work.

“Hens laying these days?” I asked.

“We get some day by day. Enough for an omelet now and then. Jerry gathers them. One day when I was fetching the eggs I found a big gray snake in the nest with an egg half swallowed. I let the snake have it. Had nothing in my hands to finish him off with!”

I shuddered.

Susan remembered her own recent snake story. “I went in a shed at the back of our house to get a tool. Reached up and plucked it off a hook and turned to go out when suddenly something came down across my head–a sizable snake!”

“How long was it?” asked Sherry.

Susan held up her hands to indicate eighteen inches, then laughed. “Johnny says it was only this long,” she said sizing down to about six inches.

Sherry insisted on our getting more coffee. She, being very short of breath because of a lung disease, let us serve refills for ourselves.

The martins were busy again, some wheeling in the sky, others flying into their homes. Some were sitting on their porches, like us. We talked about their distinctive shape, their deep black shimmery color and their ability to one day simply pick up all their luggage and go to a distant land in Central or South America. We marveled at how God has made every creature able to take care of itself. How can the birds know where to go? How do they make such a long journey? We’d never be able to do that (without all our super aids). But “we” can build martin houses–and skyscrapers!

“One day we’ll look out and there will be no martins,” said Sherry. “Just all their empty houses. And Jerry will go to work repairing and cleaning out their homes. So they’ll be ready when the birds come back.”

“And about when is that?” I asked.

“Maybe about March. Early spring. We look out one day and there are a few scouts flying around, then soon there’s a flock wheeling, building nests and all.” She laughed. “One day I was sitting here watching and this one bird flew up to his door with a stick about a foot long. It was a show watching him force that stick into the small hole but he did it.”

It was a very good morning. Susan and I agreed it was one of the most fun visits we’d ever been on. As we drove back to town full of coffee and muffins and blessed with good conversation, we remarked that this was really life, taking time to stop and watch the birds with friends.

 

 

 

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Give Them a Jar

 

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One of the three explorers, a young Indiana Jones

First, they found a worm. They wanted a jar to keep the worm, and wanted to know what he’d eat. Fortunately, I had an empty large chunky roasted peanut jar. The trio of explorers (made up of a four-year-old future Indiana Jones, a six-year-old nurturing “little mama,” and a seven-year-old “curious George” little girl) was ecstatic. A bucket of ice cream would not have thrilled them nearly as much.

They piled leaves and grass around the worm and began to argue over to whom he belonged, each one aggressively claiming him. And, yes, they argued about whether “he” was male or female until one sang out “she” was birthing babies. My instruction on worms’ reproduction was totally ignored.

Retreating to the kitchen to prepare supper, I heard an eruption of squeals. They had found a centipede, the best worm ever. This one was vigorously claimed by Curious George who declared she had found him first. I tried to interject a lesson in etymology concerning the meaning of the word “centipede,” but this lesson, too, was rebuffed. Who cared how many legs he had? He was “darling” anyway. For the first time in my seventy-four years I was watching a girl “cuddle” a centipede in her hand crooning sweet nothings in his “ear.”

After supper, with dusk moving in, I spied fireflies flashing signals. After I demonstrated my skill in catching fireflies, the children were “turned on.” They quickly learned how to let fireflies light on their hands, then transfer them to the jar without hurting them. The sight of the children dashing here and there amongst ground cover, lilies, and bushes squealing with delight as they caught the lights made me very happy. And perhaps these lively lights would make them forget to cuddle worms.

It didn’t happen quite like that. The trio decided they should let all the fireflies fly, a commendable decision. So they set the jar open on the patio and watched from the porch to see them fly away. They checked on their worms then to be sure they were all there. I heard Little Mama say with tender passion, “I always wanted my very own pet.” A reminder that she has three dogs, two cats, and a horse at home meant nothing to her. They weren’t hers, she said. This worm was hers.

I was really bad. I refused to have the worms as house pets. In fact, I insisted on warm sudsy baths all around for all team members.

Next morning, first thing, all three went to check on their worms. All worms were accounted for and still alive. Except for the imaginary babies one worm had made.

After breakfast I gave the trio a list of things to find: something rough, something smooth, something hard, a straight stick, etc. Young Indiana Jones found the stick, a six foot bamboo cane ( I better specify the length next time!), which he proceeded to twirl hazardously, causing considerable havoc. The girls fought over what was smooth and what was hard. In the process of chasing down scavenger hunt items, one explorer found a fat white grub and took him into the jar fold.

Even after diligent scrubbing of hands, aided by big sister Candi (who had returned from her own adventures as a vet assistant), it was doubtful the crew was really clean enough for eating homemade chicken pot pie at lunch. But I have to say, all that hard scientific work, along with many rounds on the bikes, made the explorers quite hungry.

The discovery of a sizable box turtle in the afternoon broke the wormy concentration for a little while. I tried to launch into one of my favorite subjects–the uniqueness of the turtle’s (and all creatures’) design, but found myself talking to the cats after the children had scattered on a new mission. They were trying to find the rest of the turtle family. Curious George had taken the leadership and was convinced she would find another turtle in the reeds, under the nandina bushes, or maybe in the ivy, somewhere real soon. The explorers lasted about ten minutes on that expedition before returning to their study of worms.

I wonder what these three will be applying themselves to in another ten or fifteen years. Probably not cuddling worms! Will they even remember all the fun they had with a plain old jar? I hope so!

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Saturday Night Shoes

via Daily Prompt: Buff

My parents were very strict about our preparations for Sunday. For Mamma, it meant we must cook all afternoon on Saturday and be sure everyone’s clothes were washed and ironed crisply and neatly. For Daddy, it meant shining shoes and buffing them to a fare thee well.

My shoes in 1946 were not little strappy things nor were they slide-ons or wedged heels. For little girls, as I was then, my shoes were usually brown leather oxfords with shoe laces. I wore them the rest of the week running and skipping up and down the hills of North Georgia, scarring rounded toes on roots and rocks. They became thoroughly scuffed by Saturday so it took a lot of energy to buff them to suit my Dad.

Dad would gather six or eight of us kids around him and provide one flat can of shoe polish to share and one polishing rag. He would supervise to begin with, then drift away to something more worthy of his time.

I can smell the shoe polish right this minute. It wasn’t a bad smell, in fact I really liked it, sort of an expectant smell, getting ready for something special. What I didn’t like was getting shoe wax on my fingers. Invariably, no matter how I tried, I ended up with that dark brown shoe polish under my fingernails. So then, even after an older sister scrubbed my hands raw, I’d still have ugly nails for going to church. I wondered sometimes which was worse, scuffed shoes or ugly nails.

After spreading the wax around the toe of a shoe, then along each side, you tackled the turn around the heel. If Daddy had disappeared by then, I was mighty tempted to skip the heel. Who would be looking at the heels of my shoes? Daddy would. Yes, if I dared to skip a heel, Daddy would certainly notice. He told us very firmly that heels were, in fact, more important than toes. If someone saw your toes shining but your heels looking dull, you would be known at once as a hypocrite.

I wasn’t sure, at the age of four or five, what a hypocrite was. But it certainly sounded very bad so I learned to go ahead and buff my shoes all the way around.

Polishing, or buffing, was the fun part. We competed with each other to see who could raise the most sparkling shine, whisking a soft cloth back and forth over the leather. My older brothers said I shouldn’t have any trouble buffing my shoes because they were so little, so much smaller than theirs. But by the end of winter, my shoes were so badly scarred I needed to polish them twice to get a good reflection in my toes.

Every year in September Mamma ordered our new shoes from either Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards. One year when I was about nine I had two horrible sores on my right foot, so bad that I couldn’t wear my new shoes. I loved new shoes so much that I begged to be able to wear just my left shoe. But Mamma said I’d wear one out faster that way, and Daddy said with a twinkle in his eyes that I’d end up with one leg shorter than the other. Anyway, the only thing good about having sores on my foot was that for a couple of weeks I didn’t have to buff my shoes.

When I was eleven Daddy lowered a terrible ultimatum on me. He said I could no longer go barefoot even in hottest summer. My feet, he said, deserved my taking care of them so that when I was a lady they would be pretty. Even now, I love to kick off my shoes and ramble the house barefoot. But no more running over the hills knocking nails off my toes on stones and roots.

I’m thankful my Daddy cared enough about all of us to teach us to take care of our shoes and our feet. I’m glad he taught me to shine my shoes until I could see myself in my toes. But I’m also glad he taught us to take special care of our heels and, philosophically, pointed us to the understanding that character is portrayed by what you do when no one is watching.

 

 

 

 

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Chasing Fireflies

Every evening after supper (before I was deemed big enough to wash dishes) I chased fireflies with two older brothers and a younger sister. The grass was cool and damp under our bare feet. The bitterish smell of boxwood wafted in the air when we dashed around the corner of the house. The sun might just have set and the dusky last light of day was perfect for spying the little blinking “airplanes” of the night.

I learned how to catch them and how to hold them gently. If you possess a firefly too aggressively it will kill him and, not only will his light be gone, but you will smell a strong offensive odor on your hands even after you wash with Octagon soap.

We were fascinated by the lightning bugs (same as fireflies) and did sometimes collect several in a pint jar to glow in the night. But our parents, especially Mamma, were adamantly opposed to any perceived cruelty to any creature, so we always let them fly away before too long. Our fascination didn’t go so far as to our doing any scientific studies. Catching them and watching them was enough.

When Charles and I moved to our pre-Civil War house on South Broad, Cairo, in the ’70’s, we discovered there were no fireflies there. I wondered why there were no lights blinking as twilight deepened, and I missed them. Our children didn’t have the fun of chasing fireflies at our house. Then, forty-two years later, we moved across town and, as that first summer approached, here came the fireflies. I was absolutely delighted. I don’t know what is different about this yard that they like so much more. Maybe it’s a little more moist or perhaps there’s vegetation that draws them. Anyway, we love to sit on our porch in the early evening and watch the lights come on.

Since we’re a bit older now, maybe even a tiny bit wiser, we’ve become very interested in the “life and times” of the firefly. We’ve found far more information than will fit in this blog. But here are a few facts and observations I jotted down from the “glowing” reports I read!

The firefly has a 2-week mating season annually. Each species has its own flash pattern. Charles has identified a pattern displayed by our fireflies, a certain glow down low, then a dip upwards and up again until he’s even in the leaves of the maple tree. But the gruesome fact about the patterning is that the females of the Photuris species replicate the patterns of another species of males, lure them with their sparkle, then eat them. So much for sweet romance!

The quantity and quality of firefly mating is affected by factors such as moisture, temperature, and the fullness of the moon.

In case you wanted to know something about the firefly’s geneology, I should tell you their cousins are the luminescent glow worms which are also in the Lampyridae family. How’s that for an identifying last name?

Now for the life cycle of a firefly. North American fireflies spend two years underground as larvae. No flashing there, just darkness and gloom and the smell of earth. (Except for some species that actually do glow even in the earth, like their glow worm cousins.) But the wicked truth is that even at this stage some of these little critters are cold blooded killers. Some species have a numbing venom they can inject into unsuspecting snails and slugs before they move into their shells or bodies and eat them from the inside out. Not exactly a neighbor you’d want to be cozy with.

I hasten to say there are more than 2,000 species of the firefly worldwide, and some are not as mean as others.

But back to the life cycle. After the larvae stage the firefly goes into the pupa stage (not to be confused with pupil!). In this stage he emerges from the ground and, in the case of some species, creeps and crawls up the bark of certain trees. There, one fine evening, the pupae become fireflies/lightning bugs. Just for your information, these little flying black and orange insects aren’t flies and neither are they bugs. They are beetles.

So we’re back to the beautiful stage, the stage where we can reach out and let a “beetle” land on our hands. We can watch this little lightly striped creature crawl up a thumb and fly away, or we can capture him in a jar for a longer look. He certainly doesn’t appear to be evil.

A firefly’s entire purpose is to produce more fireflies. (He doesn’t realize God made him to bring cheer to humans.) When the female lays her eggs on the bark of a pine tree she lays about one hundred which will sift and shift to the ground where the cycle begins again.

Usually lightning bugs are not in sync when they light up. We see one here and then one there, one low, then one high. Males light their signal as they fly from a lower position to a higher place while females supposedly give their communicative answering blink from shrubbery where they seductively hide. But there are two areas in the world where fireflies do light simultaneously: the Great Smoky Mountains and Southeast Asia. In the Smokies the show is so predictable and wonderful that campers annually descend on places like Elkmont, Tennessee to observe the fireworks from blankets and folding chairs. In Asia the fireflies, several species of the genus Ptereoptyx, light simultaneously in mangrove trees and nipa palms. Sometimes, according to reports, one can see a whole tree lit up at once.

We’re in awe of the dedicated scientists who have figured out all these facts by spending night after night prone in wet grass, or digging in the earth, studying tediously in their labs, even watching a pupa “caterpillar” eating his prey.

We are in awe, too, of the fascinating life and times of the firefly.

But we’re most in awe of Almighty God Who must have smiled when He first sent a pair of fireflies into the moist air from his thumb or wrist.

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A Visit With Some Hogs

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Oak trees met overhead making sunlight flicker on our truck as Charles drove us toward Metcalf, Georgia. A small voice behind me asked, “When will we be there, Grandaddy?” Kaison (4) and I were having a field trip with Grandaddy. He was going to the Stringers’ Farm to test some hogs and then to the sale barn in Thomasville to cast his eye on a hundred or so cows.

I couldn’t help remembering some of the early hog days when things were quite different.

The first time I saw my husband groveling in the mud at the back end of a 500 pound sow I thought, is this his reward for all those nights nailed to the chair in the pantry off our tiny kitchen in Athens? Is this what he prepared for when he was taking all those ologies (Histology, Microbiology, Hematology) and spending forever hours in labs? But even that day as we rode home with the smell of hogs thick in his first practice car, I could tell Charles was happy in an indescribable way. Yes, he’d be quick to clean up when he got home. He wasn’t really fond of the mud or the squeals. But he loved relieving pain and making things better for patient and client. That day he’d delivered one little pig that was holding up the traffic so ten more could not make it out the tunnel to life.

He got hog calls day and night (of course, lots of other kinds of calls too!). He tested hogs for brucellosis and pseudo-rabies (keeping hogs and humans healthy), delivered pigs, came home with mud in his hair, climbed over all kinds of fences, kept a hammer with him for repairing gates, and always kept up a running conversation with the client and a whole peanut gallery of onlookers–that is, if the squeals weren’t at top level. He became convinced that at the full of the moon pigs squealed louder and longer.

On any given Saturday he might be found at Cairo Animal Hospital “cutting” pigs or giving shots in the back of Cleveland Copeland’s trailer. Or while we were lunching at home there might be a rattle and a squeal announcing the arrival of a hog owner seeking help. He also worked the huge farrowing houses where he’d work all day or maybe two or three days a season.

But then hog prices plummeted and finally they all but left Grady County. Now his hog calls are few and far between. But he does still receive them. Sometimes he chuckles when he says he’s going to “do” hogs because it may only be six instead of 306.

That was the case this day when Kaison and I rode with him. Kaison had mainly seen hogs in a book and I wanted him to meet one face to face.

A big old Hampshire boar hog came snorting up to the fence and Kaison, our very trusting one, started to reach out and pet him. I stopped that, explaining that one doesn’t pet big fat hogs. “Why?” “Well, because–he might take a bite of your shirt, Kaison.” Kaison looked at his shirt and seemed to be thinking he could let the hog have a bite of his shirt. Just then the sow Charles and Mr. Stringer were taking blood from and clamping an ear tag on let out a scream that would quite easily have reached Shanghai. Kaison clapped hands over his ears and gave up trying to pet the hog.

Kaison wondered about the big holes in the lot where Mr. Hog lived. When I told him the hog had dug those holes of course the next question was why. He wondered why Lady Hog was hollering so loud. He wondered why the hogs were different from each other. He wondered why Grandaddy had to take the sows’ blood. He wondered why the hogs didn’t want their shots. He wondered why the hogs were running away so fast when they were set free.

A wonderful child full of wonder! I tried to answer all his questions. I hope he’ll remember the day he visited the hogs with Grandaddy and Nana. And his visit to the sale barn too where he and Grandaddy walked together on the long boardwalks overseeing the backs of so many cows, black ones, black and white ones, brown ones, cows with long horns, cows with no horns, lots and lots of cows. He may remember the most eating applesauce (his choice!) at Chick Fil A and playing in their playground.

 

 

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Springtime Treasures

Someone told me she was collecting waterfalls. She meant that she and her husband hunt for accessible waterfalls, she takes pictures, and then can recall each trickling or thundering one of them. I was intrigued. Now there’s a collection that would be such fun to build and wouldn’t have to be dusted. The same could be said for a collection of springtime treasures, even without the pictures. See if some of mine are in your collection.

  • A hillside covered with daffodils…Was it Robert Loveman who wrote “It’s not raining rain to me, it’s raining daffodils”?
  • A Japanese magnolia in full vibrant bloom, its pink blossoms of various shades the shape of tulips. (Of course our wonderful corner tree is in full leaf now but a few weeks ago it was a glorious sight and many neighbors mentioned how it cheered them on their way.)
  • Azaleas of pink, red, fuchsia and white blooming in stages so we enjoyed them for months. They were so beautiful, it made me want to do something!
  • Purple wisteria looking like bunches of Caleb’s grapes high in a pine tree letting us know we haven’t gotten rid of all the vines yet.
  • A bluebird reveling in a merry splash of fresh cool water in the bird bath.
  • A mother hen followed by fluffy yellow cheeping biddies. I’m remembering the spring when my two kids were little and talked me into getting them biddies at the feed store. Thunder and Lightning, they named them!
  • A mulberry tree alive with birds and squirrels nibbling on new leaves and berry buds.
  • A little child offering a fist full of iris blossoms, the ones which you’d finally coaxed into blooming.
  • A wide field with rows and rows of tiny corn blades barely showing against the Georgia red soil.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal literally sharing a worm right before my eyes (now as I write this).
  • A hummingbird finding our feeders and whirring off to tell his neighbor.
  • White puffy clouds piled high in a perfect blue sky with sunlight casting shadows so the clouds look to have valleys and caves and mountain slopes.
  • Strawberries and tomatoes and crookneck squash displayed in abundance at the market.
  • My Mamma years ago happily planting her garden; the smell of disturbed tomato plants trying to put down roots; or the smell of tiny wild strawberries on our fingers after we’d picked enough for a shortcake.
  • The sheer happiness of my two whittling brothers making whistles of sourwood when the springtime made the wood supple and right–and their vigorous competition to see whose whistle blew the loudest.
  • The first pot of fresh English peas on Mama Graham’s stove and Papa Graham in his overalls hoeing grass out of the peas and corn.
  • The scent of fresh mown grass and wild onions.
  • The sight of my veterinarian standing at the door covered literally head to toe with blood, mud, and whatever else a herd of cows causes–and grinning from ear to ear, ready for a shower and supper.
  • At Pinedale, my home place, bluets on Tulip Hill, flame azalea by a north window, the sound of tree frogs as we went to sleep, the huge crabapple at the east turned from a wintry black skeleton into a fantastic pink princess.
  • At Lane of Palms, our home for forty-two years, red azalea bright against pine and palm, blueberries budding, jonquils around a northern pecan tree, a dog named Sam, red Irish setter floppy ears flying as he chased a bumble bee, and day lilies putting on a show along the driveway.

Now back to the collector of waterfalls, I wish I could remember who that was so I could find out how many she found, where they are, and what their names are. Ever hear someone talking about a waterfall collection? I think they’d have to choose some of the ones we know: Toccoa, Ruby, Dry, Amicalola, Panther Creek….

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:12

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Springtime in New York

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It was cold viewing the Statue of Liberty

Before we left on our spring break trip to New York, I said humorously, “New York will never be the same again!” And now that we’re home, Charles and I in Cairo, our daughter-in-law Christi and our three grandchildren in Birmingham, I realize how true that prophesy was. I’m not silly enough to think anyone is going to find our six sets of footprints on the concrete streets, the elevators, escalators, boats, buses, restaurants, museums, Ubers and taxis. But, to us, New York will never be the same again. We have a newer, clearer, truer picture of the social/arts/heartbeat city of our nation.

 

We studied dinosaur skeletons, Egyptian mummies, and African mammals at the Museum of Natural History. We took the Statue of Liberty cruise and did due homage to the beautiful iconic statue; we read about the plight of immigrants at Ellis Island, and enjoyed an extensive harbor cruise with a guide who filled us in on facts, scandals, and myths as he talked about bridges, buildings, and politics. We rode sightseeing buses all around the city always finding seats on top. Even in the rain we had glass over our heads and could see the streets full of yellow taxis, could view tall buildings crowding the sky, Radio City Music Hall, Trump Tower, the theater district with familiar titles that peaked our interest, and beautiful Central Park.

It was raining the afternoon we walked in Central Park but that was one of our must-see places so we did it anyway. It was still winter there the last week of March. Tree limbs were bare and brittle looking against a gray sky. But jonquils bloomed here and there. And quite often we spied patches of snow left from the blizzard two weeks before. It was cold and windy as we posed on a bridge in our ponchos for our picture in Central Park. As we walked back towards a street where we might catch a cab I could hear Mattie (8) behind me repeating plaintively every few feet, “But where is the playground?”

We went to a basketball game (Knicks vs. Pistons) in Madison Square Garden. We hugely enjoyed seeing our grandsons choose jerseys in the gift shop and we all, of course, rooted for the Knicks. We had delicious hotdogs and popcorn while watching the game from excellent seats. The fanfare and hoopla were up to all expectations, so colorful and festive. And the Knicks won!

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Central Park on a rainy day

We started out early on our last whole day in New York headed for the Empire State Building. This was one of our all-around favorite adventures, I think. We loved seeing the city, the harbor full of boats, the many bridges, everything, from the top. From there we took an Uber to Ground Zero.

 

The memorial to victims and heroes of 9/11 is so well done. And the museum, to me, is a must for a visitor to New York. We chose to do the self-guided tour which took about an hour and a half. The whole experience is horrendous, touching, and forever memorable. Through the use of videos, posters, pictures, pieces of walls, airplanes, personal things like a backpack or a purse, we were given a composite of the terror of that fateful day in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. A banged-up burned fire truck is there to remind you of those brave responders who climbed stairs to help others, knowing they wouldn’t be seeing the light of day again on this earth. As we entered the museum, we became very quiet in respect. There was no sound of laughter or chattering, just soft voices of explanation as we all tried to grasp the magnitude of what had happened and explain it to the children. The part which made tears well in my eyes was the sound of voices repeating their loved ones’ names at a memorial ceremony: “My father __________, my husband ________, my sister__________…” Our three children were really respectful and interested and I was so proud of them.

We really packed a lot into that last day. We had high tea at the Russian Tea Room at 3:00 in the afternoon. Charles tried to dash a little politics into the mix but didn’t get far! We all were treated like royalty in this extravagantly decorated place with soft music playing. We ate tiny sandwiches, little cakes, and drank our tea with pinkies curled.

All my life I’ve heard and read about Broadway plays but never been to one. Well, now I have! We went to see Lion King and had center mezzanine seats looking right down on the stage. I’d seen the movie over and over with different ones of the grandchildren so I was really curious as to how the actors would present this live performance. It was magnificent! The animals were all in character, either people with masks or people with lifesize puppets and other such inventive ways of bringing life on the stage. Sound and lighting and stage props made the desert so real and the hyenas so horrible! Charles had particularly intended to wear his hearing aids that night to be able to hear all the lines but—he forgot them! And he could hear anyway, the sound system, acoustics, and all were so good. I was truly charmed by young Simba and Nala, such cute children playing those parts.

When we left the theater to walk back to our hotel, Time Square was lit like daytime, or even brighter. We felt safe walking the street and enjoying one last evening of the competitive sounds of taxi cab horns, the tall lit buildings, the mass of humanity.

So how is my view of New York changed? First of all, everyone was very friendly and helpful, contrary to my idea of folks in big cities. Second, I knew the city was full of tall buildings but I couldn’t imagine one could ride for miles and miles and still be surrounded by tall buildings. Third, the masses—so many people of so many different cultures! I kept thinking as I’d look into their faces and wonder if they were just getting off work or were going to meet someone special or were like us, strangers in town—I’d think every person, every single person, is someone for whom Christ died, but only a few know that. Fourth, I felt a deep respect for law enforcement employees, more than ever before. And fifth, I’m more convinced than ever that we live in the most beautiful blessed area of the whole earth, our little corner of Southwest Georgia! But I do miss being able to go up so high and look out far and wide. And we miss the friendly Uber drivers.

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A street scene in Chinatown

We all talked about our favorite part of the trip as we waited to board the plane back to Atlanta. Some enjoyed the Ninja Restaurant the best, some the Empire State Building, others the river and harbor cruises. But one of the things I’ll always cherish is the sound of our three Graham grandchildren enjoying games of Author cards and Categories in our neat room on the 12th floor of the RIU Plaza Hotel.

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