The Saturday before Memorial Day was the first night Jillie and Hardy slept in their crib in the nursery. Their first seven weeks had been spent in Moses baskets in the master bedroom. I slept in the bedroom down the hall on the northern side of the house and agreed to do the two-in-the-morning feeding.
No big deal, you say. But these are twins. And you’ve never heard Jillie yell when she wants her bottle.
It was Hardy who cried first, and I didn’t hear him. It was his daddy who heard him from the other side of the split-plan house over the monitor. I heard the second cry, though, and I was up and in there. “I’ve got it,” I said, and Daddy went back to bed.
I put the bottles in warm water on the coffee table in the living room, raced to change Hardy’s diaper, put him on the Boppy cushion on the couch, put his bib on, woke Jillie up (yes, you have to do that with twins!), changed her diaper, put her bib on, settled on the couch beside Hardy, with Jillie nestled between me and the Boppy, her head against my leg, which was Indian-style. With my two hands, I put two bottles in two mouths.
At this feeding they were in unison. They drank at the same pace, both being satisfied with an ounce remaining. They hum and ah when they drink, and they were right together, right on key — a duet. Ten sucks, then high-pitched “ah, ah, ah, ah,” each with a lilt on the end, then ten sucks, then “ah, ah, ah, ah” and so on.
Two little warm bodies to hold close, two sleeping babies, double the pleasure, double the treasured moment. A chorus of ahs. Priceless.
To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make. [Truman Capote]
Reed’s Produce is a local institution. I can’t think of summer without Reed’s. Through the long cold months of winter, I long for the ripe, hot smell of peaches filling the air and wafting on a summer breeze, swirling under the mimosas and along the river. Box after box, basket after basket of peaches and green apples and summer vegetables. Fresh tomatoes, okra, squash, cucumbers, shelled creme peas and butterbeans. . .
When I went looking for butterbeans to be photographed for the cover of my book, the first place I scouted was Betty Reed’s, but alas, she only had shelled beans in her cooler.
Reed’s Produce is in the Library of Congress! My book contains a story that gave it this distinction. It begins: “Last Saturday morning, I put some frozen Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits in the oven. They cook up like the real deal. That first bite of hot biscuit spread with blackberry preserves I got last summer at the produce stand on Fourth Avenue by the Harpeth River put me back in time smack dab in the middle of my grandmother’s kitchen at jelly-making time.”
Reed’s Produce is a destination. I go to downtown Franklin just to visit the stand and buy fresh vegetables. For the ambiance, for the old-time feeling of being at grandma’s farm, for the low prices, for the fresh, homegrown food. On the way to or from my destination, I might buy gas at the Mapco, or a bottle of wine, or stop for lotion or film at Walgreens.
I’ve lived in Franklin 20 years, and I’ve been a regular customer of Reed’s for many summers, selecting tomatoes, peaches, squash, okra, and butterbeans. I buy preserves and jellies and honey and chow chow. I even buy herbs and flowers and ferns there. A few years ago, I bought big flat stones to make an outdoor sitting area in my backyard.
I can’t do without Reed’s! Mayor, what are you thinking? Aldermen, what are you thinking? Franklin is an old town, founded in 1799. We bathe ourselves in the pride of traditions, of yesteryear. We are a mix of the “old” and the “new,” and we should strive to keep it that way. We live among dwindling old establishments and progress, pastoral scenes and development. A downtown diner that serves fried chicken livers. An upscale restaurant serving fancy shrimp and grits in a newly remodeled old factory. Old decaying barns and cows grazing beside four-lane bypasses. It’s what makes our town special.
Please, leave that patch of land that houses Reed’s Produce intact! Please save this Franklin institution. Please save my peaches and tomatoes!
It’s hard to believe that Jillian and Hardy are almost six weeks old, and I’ve had my first Mother’s Day as a grandmother. I even got a card!
I’ve also got new pictures…
My little bush of pink roses I bought for Mother’s Day two years ago is bursting forth in blooms this May. Such a pleasant surprise!
When did it all turn around? What happened to Clean your room, Pick up your toys, Hang up your clothes?
“You need to clean this house,” my son informed me, ten minutes after he arrived home from North Carolina for Mother’s Day weekend.
“I did clean it last Saturday. Dusted, vacuumed. It was perfect. I’ve been busy all week.”
“Did you buy that book on clutter I told you about?”
“No, not yet. I’ve been busy writing a book.”
“Well, you should. It could free up your mind, change your whole life.” He slipped on the Chaco sandals he had taken off a few minutes earlier.
“Are you putting on shoes because my floors are dirty?”
“Yes. It’s bad, Mama. You shouldn’t let them get this dirty.”
“The dog has been in and out all week and tracked bits of mulch and pine straw in.”
He shook his head, then opened the fridge to check out the availabilities. “Look at this! You’ve got ants in the refrigerator!” He pointed to the top of the lower freezer door. There were three ants running along a ridge on the rubber seal.
“Why, they’ll freeze in there.”
“Look at the crumbs, they’re going after the crumbs, you’ve got to clean this refrigerator out, I can’t live like this.”
“I’ve never noticed them. Besides, the light in the fridge has been out for months. I can’t see anything in there.”
He unscrewed the burned-out bulb. “We’ll get a new one tomorrow at Home Depot.” He waved his arm in a dramatic flair to encompass the kitchen and family room. “You need to de-clutter. Get rid of some of these nic-nacs; it’s okay to throw things away or to box them up and store them. It’s less stressful without all the clutter.”
“I’ve got books, I like my books, I’ve got Tom Clark figurines, I like them.” I’d just cleaned, polished, re-arranged all the bookshelves the prior weekend and positioned all the pictures and wood-carved gnomes exactly as I wanted them.
“Well, you shouldn’t live like this. You need to take care of this place, keep it clean and de-cluttered.”
“Hey, YOU are telling me this? You’ve still got a room upstairs packed full of everything you’ve ever owned — clothes, pictures, Atari and Nintendo games, cassette tapes, letters from old girlfriends, leather and beads for jewelry-making, art supplies, swimming trophies, umpteen guitar cases, and boxes of sheet music. Don’t tell me how to live.”
“Give me some garbage bags. I’m goin’ up to clean it all out.”
He took them and headed up. I rubbed my hands together and felt the corner of my lip curl up into a smile. Boomerang effect.
I looked around. The seed was planted. Now, about that book on clutter. . .
It started the day before Thanksgiving, 2008, when they had the ultrasound. I’d asked to be a part of it by phone. I won’t say anything, just set the phone on the table and let me listen, I begged. Baby A was a girl. It was quiet as the technician moved the wand toward Baby B. Then, an eruption of laughter. There it is! The wand had landed on the determining factor. Baby B was a boy.
“He’ll have to wear your old wedding-hankie bonnet home from the hospital!” I said before we hung up. My words drifted into thin air and stone walls.
I once wrote a story about that old wedding-hankie bonnet. It was published in Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul II in 2003, and in my own book of personal essays, Pink Butterbeans: Stories from the heart of a Southern woman in 2005.
I’m just a lacy hankie
As pretty as can be.
But with some tiny stitches
A bonnet I will be.
I’ll be worn home from the hospital
Or on the Christening Day,
After which I’ll be neatly folded
And carefully packed away.
Crinkly, aging tissue paper cradles the tiny white bonnet. Delicate batiste trimmed in scalloped lace and satin ribbons to tie under a new baby’s chin, it came as a gift to my firstborn son, along with a poem clumsily pecked out on an old typewriter. He wore the bonnet home from the hospital. Then the treasured keepsake was neatly folded and carefully packed away. . . .
On her wedding day we’re told,
Each bride must wear something old.
So what would be more fitting than unpacking li’l old me?
A few stitches snipped and a wedding hankie I’ll be.
And if perchance it is a boy,
Someday he’ll surely wed,
And to his bride he can present
The hankie once worn on his head.
But what did he do? Eloped! Yes. He and Nicole eloped. I sort of guessed, but they waited two weeks before they told me because she was trying to get up enough nerve to tell her mother and father first.
. . . “You are marr-i-i-i-i-ied?”
“Yes, we’re married.”
“But, but . . . you didn’t have your wedding hankie!” I stumbled over the words.
“Your wedding hankie. It was a gift when you were born.”
“I didn’t know I had one.”
“Yes, you have one. Your bride was supposed to carry it down the aisle.”
“We didn’t have an aisle.”
“Well, she could have held it while repeating her vows. It’s the bonnet you wore on your head when you came home from the hospital. We were supposed to present it to your bride.”
“I didn’t know.”
“She was supposed to remove some stitches and make it into a handkerchief to carry during the ceremony. It has a poem and everything.”
“Our ceremony was pretty without it. We had candles and wrote our own vows.”
“And then some day, your bride is supposed to add back a few stitches and make it into a bonnet again for your baby to wear home from the hospital. It’s an heirloom!” I shrieked.
Ohhhh? I’ve waited twenty-five years for this special moment — never to be.
The bonnet remains a bonnet. Its white satin ribbons hang loose, untied. . . .
“I can’t be-lieve you got married without your wedding hankie,” I sputtered under my breath. “Well, we’ll just save it for your first child to wear home from the hospital.”
My head whirling, I started folding up my frenzied sentiments, packing up my foiled schemes, and setting my sights down the road a bit. By golly, when the first grandchild is born, I’ll personally deliver that bonnet to the hospital, place it on the newborn’s head, and loop the loose ribbons into a neat bow. And this new child will surely make it to the altar with the hankie once worn on his father’s head.
By golly, my moment came April 18, 2009, when Winston Hardy, ten days old, was set to come home from the hospital.
His twin, Jillian Dawson, had come home two days earlier.
“Now, you’ll have to follow us in your car,” my son said. “We’ve got two baby seats in the back and don’t have room for you.”
I collected two cameras, my purse and keys, my Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul II book, and scurried to my Outback, breathing hard. My son drives fast, and I wanted to stay right behind him. I wanted to take a picture of them driving to the hospital to get this special bundle of little boy. “Nicole, do you have the wedding-hankie bonnet?” I yelled before I closed the car door.
“Yes, I’ve got everything.”
At the hospital’s NICU unit, my son and I went through the customary three-minute scrub, keeping an eye on Nicole over our right shoulders. She couldn’t wait. She rubbed in some hand sanitizer and went straight for the baby.
The place was abuzz with nurses and a doctor, having to say good-bye to little Hardy, now four pounds eight ounces, a favorite of the staff. Those who could gathered around to watch Nicole dress him. The place was full of comments, stories, laughter, oohs and ahs.
Nicole put the soft white fancy sleeper monogrammed with the initials WHB in blue on the baby.
Then came the moment.
She — the mama, the bride who didn’t get the opportunity to be presented formally with the wedding hankie or to carry it during her wedding ceremony — with her own delicate hands, placed the tiny white batiste bonnet on Hardy’s little head, looped the satin ribbons into a neat bow, and stepped back admiringly.
“There he is.” She smiled. A precious boy, wearing his Poppy’s pen name, his great-grandfather’s surname, my maiden name, and the bonnet worn by his father 35 years ago.
The moment was rich in emotion. It was hard to hold the tears back, but I had to work quickly. I placed the Chocolate book in his isolette, focused, and snapped a few pictures, while trying to explain the significance of the unfolding scene to the staff circling us.
This new child wore home the hankie once worn on his father’s head.