Monday, February 19, 2018

"If Only I Could Write"

"If Only I Could Write"
Inspired by the Holy Spirit

            James McGrady (Jim) described being inspired by the Holy Spirit to give voice to deep yearnings to overcome separations and lostness. His response to write a prose poem led to its public reading by Pastor Drew Shelley at the close of the Society Meeting on February 11, 2018. The poignancy of the message and Jim’s backstory are published here.
During the 8:30am church service on February 11, I was restless, had trouble being attentive. Then a "headline" came to me, "If only I could Write." I jotted the term on my worship bulletin; my restlessness disappeared; I was able to focus. This all happened early in the order of worship, prior to Pastor Drew’s sermon that culminated the series on the prodigal family.
Afterward, when my wife Jackie and I got into the car, I shared the inspired headline and said I knew I was supposed to write that day, but didn't know if it would be a song, a poem, or a story. I became more comfortable with not knowing, feeling confident that, when I got home and sat down with pen and paper, the message would come. 
"If Only I Could Write" was the result, a poetic voice given to me through the Holy Spirit and written quickly with few revisions.
I thank Drew for sharing this work with worshipers at the end of that evening’s Society Meeting. I hope others see and feel what I did.
Months before composing this prose poem, I wrote two songs, "Carpenter" and "Stained Glass," and showed them to Kimberly White, hoping they will be shared publicly when the time is right. The two songs are special to me and were prompted likewise by the Holy Spirit.

"If Only I Could Write"
James McGrady
February 11, 2018

If only I could write, I would tell you I am too afraid to talk to you.
     I would tell you I am lonely, tired, and not sure I am worth your time.
            I would tell you I am ashamed of my past, so I keep to myself.

If I could write, I would send a letter to my children to say how much I miss them.
     I would tell them I am sorry I didn’t do a better job when they were young.
            Oh, if only I could write, I would tell my family how proud I am of them.

If I could write, I would let you know what a nice car I think you have,
     as I see you pull into the church parking lot. I would let you know I love
            the laughter I hear as you leave church with your family.

If I could write, I would tell you I was the person in clothes
     that don’t look so great but are all that I have.
            I would share what has happened in my life to make me who I am.

If I could write, I would be honest and let you know how much I wish
     someone would invite me in. I would let you know
            I will not hurt you. I would love to have a friend.

If only I could write, I would tell you I am alone again.  
     On the corner.  
            Sitting on the bench.  
                        Walking down the road.  
                                    Trying to get a ride.

The Parking lot is empty.        
            If only I could write.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Other Side of the Mountain
Martha K. Hale  

Growing up on a large family farm in a special place called Grassy Cove in Cumberland County Tennessee, I got to know many farm hands who came and went over the years. However, one family was always there, a constant presence in my life--the Hayes family, who worked on the John Kemmer farm for over four generations.
Our farm hands were called tenant farmers. My family provided the tenant families with a house, including the electricity, most appliances, a wood stove, a garden spot, an open well, and an outhouse--a very basic way of living. Most times they worked daylight to dark, six days a week, unless they had livestock to feed or a cow to milk; then they had jobs to do all seven days a week. In the Spring, my granddaddy, and then my daddy, would let the men go home early on Saturday to plow and plant their own gardens, using our equipment, mules, and seeds. 
     Within this setting, I want to tell about one special man who worked on our farm. The dearest tenant farmer to me was Bob Hayes. He touched my life in a profound way from my early childhood until I was a grown, married woman. His real name was Earnest Hayes, but I imagine he was always called Bob. He was often described as a true mountain man, plus he was part Cherokee--long, tall and lean with tan, leathery skin, dark eyes, and high cheekbones.
He knew the woods on the surrounding mountains like the back of his hand, especially the one right behind his house, Brady Mountain. With his natural outdoors wisdom, he knew the names of the trees and was a cracker-jack hunter and fisherman. He had the talent to find and dig ginseng then replant the seeds for another day.
On our farm, he knew what needed to be done to take care of the livestock; he shod the mules, plowed the gardens with the mules, knew when to plant, and when to harvest. On hog-killing days he oversaw the entire process from beginning to end, which is another story all by itself. He was also smart enough to take of care of the fences and the farm machinery and to do carpentry repairs on the barns and tool shed.
I never saw him without his wide-brimmed hat with its dark, mottled band of sweat all around, and wearing well-worn Liberty brand bib overalls, which he bought at our general store, J. C. Kemmer & Son, situated on TN Hwy 68 at the mouth of the cove. To complete this visual description of Bob meant that he usually had one of his hand-rolled cigarettes protruding from the corner of his mouth. Otherwise he was quick with a grin or a full-faced smile.
     I loved this wise man of my childhood. I was a dedicated tomboy, who would find any reason to get outside instead of helping my hard-working, farm-wife mother in the house or in the garden. If Bob was not driving a tractor or working livestock, I was usually right under his feet. He never made me feel like a bother, although I am sure I was.
Once he taught me how to use the grease gun on my bicycle while he was working on the hay baler. When he saw that I had grease all over me, he uttered one of his favorite sayings, "That's good for you. It'll make ya grow," and gave me one of his big smiles.
     Bob and my dad took care of the farm together along with some of Bob's sons and other workers. Daddy depended on Bob's abilities as a man-of-the-land to know when and how things needed to be done. The two of them were more like brothers than worker and boss. I look back now at how much our whole family looked to Bob to make the farm run smoothly from season to season.
Bob Hayes never crossed the doorway of the little one-room church in Grassy Cove, nor any other church as far as I knew. That plagued my mind all my life because church and faith were at the center of my growing up. Over the 40 years that I lived around Bob in Grassy Cove, I asked him on occasion to come to church with me.
Once he quoted a scripture in his explanation as to why he was not part of a church community. I remember the Proverb he cited: "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly." He also added, "I ain't done nobody bad, but I ain't done nobody good either, I guess." Regardless of his views, he had done plenty of good in my book. 
In my early 20's, after I rededicated my life to the Lord, I talked to Bob again about the status of his soul and told him I was concerned about what would happen to him when he died.
He smiled and replied, "Dying ain't no big deal. It's just going to the other side of the mountain." With that, we dropped the conversation about his eternal life.
     In 1983 my husband and I built our house close to Bob's at the foot of Brady Mountain. We treasured living nearby to this man whom we both loved and admired so much, for Bob had touched my husband, too, with his wisdom and his friendly ways.
I never knew Bob to have many health problems, except once when his appendix ruptured while he was on the tractor out plowing a field. I remember that it wasn't long before this tough mountain man was back at work after he healed from the surgery.
On September 28th, 1991, the day before my dad's birthday, Bob drove to our general store, parked his blue jeep in its usual spot, but never got out. Daddy, suspicious that something might be wrong, came out of the store and found him slumped over the steering wheel. Bob was gone.
     He was buried in the Hayes family plot which is next to that little Grassy Cove church. I hardly remember the funeral, but I do know Bob was buried in a new pair of overalls. That evening, after the funeral, I went outside to the front west corner of my house and looked over toward Bob's place. In my heart I said, "Bob, I am going to miss you so much."
At just that moment, when the thought passed through my mind, a shooting star came across the twilight sky, went right over Bob's house, then continued to glow until it disappeared over Brady Mountain. I was stunned by what I saw, and I was encouraged.

I remembered Bob's words about death which he declared to me years before, "Dying ain't no big deal. It's just going to the other side of the mountain."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Two Bags Full


Marie Shadden
September 6, 2016

                The day I gave my father two bags of marbles, some thought it a little strange. The gift reflected the stories he shared.  It seemed exactly right, on that occasion, to give him something time had taken.  Very few memories my father shared told of his own father with less than heroism.  Mostly, he told Depression survival stories.

I loved the stories he and my aunts told, but I didn’t understand why his always seemed radically different than the tales of his three sisters.  The sisters tended to have a more consistent recollection.  There were reasons I suppose.  My father was a late child and the much hoped for boy. He was born after the family migrated west in the horrid Dust Bowl drought years and before the Depression set in.  He was born in 1929 in urban California fully 15 years after his oldest sister was born in Nebraska farm country.       

One of his rare regrets was the story of the marbles.  

            He learned to play with marbles while in grade school, maybe he was seven or eight. Children could come by a few marbles even in those days. If one didn’t have glass marbles, one could use ball bearings or even carve wooden balls.  Innovation in manufacturing reduced glass marbles to inexpensive toys, but they were also magically colorful.

Marbles was the same game we played later in the 1950s.  Players scratched a large circle in the dirt and each player put marbles in the center on a little mound. Players would shoot with one of their marbles to see who would be first up. The shooter marbles were a little bigger than regular marbles. The player whose marble came closest to the opposing arc without crossing was first up.

The object was to shoot from outside the circle and try to knock marbles out. Any marbles knocked out the player kept. Sometimes games were played just for fun or “funsies” and then the marbles were returned to their owners.  It was unlikely that my dad played many funsies games. 

            He and his friends must have really liked playing marbles. “Keepers” games allowed young lads to start with next to nothing and acquire lots of marbles. An enterprising boy could become “rich” despite the raging Depression with its environment full of adult worries.

I remember my dad showing us how to hold the shooter, thumb carefully tucked under the ball. There was something about the colors or the “cat’s eye” too, but I can’t recall the meanings.  He showed us how to lift our hands a little off the ground and flick the marble with just enough force to knock out three or four of the centered marbles. The real importance of that trick was that knocking marbles out also earned another turn.  It was important to be first up. With skill and luck, one could collect all the marbles before another player had a turn. By the time we were playing in the 1950s, the post-war economy was much better and probably many more kids engaged in the game just for the fun because I certainly remember “funsies.”  Good thing dad played funsies with us because he always won.

Twenty years earlier though, the game no doubt reflected the times as well. Natural hand-eye coordination and lots of practice meant that a competitive boy was not disadvantaged for long by fewer possessions, even if only marbles counted.  Team play, two-by-two, further leveraged the advantage of skillful players. According to my dad, some of the most skilled players could hit and knock out centered marbles from six or seven feet out. A few of the boys could make their marbles stop short and spin after knocking out a marble. Almost magic it seemed, but it was really skill. The games became a source of pride and ownership when certainly those days must have held little enough of either.

Back then, another version was a kind of sporting game played indoors in pubs and stores. Such games were played by men with only time on their hands without jobs, substance, or hope. Bets were placed on the shooting marble and money laid on the floor, though one wonders where players came by such coin.

One day, my father recounted, he proudly showed bags of won marbles to his father who was available, being out of work and languishing on the porch.  His father admired the collection and then asked to borrow it.  A pickup game quickly materialized as several other men were commiserating on the porch at the time.  Soon, to hear my dad tell it, he had no more marbles. He had a wistful, longing look in his eyes and said his father had lost them all, every one of them.

I felt sorry for my dad when he told that story. It was 50 years later and we were sitting by his pool in one of the wealthiest areas of northern California, but that look still lingered. His sisters had told of their father always drinking cheap red wine, and he was a lost soul after they moved.  No farming in the city and no carpentry work to be had where nothing was being built.  Dad never knew or missed the farm that dried up and blew away. He was born well after it was gone.

I found a variety store somewhere nearby, bought two large bags of marbles and gave them to dad.  It seemed somehow sad that he carried that loss through half a century even though he had been so successful. I wanted to tell him it was time to let that one go. As far as I know, except for showing his own children how to play, dad never played with marbles again.  He never bet on any games. He never really said much about his father.  But, he never stopped wanting to win. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Mama's Kitchen

Mama’s Kitchen

Mary Vandever

March 2015


            When I think of Mama, now more than 15 years after she died, my memories take me to her kitchen.  Our Mama’s kitchen was the gathering place for family and friends.  We shared our problems--successes and failures, happiness and tears—in her kitchen.  Mama listened and sometimes gave advice, as well as treated skinned knees, bee stings, bumps, and bruises.          

            My earliest memory about her kitchen was a wood-burning, cast-iron cook stove, a table with a bench along one side for us kids to sit on, and two cane-bottomed chairs for Mama and Daddy.  When the chair seats needed repair, Daddy re-caned them.  The table, which Daddy probably made from rough lumber, was covered with oilcloth. 

            I don’t know why it was called oilcloth.  It was as a common covering before the days of plastics.   Stores had rolls of oilcloth for purchase by the yard, and it was available in many colors and designs.  Mama chose white, printed with small flowers. It was study and could easily be wiped clean of food spills.  Until after 1940, we sat around that table playing games and doing homework with light from a kerosene lamp.

            I remember standing on one of those chairs and helping Daddy stir a mixture of cornbread.  It must have been an evening when Mama was not feeling well because she scolded us for stirring the batter too much.  I was surprised to hear her speak sharply to Daddy because I had never heard her do that.  Very likely, it was almost time for Dr. Dooley to bring baby Maxine to us in his little black bag. 

            A wood box, which Daddy kept filled with the correct lengths of wood to fit into the firebox, sat beside the stove.  As we girls got old enough to carry a few of those sticks, bringing in the wood was our job.  In later years, we knew to have a scuttle of coal in place so Daddy would not have to do it after he came home from work. 

            The stove had a warming oven.  In it, we could usually find a snack, often slices of fried sweet potatoes, which were Mama’s favorite, and biscuits.  On that stove, Mama could make the best biscuits and fried chicken I ever ate.  Without a thermostat, she knew when the oven was the right temperature to bake cakes, cookies, and breads.  A cast iron kettle and two flat irons sat on this stove.  The irons were always hot enough to press the wrinkles out of little girls’ dresses.  At bath time, a large round tub was placed near the stove, and hot water added from the kettle made a nice warm bath.

            When Cleta and I were about 5 and 7 years old, the job of washing supper dishes became ours.  After Mama finished cooking, she placed a dishpan of water on the stove to warm while we were eating.  Even though Cleta had to stand on a chair, she wanted to wash the dishes, and I dried them.

            By the time we finished the dishes, the water was beginning to cool, but the iron skillet still had to be washed.  I was the one who was guilty of putting it in the oven and “forgetting” to wash it.  If we began to argue, Daddy would say, “Girls!”  That is all it took for us to decide to work together peacefully.

            Then, there was the butter churn, always sitting near a chair, waiting for me to work the dasher up and down.  I thought that churning butter was a waste of time until I spread fresh butter on a hot biscuit and covered it all with molasses or homemade jelly.  That made the routine worthwhile.

            The cast-iron cook stove was in Mama’s kitchen from my earliest memories until I was married.  She kept it, she said for heat, after getting an electric stove.  Even then, she was caught baking cornbread or biscuits in it.  Years later, the stove was in the back yard.  Daddy fried fish on it, and Mama complained that he did not clean and oil it to keep it from rusting.  What finally became of the stove?  I have no idea.

            A white cabinet, typical of the era, was a functional part of Mama’s kitchen.  Half of the cabinet base had space to store pots and pans.  The other half had drawers, which, in our house, held not only kitchen tools, but scissors, pencils, and usually whatever item one of us looked for.  The upper part of the cabinet was likewise divided into two sections.  The more important side had a flour bin with a built-in sifter and a place for her milk bottle rolling pin.

            The milk bottle would have been a perfect container for wild flowers, but we knew its use  was not for anything except rolling biscuit and cookie doughs.  It was the only rolling pin Mama ever had.  She did not want one of those crafted wooden ones with handles.  Her milk bottle now sits on a shelf in my kitchen, waiting for one of her granddaughters to claim it.

            Behind the upper doors in the other half of the cabinet, Mama stored her staples.  The top surface of the base cabinet was a metal tabletop, which extended twice its depth when pulled out.  There, much good food was prepared.  In later years, after Mama had a more modern kitchen, that efficient, self-contained kitchen cabinet was moved to her utility room where it remained in use for the rest of her life.

            I do not remember an icebox being in mama’s kitchen until I was about 10 years old. Then, the iceman drove a regular route by our house.  He used a large hook to carry a block of ice and put it in the top of the icebox.  In that way, he made sure that the bottles of milk, which were delivered to our door, were kept safe.  Before we had an icebox, I remember going to a spring in the edge of the woods to get milk and butter. 

            In those years, men called hobos, walked from place-to-place trying to find work and often asking for food.  Sometimes certain ones found our little house.  Mama did not turn them away, but she would bring us girls into the house whenever strangers appeared, and then she would give them something to eat. 

            I especially remember one hobo.  While she baked biscuits, fried eggs, and opened a can of peaches to make meal for him, he cut wood to pay for the food.  Until this day, Cleta is unhappy that we did not get to eat the peaches that Mama fed the man.  He went on his way with a full stomach.

            That evening, Cleta and I went to the spring to get the milk and butter for supper.  The butter was not there.  It seemed that as the hobo was leaving, he walked by the spring and took the butter with him.  Mama was not upset about the loss of the butter, but his taking her little blue crock made her angry.

            The last house we lived in, before I left home, had a room off the kitchen that served a few years as a dining room.  Then Dr. Dooley brought brother Carl to us, and the side room became a bedroom.  The dining table was moved back into the kitchen, and the icebox was replaced with a small refrigerator.

            Sunday mornings were very busy.  Mama cooked breakfast and helped get us ready for Sunday School, then she cooked dinner and joined the family for church service.  Afterwards we came home to a fried chicken or a beef roast dinner.  She made good use of every minute of her time, taking care of her family.

            Within a few years, grandchildren appeared upon the scene, and they were welcomed into Mama’s kitchen.  She sat at the table and played games with them.  Parents would find their kids making biscuits out of her leftover scraps of dough, flour all over themselves as well as on the table and floor.  Mama most likely would be leaning against the sink, drinking tea out of her special china cup, enjoying watching her grandchildren, and waiting to clean up their mess when they finished playing. 

            She had many little bird magnets on the refrigerator, and little hands moved them around, making trains and other designs.  A corner shelf by the kitchen window was off-limits because it held her special collection of miniature ceramic pitchers.

            Mama’s kitchen was full of love, and recollections of her being there have a very special place in my memories.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Woman at the Post Office

The Woman at the Post Office
Anne Looney Cook

            She stood in the corner in the vestibule of the Crossville Post Office on a cold January day, bundled against the challenging weather.  I gave her a glance as I went inside, assuming she would exit through an opening door.

            The post office is a site where people hurry about, but it’s also a social place where folks meet and greet and show courtesy in opening the swinging doors.  My purpose was to check for mail and go about several errands.  However, my time inside was like finding a friend in Walmart, and our talking took several minutes.

            When I started to leave the post office, I realized that she was still in her spot inside the tall plate glass windows near the seldom-used public telephone.  From there, she could look at incoming people and slowing vehicles.  She had an expression of resolve to be on lookout but also one of furtiveness about her circumstances.

            “Do you need help?” I asked. 

            “No, I’m waiting for someone to pick me up,” she said.

            “Have you been waiting long?” My assumption told me so.

            “A while now, but she’s supposed to be on her way.”

            I stepped closer to hear her soft-spoken words as well as to tighten our space in the entryway. 

            “Can I take you where you need to go?  In this weather, I’d be glad to help you get there.”

            I saw a bulging, distressed backpack stashed behind her on the floor in the corner.  She wore several layers, and her frayed jacket was missing a button or two. She had a thin scarf tied around her hair, but graying tufts squiggled out around her ears.  Her appearance overall was a khaki drab monochrome.

            We exchanged a few more words, but she quietly refused my offer and repeated her expectation for being picked-up.

            My heart went out to this small woman who appeared to want to recede from the bustle of post office patrons while she waited for the person she claimed would take her away.

            She spoke again to decline my offer, and I noticed something distinctive.  What she needed as much as a ride was a toothbrush, but I did not have one to give her.  Such a simple thing I wished for her in that moment.  

            As I walked away, I vowed to keep a few in my car and thereafter offer a toothbrush as a handout to someone like the woman waiting at the post office.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

House or Home


Pat Rose

             My first memory of being ME opened my eyes to me-ness in a wide world of wonder. I always felt loved and especially so in my newly-awakened world in Piqua, Ohio, my birth place.  Mother shared, in later years, that we lived those depression years, at least for a while, in a small second-floor apartment, hence my awakening to the outside-of-me world.  I recall a big windowsillwhere I sat and watched squirrels playing among the tree limbs.  

            Moving to Rome City, Indiana gave me a whole new world to contemplate. Our little house with a big front porch was blocks from my beloved grandparents, Grandma Belle and Grandpa Tipton, whose lives intertwined with mine for many wonder-filled years.  I had my very own room where I played with my dolls, and, also where I got my head stuck in my dolly’s high chair.  Oh, the imagination of a 4-year-old; could I fit in that chair too?  That room became my world as I was nurtured, loved, and treated for scarlet fever at age 5. 

            Our doctor came to the house, put a quarantine sign on the front porch, and brought me through the ordeal with a newly-developed antibiotic that tasted like peppermint.  I recall how Mother bathed and cuddled me then left to take care of baby brother, George, being careful not to expose him to the life-threatening disease.  Mother, an elementary teacher, home-schooled me during my illness, using lessons left on the front porch.

            At 5-years-old, I was an early entrant into the first grade.  My very special first-grade teacher, Miss Kessler, had beautiful hands with lovely blue lines that I wished I would have when I grew up.  (Now as an adult, I do have those lines, but they are not as lovely as Anna Laura Kessler’s.) My teacher encouraged me to sing “Little Sir Echo” for the second grade class –– my first solo performance of many to follow; well, more about music later.

            Did I tell you that this little house had an outhouse with seats for two?  I never could figure that out – two holes?  Also, behind the house was a field bordered by a fence, which, in winter, was mostly submerged by water, ice, and debris, holding water and making a shallow pond.

            My friend, Barbara, and I were up for adventure one dull February day, so we put on our boots, then side-stepped across that half-sunken fence until warily we reached the other side of the pond.  By that time, the sun was setting, and we knew we couldn’t get back to our homes. We trudged across the backfield and finally saw the lights of a house several acres away.  We arrived there, weary and frightened, but were welcomed by a surprised lady who gave us a warm place to sit, blankets, and hot chocolate, as well as a lot of questions.          

            Mother and Dad didn’t have a telephone, but she knew that my grandparents did and called them to let them know we were safe.  They promptly picked us up in Grandpa’s big Oldsmobile and took us home with a friendly, but stern, admonition that we should never, never do that again.  We didn’t.         

            We left the comfort of my then hometown and moved to a town nearby where we spent three pre-war years in houses that Mother made into homes for the four of us.  Moms do that. 

            Houses do become homes when Moms, Dads, and God are there.  I have always been blessed with that knowledge, which I have passed on to my children.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Gramma

My Gramma
Barb Duncan
     My grandmother's name was Viola Cole, but she wasn't my “real” grandmother; she was actually my mom's half-sister.  My mom was Dorothy Maina, whose mother died when she was four and whose father died when she was nine. Viola was her half-sister, who at the age of twenty had just married Abe Cole.  Viola and Abe raised my mom as their own daughter, even though no legal documents were ever recorded.  That's what families did back then: ---they took care of one another.  Viola and Abe had two children, Scott and June.  They and my mom, Dorothy, were all three raised as equals, and thus Scott and June became my uncle and aunt. 

     My mom graduated from high school, went to work, and in time married my father, Charles Knott.  About the same time, Abe Cole was a building contractor, and he purchased several acres of property on Spectacle Lake near Valparaiso, Indiana where he built three identical homes.  My parents lived in one, my grandparents lived in the middle, and Uncle Scott and his family lived on the other side.  Uncle Scott now had two children, Marcy and Scotty, who were the same age as my brother, David, and I.  We were inseparable.  The four of us were the Cole’s grandchildren and were treated as such. 

     We played at the lake, rolled down the hills, played on swings, and in our sandbox, but the center of our lives was our grandparents’ home, especially the kitchen.  Marcy and I watched Gramma make perfect pie crusts using no recipe, something that I have never been able to duplicate.  She made pancakes for the four of us, always making extras, so we could put jelly in the middle and have them as snacks the next day.  Birthday parties were always in Gramma’s kitchen, as well as all holiday meals.

     The one thing that alone fascinated me was Gramma’s treadle sewing machine, which was in the basement.  I watched her sew and asked myriad questions that only a five year old could ask.  She patiently answered me.   Then one day she asked if I'd like to learn to sew.  I was so excited!  I don't remember how I was able to work the treadle, but I remember sewing with her sitting next to me.  None of the other grandkids were interested, so I had my gramma all to myself.  We talked and shared all kinds of things, which made me feel so special.

     At that age, I wanted to do something to really impress my gramma.  I went to the basement by myself to sew something.  I think my intent was to show her my completed project, and I imagined her big smile and hug at my accomplishment.  I didn't know anything about fabric, patterns, cutting, pinning--only making that marvelous machine sew those neat, even stitches.

       I sewed ten perfect straight lines.  They were so pretty, and I was so proud.  I took my project upstairs to get that much anticipated smile and hug.  It didn't quite happen the way I imagined. 
     Gramma looked at my project, grabbed it, and began waving her brand new garden gloves in the air.  I had sewed a very straight line of stitches in the middle of every finger of those gloves.  As anyone who sews knows, ripping stitches is a necessary skill, and one which I learned that day.

     We had many laughs about that incident, but my gramma continued to help me polish my sewing skills.  One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was the sewing machine they bought for me when I was nine years old.  My dad showed me how to take it apart, clean and oil it, and put it back together, which I knew was my responsibility.  I used that machine until I was twenty-four, when it was damaged in a household move.

     My gramma's encouragement, patience, and understanding taught me a skill I continue to use today. I used to make all my own clothes, but I don't do that anymore.  I quilt now, but how many quilts can one have or use?   Now I make charity quilts for persons less fortunate than I am.

      Through sewing, I have met many people who became good friends and influenced my life.  Years ago after Hurricane Katrina, a woman in my quilt guild secured a truck to take supplies down to Louisiana. Guild members made quilts to donate to survivors who had lost everything.  We filled her truck, and she took off with the promise to return with lots of pictures of the grateful people accepting our gifts. 

        One of those pictures showed a woman crying and wrapped in one of the quilts I had made.  What an enormous feeling and connection that was!  I realized that something I did benefitted someone I would never meet.

     At five years old, my gramma could not have known how her teaching me to use her treadle sewing machine would affect my life with so many rewarding experiences.  I am blessed that she accepted me as a “granddaughter”-- the only gramma I had.