Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Cat Story

            I’m including in my book called “Riding Shotgun” a chapter about our own pets. Everyone is interested in what kind of animals their veterinarian goes home to. Here’s one segment of that chapter I’d like to share with you.

            Fussy was our first pet to share, a cat Charles acquired during a working summer in Atlanta. After that summer I kept her at my home in Clarkesville until we got married that December. Then she moved into our tiny Athens apartment with us where she provided worlds of entertainment. It might have been a small apartment but she figured out how to run and leap and attack from under the bed and hide in the closet and generally to make of it a “deep, dark forest” or a New York borough, certainly a place of adventure. When Charles was buried in his books on histology, anatomy, poisonous plants and parasitology, Fussy kept me company purring in my lap, swatting at my knitting needles, and chasing my pencil when I dropped it.

            When we moved to our first house (a rented one) in Cairo in 1968, Fussy was there for me. Charles was gone for long, long hours and Fussy, along with the wonderful little person growing inside of me, kept me quite occupied. Even before William was born, neighbors would prophesy that Fussy was going to be a handful when the baby came. “You’ve spoiled her rotten,” they’d say. “She’ll smother that baby when your back is turned.”

            The house we lived in had inherited a dog, a collie named Laddie who had belonged to former renters. The Wards across the street fed him. Mary said she told the family she would feed Laddie. But Laddie didn’t move to her house. He stayed on our open carport. Whenever I let Fussy out, she’d investigate Laddie and they were good to each other. But I didn’t let her out much. She had free range in the house, perching in window sills to watch the birds, hiding under beds when she didn’t want to be found, lying on soft pillows and, often, in my diminishing lap, or even on top of my bulge.

            When William was born, Fussy was very curious. She’d sniff the baby, edge carefully around him. I watched her very closely. I loved my cat. But I loved my baby more and I wouldn’t let anything happen to him. One day when he was two or three months old and beginning to move a lot, I noticed Fussy was ever more interested. She sat by his infant seat when I set it on the floor watching his every movement. I realized one day that I could not afford to turn my back on the two of them for fear she would attack a little tender hand or rake one paw down a sweet little cheek.

            “Okay, Fussy, today you are going to stay outside until 5:00,” I told my gray striped cat the next morning. “It won’t be so bad. You need to learn to enjoy the outside as well as the inside.”

            She howled from one window to the next all around the house for hours. I steeled myself to wait one more hour before letting her in. It would be best for her and for me and for Baby William. I slid a pie into the oven and opened the door calling jubilantly, “Fussy! It’s time! Come here, come on in.” But there was no Fussy. When had I last heard her crying at the window? Charles and I both hunted for her that night, and the next day I called and called her all around the neighborhood. Then Dot Crozier, a neighbor, heard me calling her and stopped by looking stricken. “Brenda, your cat’s missing? I—I think I saw her out on Highway 84 yesterday—she’d been run over. In fact, I moved her off the highway. So she wouldn’t get—you know, mutilated. But I didn’t recognize her at the time. I didn’t realize it was your cat. I thought your cat was always indoors. Oh, I’m so sorry!”

            She was right. I went where Dot directed me and there was my cat, my poor stiff cat. I wrapped her in a towel and hauled her home where Charles tenderly buried her under a pine tree. I could not stop sobbing for a week. Why had I put her out so long? Why hadn’t I figured out a better way to handle the situation? Nothing Charles could say entirely took away the sting of guilt and sorrow. In a way, I’ve never gotten over losing dear Fussy, though there have been many more losses that were also very sad. Aside from mourning the demise of many of our own pets, I’ve mourned both on the phone and in person, with bereft pet owners. I can honestly and fervently tell them I identify with their grief.

              The best picture I have of Fussy is one I took when we were packing to go away for the weekend and she got in the suitcase and just sat there staring calmly and steadfastly at me with those brilliant yellow eyes of hers.




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Focusing on Collections

I didn’t really start out to collect lighthouses. They were so appealing, though, bright and cheerful beacons to steer ships to safety, all so different, representative of rocky or otherwise dangerous points around our vast shoreline. I have now a very modest collection of lighthouses from favorite coasts we’ve visited and from others where sisters and friends have gone and brought me mementos. I have, among others, one from Maine, several from St. Simon’s Island, one from Cape Canaveral, one from Aruba, my newest one acquired last summer on a memorable family vacation.

I didn’t plan to collect bottles either. My first one, I think, was a smelling salts bottle used by my great aunt De, an oddly shaped bottle with a stopper in the top. I have a great interest in things of the past and I’d included Aunt De in some of my writing. Her character has been immortalized by family stories, such as her love of many cats and how she cooked rats to feed them. Then there were several colorful little bottles we found at our old place Lane of Palms. Seeing my enjoyment of interesting bottles, my son William at a very young age, purchased an old (very old) flask-type mayonnaise bottle at an antique store and gave it to me for Christmas. Naturally, that is now a treasure. Being a Georgian, I was excited when I acquired one of the original small coke bottles. And so it went!

Everyone who loves to pick up seashells on the beach also enjoys keeping at least some of them. Early on, I realized my desire to keep seashells was going to require some kind of heavy discipline. I found a large, two-foot-high clear bottle perfect for collecting seashells and I became very selective about what I’d bring home. My collection includes at least one shell or small stone from every seashore I’ve visited whether St. George Island, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska, the rocky coast of Maine, the shores of Lake Superior, the Oregon Coast, the shores of the Sea of Galilee and even the Dead Sea, and the intriguing beaches on the island of Aruba. More than once, someone has offered to give me his/her shells so I can go ahead and fill my bottle to the top. But no! This is my collection and the main fun is in building it. When my bottle is full, I’ll have to stop bringing shells home!

My sisters collect dolls so I steered away from that area of accruing. But somehow I’ve ended up with a few treasures I can’t readily part with: two or three from my childhood, one beautiful doll from Savannah, Georgia who looked at me from amongst her antique companions and simply said she must go home with me. Her name is Savannah. Then there are the skaters I used only to bring out for display at Christmas until one year I couldn’t bear to cover all their little bright faces up and decided they must skate all the year around! My favorite doll is one my sister, the doll dressmaker, clad in clothes to represent our mother when she was a blonde-headed farm girl. I wrote the fictionized version of my mom and dad’s romance,(“Juliana of Clover Hill” pictured below) and Juliana dressed in blue gingham is just about the height of that colorful paperback.


The collections I really planned to do were those of postcards and thimbles. Everywhere my husband and I have gone for many years now can be remembered by a thimble in my collection displayed in an old printer’s tray, and/or by at least one postcard. Sisters and brothers and others have brought me thimbles from their travels as well, so I have one for many of the states, for several countries, and for other categories, such as wildflowers, Christmas, and historical sites. My most unusual one is the one my sister Pat gave me. It’s a small regular, real thimble, dark grey metal. She said the lady who gave it to her had been given it by her grandmother who sat as a child on Abraham Lincoln’s knee!

Books don’t even count as a collection. Books are simply a part of one’s life. That is another topic entirely. Same for pictures, scarves, hats, etc.

Some things I’ve learned recently about collections: they’re easier to write about than to move, they’re much more interesting to the collector than to anyone else, and they are fun reminders of happy experiences and wonderful people. I’ve realized museums would be hard-pressed without collections, but we don’t want our house to be a museum!

The culmination of this little feature on collections is to remind myself that moderation in collections is wise, that we don’t necessarily need physical reminders to help us enjoy events and people, and that letting go of things is sometimes very, very wise.

Hey, there are very interesting collections one can make that take up almost no space. For instance, a collection of interesting bumper stickers or odd names of businesses or apropos names of professional people, like the surgeon named Dr. Payne. But the best collection we can make is the memorization of poems and of scripture. Now that collection will stand you in good stead when you’re stuck somewhere without your Bible, or trying to go to sleep in the wee hours, not to mention horrific times like sitting by someone in the hospital.

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Smile! Make People Wonder!

We’re moving this weekend. Really, we’re moving every day and have been for weeks. When have I not been packing and unpacking boxes? No wonder I was talking in my sleep about the curtains hanging upside down and no surprise that when I woke up my husband was shaking me and telling me to get a grip, that the bear coming after me was only him coming back from the bathroom. I always get like this when things are in disorder.

But several things have happened today that have given me a good laugh. And if you’re not too tired to laugh, you’re all right. So–here’s one of my laughs. I was on my way back to house #2 having emptied ten boxes when I realized my thirst was completely out of hand and that I was so tired I needed a cemetery break. Wait a minute, now that’s not the laugh! I have always felt rested after a fifteen minute visit to Cairo’s old cemetery where I can reconnect with God and myself. So I drove through Burger King, purchased a coke and parked in a wonderfully shady place under some magnolia trees. I put down the windows to enjoy the refreshing breeze, whispered a prayer for strength, sipped my coke, then suddenly was powerfully drowsy. So I put back my seat and went to sleep. Well, first I stuck my purse under my feet so no one would reach in and take my identity. I was sleeping so well when a terrific shout made me fly up and almost crack my skull on the windshield. A handsome young black high school student only feet away was laughing out loud. “You scared me nearly to death!” I said and then began to laugh with him. He went on his way without another word. I was relieved he was only making me laugh, not trying to tip my car over.

I also had a really healthy smile over the crossing guard lady. I hadn’t driven that way in a while and it always does my heart so much good to see how she handles herself on that crossing, the one by the high school. She moves with as much grace as a ballet dancer and makes every driver feel very confident and encouraged–well, this driver anyway!

Then I arrived at house #1 ready to pack more boxes. This house is now beginning to have echoes while house #2 is losing its hollow atmosphere and becoming very much like home. I packed for a while, then decided to turn on my computer. The computer has to move in the morning and I thought I’d better see if there were anything I should see before who-knows-what happens. My stomach knots up at the thought of having all those wires undone and reconnected properly. It’s almost as bad as major surgery! Well, there was a message for me from Cathy at the library asking me to post a poster on all my social media opportunities. She’s doing a reception for authors at the library next Tuesday and has invited me to participate, me and my little book “One Brown Cow.” One more smile, sort of a panicky one. I don’t know how to do all these things that are so simple and cool for everyone else. So–I e-mailed Eric. Eric, I hope you’re reading this and that you can help me post!

And, by the way, all of you who live in Grady County, please come to the reception at Roddenbery Memorial Library Tuesday, April 15 at 6:00. There will be something like 22 authors on hand to greet you and enjoy a good smile. And I plan to be there if my brain is still functioning well enough so I can find my way!. I’ll be all moved in to house #2 by then, even my computer, I hope!

Apologies for publishing this, unedited!

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Leaving Lane of Palms?

When my husband and I decided about two months ago to buy a house across town and leave our dear old place we named Lane of Palms, our friends and family were aghast. They still think maybe something is wrong with us, that we’ve gone crazy, or at the very least are in the midst of some psychiatric crisis. To tell you the truth, we weren’t in the midst of a crisis before we made that profound decision to move, but we may be by the time it’s over.

We are in our early seventies and thought we’d be living at the Lane of Palms for the rest of our earthly lives unless maybe in our old age we might have to go to an assisted living home. We were very happy in our home. We love this old house, originally a log cabin built before the civil war. It isn’t on the historical registry because former owners and we ourselves have done too much to change it, make it comfortable for everyday living. For instance, the former owners bricked over the logs in the early 1950’s making it look more like a ranch style house than a log cabin. Over the 41 years we’ve lived here, we’ve added a new wing, upgraded the chimneys and fireplaces, added a pleasant ramp and deck, glassed in a side porch to make it a fun garden room, and totally remodeled a bathroom and kitchen to make them bright and efficient. That’s not to mention my lovely built-in desk and shelves where I write. And it’s not mentioning our biggest project which was to expose ancient, beautiful hand-hewn logs in an upstairs bedroom, adding chinking and making it a charming room for our grandson Charles Reeves to grow up in. 

So why leave? There are several answers I give when people ask, and I guess all of them are true. We both simply felt compelled in early December to “look” at one house which led, in January, to our finding the white brick ranch style house on a South Georgia “hill.” Was it God “compelling” us? We feel it was. Answer #2 is that we felt the need of some adventure. (Boy, did we get it!) Charles’ comical answer is that he’s moving nearer his office. He lives three miles away at Lane of Palms, but at the new house he’ll be only one mile from Cairo Animal Hospital. And Answer #4 is something like, we needed to go through our “stuff” and moving is the very best way to downsize.

But “downsize” doesn’t match our move to Ten Ten Fourth. Because Ten Ten Fourth is a much bigger house than Lane of Palms. Folks would understand if, in our seventies, we moved to a neat little cottage. But a house with four big bedrooms, a den and a living room, a breakfast room and a dining room, and a marvelous “scullery” as I’m calling the dreamy walk-in pantry and laundry room combined–no, no that’s not downsizing! Oh, and did I mention the yard? It’s at least as large as our present yard, although of course it doesn’t include a pasture and barn and a herd of goats.

As we shop Lowe’s–again!–ordering blinds for twenty windows, I am convinced we are really crazy. But tonight as I put my spices on a lazy susan shelf and stowed a crockpot in a nice roomy shelf all its own I took a deep breath of satisfaction. This afternoon I marveled at the beautiful azaleas at Ten Ten and didn’t feel disloyal to Lane of Palms until I got back here and saw slanting sunlight on the magnolia tree that’s grown so elegantly and proudly by South Broad Street.


We don’t want to leave our dear old home. But we do want to go to that beautiful new home! We’ve raised our dear two children at Lane of Palms, as well as almost raising two grandchildren. Now three more grandchildren and a handful of great-grands are running figure eights in this old house, dashing out to run the goats, examining their very own birth trees planted as each child was born, shooting baskets, having teaparties. Lots of good memories. But we plan to make lots of memories in that new house–we’re taking the basketball goal, setting up a new badminton court, taking out some shrubbery so as to have plenty of football throwing space. I can just see our whole family gathered in that big, big dining room and living room at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We won’t have to hold our breath to make room for everybody!
Leaving Lane of Palms? I guess so. But taking a lot of it with us. And that’s not just counting the three crates of photo albums!
Like Abraham of eons ago, I feel we are going with God’s blessings. And that makes it all okay.
(If I were more proficient with my blogging I’d send you pictures of our before and after houses. I need another lesson, Eric!)

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