Valentines, Both Bitter and Sweet

IMG_20180214_112846343We only really want the sweet ones. But life happens on Valentine’s Day and it isn’t always sweet.

Take February 14, 2000.

Our phone rang at 6:00 that morning, someone calling to tell me that my dear friend’s son had been critically injured, his wife and baby killed, when their mobile home took a direct hit by a deadly tornado. I hurried over to the hospital to hug my friend. She was so strong, like an oak tree with deep roots. We her friends were crying for her but she refused to be overcome. She had worked her entire career with FEMA and, though under such stress with her own family and the many friends who also had suffered loss, she took time to brag on the quick, decisive work of the rescue teams. I was so touched, too, by her smile as she said, “No hospital in the whole USA could have responded any better than Grady General has.”

My friend’s son lived, having to undergo several surgeries. His wife and baby were buried in the same casket. He, like his mother, is a strong Christian. He is active in his church. He and his second wife have adopted two wonderful children. Whereas some might be stuck asking the question “why?”, he has moved on.

Valentine’s Day, 2004, was a wonderful day, the day my brother Orman married my friend Reggie. Separated by most of the state of Georgia, Orman and Reggie met because God planned it that way. There was no other way they would have found each other. They met as senior citizens, he at 79, she several years younger. Each had lost their first mate and each had prayed that if God saw fit He would send another spouse.. Each had traveled a lot, he as a missionary, she as a military wife. Each was excited about leading Bible studies and in more traveling. Only months after they met, on a beautiful Valentine’s Day, many of us from both ends of the state met to celebrate with them at their wedding in Albany.

After the wedding, several members of my family from North Georgia, as well as Reggie’s sister Sally and her husband Wes, gathered at our house. We had dinner together, sang around the piano, had a wonderful time celebrating this second love for Orman and Reggie who, of course, were by then gone on their honeymoon. We were all so jubilant. How could anyone be sad that night?

Yet that day, too, had a very sorrowful end.

The phone rang, interrupting our joy. One of our dear church friends, very close to those in our intimate circle that night, was struck by a car while crossing the street in a dense fog. Her death sobered us all and reminded us that joy and sorrow are never very far apart.

There was the joyful Valentine’s week in 2007 when our third grandson Thomas Hamilton Graham was born. Such excitement there was as we welcomed him. Will and Christi had a family suite at the hospital where little William, three years old, could be with his parents and his new brother. Grandparents and uncles crowded in, too, on that February day to celebrate Thomas. Now he’s in the 5th grade, excels in sports, is a great student, considers being a scientist someday, and is a top notch Monopoly player. He has a keen sense of humor, too, never misses a chance to crack a joke or pose a riddle. His birthday is February 15.

One of the funny Valentine outings I remember was the year Charles and I decided to have a night out in Thomasville. I said I wanted to get out of Cairo so we could have one whole conversation uninterrupted by clients asking questions about their pets. Charles didn’t really understand my request because he loves to talk any old time with his clients. But he went along. We both thought he was off that night but as the evening developed, one emergency after another came in, either by phone or at the back door. The evening was far spent when we slid into a booth at Shoney’s. We’d barely picked up our menus when someone spoke from across the aisle, “Doc, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” Turns out, we were surrounded by sweet, interesting Grady County folks who were delighted to have the vet’s ear for their latest questions.

In the winter of 2012 I was having chemo treatments for breast cancer. Charles faithfully took me for my infusions, waiting patiently with me for long hours, entertaining the nurses with funny stories. If the timing was right we would go for a snack at my favorite deli after chemo, giving a touch of party to the day. Day after day, he did many things to make that time easier, coming home at odd times to check on me, sending me flowers, cheering me on when my hair all fell out. But the most astonishing thing he did was to take me for a private meeting with Ralph Bishop one Saturday in February. He wanted Ralph to fit me with new wedding rings since I could no longer wear the treasured ones he’d given me when we married. When I look at my diamond now, so lively with rich sparkles of rainbow colors, I’m reminded of that dark time made bright and wonderful by his love.

Our church traditionally has a Valentine’s Banquet, a fundraiser for youth summer camps. Youth waiters serve tables, plates of delicious smoked pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with a roll and then, of course, red velvet cake for dessert. After dinner the fun begins. Many cooks donate cakes, pies and other goodies to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Everyone is conscious of the cause and they become quite ferocious even in trying to make the bids go as high as possible. It’s hilarious to watch family members scrambling to outbid each other on peanut brittle, thirteen-layer chocolate cakes, dreamy coconut ones, and all the rest. Amanda is baking a couple of cakes this time so this is going to be interesting.

Valentine’s days–bitter and sweet. But one thing is always true. God’s love is sure and eternal. Whatever happens, He will be there for you.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

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Camellias in My Backyard

IMG_0136Remember–it’s heart month! Let me know in a comment if you find the word “heart” in my blog!

Ever since moving to South Georgia in 1968, I have been in love with camellias, the delicate pink Perfections and all the rest. I’ve never learned the many, many names of camellias in our beautiful Red Hills region. I was a clumsy Garden Club member who couldn’t follow directions for arranging flowers, so very soon expelled myself from the club. My interest was in describing the beauties. My favorite arrangements involved floating blossoms in a bowl or simply plopping three to five long stemmed ones in a pitcher. Of course I greatly admired those who could take flowers and accompanying greenery and make those gorgeous centerpieces.

I used to chat often with Madge Clark when we’d meet on a morning walk. She was several years my senior and had much shorter legs but she always out-walked me. She loved my walking companion, my jubilant Irish setter named Sam. And she really loved to talk about my camellias. She knew my yard because she’d been friends with the former owner, Cleo Strickland. One day she stopped by my yard just to visit the sixty or so camellias Cleo had grafted and toyed with. I well remember how humiliated I felt that day. Because that was the day Madge realized how little I knew about the camellias. She was shocked that I didn’t know their names. It was as if I had so many children and didn’t even know how to call them.

I tried after that to learn their names, the saucer size dark pinks with veins of blue, the ruffled magenta blossoms, the bright red ones with yellow stamen, the gorgeous white blooms that, when turned upside down, looked like little brides, and the delicate pale pinks who seemed so happy they could have danced right off the branches. And there were the red and pink ones I called candy stripers, and the shrub Cleo had grafted so it had three different kinds of blooms.

To this day, though, the only camellia whose name I’m sure of is Pink Perfection, the one whose blooms look like tight carnations.


This pink perfection has suffered from cold weather and common camellia enemies. But look at those buds! There’s hope!


But there are some things I know about camellias. The foliage can become yucky if the trees are not fertilized regularly and sprayed from time to time for insects and fungus. Wymond Folsom knows what the shrubs need to keep them healthy so he sprays them once a year, and Charles keeps them fertilized. Still, we don’t have the prettiest foliage always. Someone said it is almost impossible for amateur growers to avoid having some white stuff on camellia leaves but we like the leaves to be glossy and green as much as possible.


Camellias like cool weather. For us, they begin blooming in December and bloom into March. If a freeze comes, blossoms will be nipped and turn brown but new blooms will quickly take their place. In fact, already the very generous camellia by our driveway is not only loaded with blossoms but underneath is a carpet made of those which have already fallen. Recently, when Charli and Kaison were here, I found them busily collecting those discarded blossoms in a basket.

On February 14, most years, the bushes are flourishing with lovely blossoms easy to share.

That’s another thing. Camellias were created to be shared. My friend Jan and her daughter Alea for some years would come by to pick camellias to share at an assisted living place where her mother lived. Sometimes she would even bring her mother who sat and watched the goats while the others picked flowers. Who doesn’t feel their spirits lifted when they see the fresh wonderful blooms of various colors? When I take a tray of blooms to my Magnolia Place friends they make a party out of carefully choosing the very blossom they want.

We don’t have as many camellias as we used to, since we moved. But still, on Valentine’s week I hope to have a wonderful display to choose from. And this is where my heart is–in sharing them, in person or by photo, sharing flowers of pink and white and deep red with perhaps a few drops of dew clinging to some satiny petals.

Yes, Camellias are winter shrubs. They are already in bloom when the cherry begins her show and the Japanese Magnolia puts forth buds. All together they silently proclaim the beginning of spring, the season of resurrection. Even when the groundhog has just predicted six more weeks of winter.


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Hide and Seek

It’s February. Look for the word “heart” in each of my February blogs. When you see the word “heart” send me a comment and I will send you a valentine response.

It can be fun to hunt for things–like hunting Easter eggs, words in a word find puzzle, a very interesting sea shell, the very garment you’re seeking when you’re shopping, cucumbers under lush vines, the perfect view of mountains on a road trip, that very color yarn you want for knitting a sweater…..

Remember how much fun it was to play Hide and Seek? Or maybe you don’t have to rely on memory. You may still be playing! There’s hardly any game more appealing to all ages than some form of Hide and Seek. From “peek-a-boo” to some form of medieval mystery night hunting, everyone is interested in a good hunt. Even if we’re not agile enough to participate.

There’s the urge to find treasure, too, something very unusual or precious.

Charles and I were digging in a lily bed behind our pre-Civil War house years ago when Charles’ shovel clicked on something hard. We were trying to move the whole bed of lilies somewhere else in preparation for planting prickly hollies there. Our hope was that our beloved Irish setter would not prefer to smash the hollies as he had the lilies. But now what was this hard surface we’d come upon? It was wide enough to be a sizable chest.

I was sure it was a treasure chest buried over a century before. We dug with greater and greater zeal until we uncovered a large rusty saw blade with a trap box underneath. We think it was an old grease trap for the kitchen covered with what was available, a worn out circular saw blade. After getting over my disappointment that it wasn’t a box of silver or gold, I agreed with Charles that it really was a pretty interesting discovery. When we moved, we brought it with us and anchored it behind our mailbox, an indicator that we have an affection for historical objects.


My North Georgia childhood home place had been occupied by Native American Indians. My older siblings found numerous chiseled arrowheads. By the time I came along there weren’t many left. But I still have the two or three I personally found. There was always the possibility of finding one more because things like that get buried and then, as weather and foot traffic change the lay of the land, they work to the surface. Like the railroad peg our grandson found near an old railroad that hasn’t existed in 75 years.

But there’s a not-so-fun side to hunting too. Ever lost anything?

Some things, like a favorite earring or a certain blouse, you look for relentlessly, though you do know you’ll be okay without it. Other objects may be so necessary, their loss throws you into a panic. Loss of your wallet, your car keys, a certain document you need for filing your income tax return will make your pulse race as you hunt in all the obvious places and then where “I know I didn’t put it.” And when you find the missing item you really can identify with that woman Jesus talked about who, when she found her lost coin, called on her neighbors to rejoice with her.

The loss that causes the most dread and fear is the loss of a child. His mother and I lost Charles D when he was three years old. For a horrible thirty minutes in a big mall we didn’t know where he was. I can easily remember my fear as, after seeking all the safer places he could have hidden, I left the department store and walked down the mall. When I spied him coming towards me, a tiny figure in the distance, I burst into tears of thanksgiving.

Whether for fun, or to take care of our own, we are seekers. God has planted an urge to seek in our hearts. Whether curious or thirsty, we are seekers.

The wonderful thing is, God promises we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart.

I have gotten so lost trying to find an address that I just had to give up. (That was before GPS).

But those who wait on the Lord will always be rewarded.

Because, you see, He is hunting for you too!

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13


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A Kid Named Hershey

She’s not brown; she’s black. Still, Hershey is a very good name for her. She really is sweet!

Hershey became a part of the Evans family when Charles realized she’d been rejected by her birth mother, a nanny who had twins one dark night and, for whatever reason, decided to put all her efforts into only one. Charles called Amanda to see if she would like to raise a kid on the bottle and Amanda (always the nurturing one) didn’t hesitate.

Now that kid is so much a part of the family she eats, sleeps, and plays with someone all the time. One she particularly loves is Jared. She follows him around when he’s home, nipping at his trouser cuffs, piling on his chest when he tries to kick back, seeking kisses every chance she gets.. Maybe that’s why Jared recovered from the flu so quickly–so he could get back to work and leave Hershey behind. Jared isn’t big on sweets anyway.

I believe Candi is the one who said Hershey lay between her feet while she washed the dishes, which wouldn’t have been bad if she just wouldn’t nibble on her shoes.


Charli with Hershey

Hershey reminds me of our first little kid. We had not yet acquired a flock of sheep or a herd of goats. Charles helped that nanny to deliver and, just as Hershey was abandoned, so that little kid found no favor with her birth mother. So Charles brought her home. That kid was the greatest entertainment for William and for us. She was so cute, bleating for all the world like a human baby, cuddling up under my chin. One night I had the bright idea (may have been April 1) of teasing my sister in North Georgia about our kid. She knew we were on a waiting list to adopt. I would tell her we’d just gotten a kid and let the little one cry on the phone.

It worked. Suzanne was on the other end of the line screaming with excitement as the little kid bleated in my arms. When I finally told her the truth, I was the one who felt most let down, I think. The joke was on me! No matter how sweet that little goat, she couldn’t take the place of the human baby I longed for.

Amanda and her children have snuggled this baby, given her a bottle on a regular schedule, wrapped her in blankets, cleaned up her messes and practically taught her the English language. Amanda has reported proudly her weight gain, how she sticks out her tongue, her cute lovable ways. Hershey loves to run around the house, leap onto the couches, and untie everyone’s shoe laces.

But Hershey isn’t potty trained. That is becoming more and more of a concern. I’m beginning to hear war stories on her sloppy behavior. So I think soon Hershey is going to be re-introduced to a pasture. Though it may be a shock to her at first, it wont take her long to learn what to do with lots of grass and leaves and hay instead of measured amounts she’s offered. She will love sporting in the sunshine, becoming acquainted with occupants of the outdoors–birds, turtles, field mice, and the wilder side of the dogs she’s grown up with.

It won’t take her long because she was born for the outdoors, the larger space.

Hershey has been treated like a human baby and probably has been a little confused, what with dogs and children surrounding her, as to who she really is.

But, to put it simply, she’s wired as a goat. A goat she will be. And, I predict, a very happy one.

And I think Jared will be a very happy man not to have to shove Hershey out of the way in order to take a shower!

By the way, I think we, when we splash into the glories of heaven someday, will be ecstatic with our new wide open spaces, room to run, a chance for a chat with our Creator, blessings everywhere we turn including new friends and very old ones. We were born for feasting in heavenly pastures! We were wired for communing with Jesus.

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It’s All About Life

Sometimes several slices of life happen within a few hours. For instance, this weekend was like that, a celebration of life in different stages—birth, death, and some in between. See if you agree.

When we watched and listened to President Trump speaking so forcefully at the Pro Life gathering in Washington we wished he could hear us clapping at the breakfast table in our kitchen. Millions of babies have been sacrificed on the altar of selfishness and women’s rights but now the tide is turning. The cause for Babies’ right to life has a host of strong advocates including the President.

That was Friday.

On Saturday Charles D went to Home Depot with the two of us and helped us pick out new LED lights for the kitchen as well as a pretty new chandelier for the breakfast room. Then he installed all of those with his Grandaddy being the helper. At one point Charles D was trying to connect the chandelier but having difficulty because of the weight of the thing. When he realized Grandaddy was having trouble holding it high enough, he said he’d hold it and he’d tell Grandaddy how to connect—a thoughtful act noticed by his Nana.

Now. What does the chandelier installation have to do with the celebration of life? Two things. First, Charles D would not be alive to learn to be an electrician if his adopted mother had been aborted instead of given up for adoption. We would not have had the joy of being her parents or grandparents of CharlesD and his sister Amanda, who now has two children of her own. Second, it was really exciting having new lights put in! We were in a spirit of celebration as we went to Maryland Fried Chicken for supper.

When we came home, we turned on the gas logs, Charles read to me from our Rick Bragg book, and I knitted on a little blue hat. The hat is for a great great nephew about to be born in California to David and Grace Tassa. How exciting is that!

On Sunday, Sanctity of Life Sunday, we studied Psalm 139 in Bible study. It was my privilege to teach one small group of ladies. The main point was that each of us, each human life, is “remarkably and wonderfully made.” In church we were touched by the strong testimony of a graduate student in international business who was adopted at birth by one of our families. Annie Ross and her parents, Kevin and Rachelle, are living proof that God works in mysterious ways. Annie quoted some shocking statistics and eloquently praised God that she was given life.

Sunday afternoon saw us grieving at the funeral of one of our older members. Mary Ellen died at the age of 87 on her birthday. We knew she was a Christian so, as our pastor Chris Allen reminded us, we didn’t mourn as do those without hope. We know where Mary Ellen is.

Also Sunday afternoon, our youngest great grandson, Kaison, celebrated his fifth birthday with a party at the skating rink. All the cake and friends, fun and gifts were great but the best thing to him is that now he can hold up one hand and count off all fingers and thumb in giving his age.

Today we had two mighty water oaks cut down because they were rotten inside making them a hazard. It was quite a show watching the operation. There were about five men on the job all day cutting limbs and roping them down, cleaning the debris, etc. I hated to see the trees go because I do love big old oaks. But it was very interesting to watch the men working as a team to take them down with very little scarring of our yard. Thomas Tree Service is very careful and thorough. As Charles and I surveyed the cleared space, he said with anticipation, “I could plant a garden here.”

Do you agree we’ve seen a lot of Life the last few days? What’s been happening at your house?

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Cow Who Couldn’t Stand

Through almost fifty years of veterinary practice, Charles brought home some mighty interesting things. I never knew what he might have in his hands or his truck. If he’d been to Barry Lee’s on a late afternoon call he’d often have a pound of butter or a dozen brown eggs. If he’d been to Mr. Ready’s on a September day he might have an exam glove full of grapes. From any number of generous farmers and their wives he might bring tomatoes, peas, potatoes, onions, corn, squash, cabbage, greens. But one of the most unusual loads he brought home was a paralysed cow.

Former governor of Florida, Leroy Collins, had a herd of thirty or so cows on a modest parcel of land in Grady County and would call for a veterinarian from time to time to castrate calves or give inoculations. He was very tenderhearted, Charles said, and couldn’t stand to watch when the calves were being cut, would wander off to inspect a fence or something while they did their work. He was in his eighties probably, a tall slender elegant man who spoke, as one might imagine, with authority. There was no doubt he expected his requests to be filled.

One day he called and Dr. Maddox responded. Governor Collins said he had a cow who had calved and was no paralysed. Dr. Maddox gave her shots and said normally a cow with nerve damage following calf delivery would get up in several days but it could be weeks or even months.

A week later Governor Collins called and said the cow still wasn’t up. Dr. Hall, our bright red-headed veterinary employee straight from Auburn, went to help. He saw the cow up and gave her more shots. He reported that the cow was find, just couldn’t move. One night Charles told us at the dinner table that Governor Collins had called again and this time he was the large animal veterinarian on call. He told us how Governor Collins instructed him by phone to “Come down and euthanize that poor cow and dispose of her.”

“So is that what you did, Dad?” asked William slathering butter on hot homemade bread.

Charles reached for another fried pork chop and cut into it before he answered. “Not exactly. Well, see, I got there–just while ago. It was late and I had nobody to help me. The cow looked bright-eyed so I sat her up cow fashion with her feet in front. She looked good. I mean–sure, she’s losing some weight and her hide’s sort of skinned up. But, really, she looked good. So I gave her an anti-inflammatory shot and pumped her up with vitamins, refilled her watering tub and checked that she could reach her food, and left her there.”

“Did you call Governor Collins?” I asked.

“Oh, sure. I told him not to give up on her yet. At least give her a few more day.”

The next time I heard about the paralysed cow was about a week later when Charles drove into the barnyard with her. He and Noah, a big strong dark-skinned fellow who worked for us then, had managed even in a slippery light rain, to pile that cow on a little low two-wheeled trailer and bring her home.

“Did Governor Collins give you the cow, Dad?” quizzed William as he tried to help sliding her off the trailer.

Charles didn’t answer until the three guys had managed with great groaning and maneuvering to move her to a nice place under a pecan tree. Our pasture was already dotted with ten half-grown calves which Charles had taken on his half of a payment for a veterinary bill. He set the cow up “cow-fashion,” as he called it, and then leaned against his truck to catch his breath.

Taking off his hat, he ruffled his sweaty hair. “Governor Collins called and asked if I knew of a farmer who might want to fool with this cow. I told him most farmers didn’t have time to nurse one this long. But I’d see what I could do.”

Charles was the farmer who took the cow. He nursed that cow so tenderly. Well, someone who works with small animals might not perceive his actions as very tender because it takes a lot of energy and oomph to move a cow from one side to the other twice a day. He’d hold her by whatever handle he could, sometimes with William’s help, and he’d heave-ho. He’d set food and water in her reach. He sprayed her to keep insects away. And he talked to her. For six weeks.

The day that cow walked, Charles really was jolly as he told us about finding her down the far side of the pasture grazing as if it was the most normal thing to do.

When Charles tells this story he says he never charged Governor Collins for “disposing” of his cow, but neither did he report that he kept her himself. He just wanted to see if he couldn’t nurse her out of that paralysis. And, he says with a sheepish grin, when he took her along with those calves to market, he didn’t make a penny above the cost of the feed they’d all eaten!

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10

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A Lady Named Vertilee

I was reminded of Vertilee Brewer recently when one of her most faithful employees attended my sister’s 50th wedding anniversary party. I hadn’t seen Phyllis in almost sixty years but the reconnection was pure fun. She was one of my heroines back then, being just a little older than I and so knowledgeable and efficient. In my mind, she reigned as Queen over all the soda jerks at Brewer’s of whom I was one. She put up with my immaturity, yet treated me as an equal. I realized Mrs. Brewer trusted her implicitly and that was impressive. But, more than that, she was a good friend and one who had an infectious sense of humor.

But this article is about Mrs. Vertilee Brewer.

I knew her first as one of my mother’s dearest friends. On rare occasions she came to our house for a visit and Mamma was always so glad to see her. Dad had enjoyed her husband, too, until Mr. Brewer died, leaving a lively drugstore business to “Miss Vertilee.” After my Dad died they had even more in common. Mamma admired her friend for being such a successful business woman. I think Miss Vertilee admired my mother just as much for being the mother of ten.

She was a very short little lady with a piquant face and a gentle smile. She reminded me of a mother wren even though she had no children. I didn’t know until years later that she had tried to adopt one of my older sisters. I think she really wanted a child and thought my parents might have more children than they needed. Apparently, there were no hard feelings on either side over her failed attempt. Mrs. Brewer simply continued to be involved with several of us and I am one of the ones who benefitted.

When my brother Orman was preparing to go to the Philippines as a missionary he and his family lived for an interim period in the big Brewer house near the Clarkesville cemetery. Mrs. Brewer had moved over on Main Street to a smaller house. Being sixteen at the time, I was chosen as babysitter for Orman’s four kids. The oldest was ten and the youngest eighteen months, truly a challenge when Orman and Margaret were out of town for two weeks. Mamma sent my brother Stan to help me when he got off work at night. And Mrs. Brewer came at least once every day, just to see about us.

I didn’t think at the time about why she came. I was just glad she did. Her little face decorated with freckles was a welcome sight at the back door. She helped me sort the small problems (like little Joe pulling the sugar bowl over into his hair) from the big ones (like the washing machine flooding the laundry room). Much later I realized she was aware that Mamma couldn’t come into town to see about me and my flock so she would do it herself.

But I was to get to know Mrs. Brewer on a much deeper level after she gave me a job working at the soda fountain at Brewer Drug Company.

Mrs. Brewer was small in stature but she was a quiet force all the same, and when she spoke everyone paid close attention. Dr. Hardin ran the pharmacy but Mrs. Brewer ran everything else. Her office was an open one on a second half-story. She could look down from her loft and see everything that was happening in the store, from the bustling soda fountain to the magazine rack where often a Trailways bus client waited, to the long counters and handsome high cases full of merchandise, to the café tables and the television area.

It was 9:00 of a morning when Mrs. Brewer arrived at work. She came in the front door walking briskly, her valise in hand. With a smile for each she moved through the pharmacy and up to her office where she went right to work on her books. She seldom spoke from upstairs. But she would come down if she saw the need.

When she came downstairs, most often she had a particular mission in mind. A few times when I was late arriving, I became her mission. I don’t know who told her I’d been past 7:30 getting to work, but she found out. My ride to work was with my brother Charlie in his big loud logging truck and usually I was early, sometimes so early I had to wait outside for the store to open. But there were those tense times when I was late. Once, when I tried to explain to my boss that I had no control over my time of arrival, she stopped me in mid-sentence. “There is no excuse for being late,” she said and headed back upstairs.

Another lesson I learned one day during court week. The drugstore was directly across the street from the stately old red brick Habersham County courthouse. When court was in session we were flooded with coffee drinkers at break time and with luncheon clients at midday. It was quite hectic keeping up with the court crowd of attorneys in their somber suits and the many folks “come to town” over some legal matter or just to see what was going on. Particularly daunting to me were the gentlemen who would ask for “the usual.” How was I supposed to remember all the “usuals”?

So–down came Mrs. Brewer from her loft to tell me in no uncertain terms that I needed to speed up and I would have to do better remembering every person’s preference. That’s what I was there for, she said.

I worked harder.

I tried to be friendlier to the clients, get to know them better. That brought on another reprimand. Mrs. Brewer came down one day after a certain Mr. Trotter left the store. “Brenda,” she said, “don’t be fooled by gray hair and wrinkles. You don’t need to be flirting with old gentlemen. They’re more dangerous than the young ones.” I was appalled. My friendliness had been perceived as flirtation? My goodness! This thing called Life was more complicated than I’d realized.

I worked at the drugstore a couple of years between high school and college. I have fond memories of working with Phyllis and others–of trying to write tickets using the great thick Trailways bus schedule book, of learning how not to blush when ladies asked for private female supplies, of digging deep in the five gallon ice cream containers and making scoops stick firmly on the cones, and of taking inventory in January of thousands of little bottles and things.

It was a very big day when Mrs. Brewer gave me a raise so my weekly check was $20 instead of $15. And I enjoyed wearing my smart white uniforms. With my discount I was able to buy a set of luggage for going off to college and it seems to me I can hear the cheers of other employees the day my luggage arrived. Leaving the drugstore was like leaving a second family and for several years I enjoyed dropping in to see how everyone was doing–especially Mrs. Brewer.

She came to my small home wedding. After marrying a South Georgia boy and then having a baby, I had fewer and fewer chances to see Mrs. Brewer. Then Mamma let me know that her friend Vertilee was very, very sick. My husband and I went to see her. She had become even smaller. But her smile even in her pale face was warm and welcoming. We talked a few minutes about old times. Before we left she said something like, “Be good to each other.” It wasn’t long after that when Mamma told me Vertilee had died.

When my husband and I visited the restaurant called Taylor’s Trolley which at one time was located where the drugstore had been, I was glad to see the wonderful old wood cases still there. But when I looked up, there was no little Mrs. Brewer peering down from her perch.



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