“Secrets of Southern Front Porches”

How appropriate is it to share today, a few days after summer solstice and a few days after our loss of writer friend Nancy Fletcher-Blume, her story about Southern front porches. Nancy loved her own front porch, loved to sit there early mornings with coffee and listen to the wind blow through the bamboo. She has often talked about the other front porches of her life. This personal essay was published in Gathering: Writers of Williamson County in 2009.

Secrets of Southern Front Porches

Nancy Fletcher-Blume

Secrets. Dreams. Joys. Heartbreaks. Could a stranger passing by, quickly glancing, but know what drama, what memories, what portraits are painted on our simple front porches as families, close friends, and neighbors sit rocking, whiling away the lazy days and evenings of hot Southern summers.

In the diary of my life, more secrets have been divulged, more celebrations of great joy, and the too-often heart-wrenching of a grief shared on porches than any other place in our homes.

My earliest memories are of standing in the first breath of springtime, watching my mother as she carefully painted the wooden floor of our large sitting porch. Dipping the brush down into the paint can, methodically painting each board with long strokes of “Battleship Gray,” she told me this was the color—when I had asked for red—that my daddy always painted the porch. Daddy was somewhere in the Pacific.

Pots of fiery-red geraniums soon filled this porch, along with snow-white painted rocking chairs with fluffy cotton cushions that my grandmother made. She kept a “ragg” bag of scraps from alterations she did for several family members, and its contents would remind me of my never-ending supply of cousins, aunts, and sometimes even an uncle, as I recognized these scraps on the cushions. My grandmother gave no thought to matching. She just sewed. And so we sat and rocked on kaleidoscopes of color.

All through the long summer afternoons and evenings, the women on our street would gather, sitting and rocking on this colorful porch, drinking pitchers of ice tea filled with the petals of my grandmother’s orange nasturtiums and sprigs of mint grown in the wet earth behind our wellhouse.

The children sat on the floor by my grandmother and our mothers. Their conversations were always about flowers, our school clothes, and recipes. But these conversations took on a different twist when children were not around. Sent inside to play with paper dolls so adults could talk, I would sometimes go out the back door and slip around to one of my favorite hiding places—behind the huge blue and purple hydrangea bushes alongside our porch—where I would secretly listen. They spoke in low voices of rationing stamps, censored mail, war bonds, someone’s brother, son, or husband being brought back from “somewhere” in Italy, and of a new star hanging in the window of another neighbor’s home.

Once—it was a July day filled with humid, heavy afternoon showers—we sat on the porch with several neighbors, and a lady who had not visited before ran up the paved walk. Grandmother had called out to her, asking her to sit awhile until the rain was over. She sat down on the gray, wooden floor beside me, declining the offer of a chair. I watched as she smoothed her thin, wet, purple skirt, while drops of water trickled slowly down her legs. She patted my hand, smiling, and asked if I liked her purple “broomstick” skirt. I immediately wanted one just like it and to have her for a friend. My grandmother told me later on when I asked about the skirt that the word and custom were brought into our country by the slaves, as they would “jump the broom” to seal their vows because the laws of our land did not allow them to marry.

Several of the neighbors had brought letters from overseas to share, and after one or two were read, this new lady, shaking her skirt and getting up off the floor to leave, explained she was not much for letter-writing and guessed “he” would just have to wait for home news. As she walked away, I remember the quiet, except for the slow dripping of water running down the gutters.

One of the neighbor ladies broke the silence, saying that it was such a shame, him being away and all that, the uncles coming and going, sometimes leaving early in the mornings. I thought that so strange. Uncles? My uncle, being my mother’s baby brother, came almost every Saturday morning around noon, fixed anything that needed fixing, and then sat at lunch with my mother, grandmother, and me. I never saw my new friend again. It was later said on our porch that she just up and moved away.

One by one, all the men on our street came home, and their voices would blend deep into the night as porches again filled on those hot summers. Conversations were different. I watched as my daddy would pull my mother’s rocking chair closer, his hand reaching, touching her auburn hair. Then pulling me close, he would tell us he always somehow knew he’d come back home to his girls. He also told my mother and me, one late evening, that he’d never put his feet in ocean water again. He did not.

Conversations on our porch now were all about the GI Bill, which made it possible for my daddy to return to school, taking night classes while working in the daytime. He also told us that he now could get a VA loan, which was available for servicemen and women, and we could soon get a larger house.

***

          We moved early the following year to a new subdivision. This house had a large porch, and it did not take long for my mother and daddy to create beauty there. The floors were painted Battleship Gray, and white banisters were filled with pots of blood-red geraniums, baby-pink petunias, and my grandmother’s ever-blooming array of gypsy-colored cushions.

We made new friends and neighbors, as folks walking by were greeted and asked to come and “sit a spell.” By the end of that summer, I knew almost everyone in the neighborhood and was now included in more of the adult conversations.

It was on this porch where I stood poised for my mother to take a Kodak picture of me wearing my first long gown. It was baby blue, for my music recital. My parents had sat on the porch listening as I sat at the living-room piano, practicing over and over “The Triumphal March” from Aida. My daddy told me that my hard work had paid off, as my teacher was so happy with the performance that she invited me to play for the ladies at one of the monthly DAR meetings.

Standing on the steps of this porch in a mid-April’s drizzling rain, I received my first sweet kiss from an early teen crush. On the long summer nights that followed and on into the fall, I would sit at night with my girlfriends, whispering about first kisses, clothes, and the taste of our Tangee lipsticks. On this porch, we vowed to keep these secrets and hold our friendships forever. But these conversations took on a different twist when adults came out and joined us.

I also had my first heartbreak standing on the steps of this porch. The mother of one of my best friends sat several afternoons, rocking and speaking quietly with my mother. I found them wiping away tears, and when I asked about my friend, I was told that she had gone away to live with her aunt for a while. She had left and not told me goodbye.

A few years later, on an early June’s night, the boy I would eventually marry sat beside me in our porch rockers and told of his love for me. It was on this porch, beside a pot filled with red geraniums, that I left a note for my mother and daddy. I crossed the state line into Georgia and married my young love. It was on a Sunday night, while others were in church. I was fourteen years old.

***

          For the first time in my life I had to find my own place of comfort on a different porch. This porch, deep in the dense kudzu gullies of South Carolina up-country, was filled with painted dark-green rockers, lush flowering plants, and heavy hanging purple wisteria vines that flowed up and over the roof of this rambling white farmhouse. Porch conversations here were different and foreign to me. They were about crops, weather, seining for fish, and exciting tales of the hunt. Some evening conversations were simply speculative, being about the comings and goings of cars and trucks that could be seen and heard going up the drives of neighboring farms.

***

          There is something magical in going back home to your old porch, the porch of your parents, one that has heard and kept a young girl’s secrets. On a late summer’s evening, Grandmother and I sat rocking, breathing the heavy sweet scent of August lilies, talking of her “ragg-muffin” cotton cushions and “Now, in my day . . . .” I took her hand, telling her my new secret of the tiny life I carried. It was a first for this porch.

***

          On a cold and bitter March day, my parents’ gray porch stood stark and empty of all its woven magic of rockers and colorful flowers. I hugged the last of my cousins, aunts, and uncles as they left for their homes after we had shed our tears, shared our stories, and divided the “ragg” cushions. We had said goodbye to Grandmother. My first son was born ten days later.

Over the years, our little family grew to three children, all boys. Our lives changed, but the porches did not. I was always drawn down to the wisteria-covered porch and the love of my husband’s large family. Many late Sunday afternoons, my husband and I would sit with his parents, brothers, and their spouses, talking of the unrest and times.

It was the Sixties, and it seemed to me that the whole world was shifting, quickly, a world for which I was not ready. I was privy to hearing sad and terrible things on this porch, as conversations took on much deeper, painful, and many-layered twists.

Our innocent children played outside, running free in the heat of late summer afternoons, while we sat fanning, listening, drinking ice tea on this flowered, vine-covered porch. The males of the family were speaking in low voices, repeating stories they had heard of Night Riders, the Klan, bloody beatings, students watered down with hoses and shot. These porch conversations of Montgomery and Selma, now part of history, will forever remain with me.

On one Sunday afternoon, the shaded porch was crowded with family. Most of the conversation that day never strayed far from the horror of more killings in the small low-country town of Orangeburg, South Carolina. The newspapers carried this story and told of students being shot in the soles of their feet as they lay dead in the street. This would later come to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre.

I felt fear on this porch for the first time, as we had both FBI and state troopers in our family, all living in low-country South Carolina towns. My mother-in-law and I went to the family church on a Wednesday night, where she said a prayer for her sons that they would not be called in to go to these places, not be a part of this terrible racial violence. I realized more and more that my safe world of the porch had expanded and gone somewhere I did not want to go.

***

          Late one August evening, a male member of the family found me sitting alone rocking. He told me he was leaving to live in another place several states away. He knew other family members would not understand. He told me he had to be true to himself and had to live his life in a different way—a way that could never be discussed by family, in polite conversation. At that time I was innocent of his reasons, but I knew his confiding in me should be a secret, well guarded.

***

          A few years later, my husband, three sons, and I moved to Tennessee for a job. The new house had a very small front stoop, so we usually retreated to a large back patio for our deep conversations. Sometimes I would try to capture the feel of “porch” as I planted red geraniums in pots, and occasionally sat on the steps of the small stoop. We made new friends, and when they came, we stood in the yard talking or invited them to the back patio, or inside. It just wasn’t the same.

The last week of May that year was sunny and bright. Saturday morning I sat on the stoop for a few minutes, missing my porch in South Carolina and all its flowers, but then left to do errands, leaving my family behind for fun things they had planned.

When I returned, driving down my street and turning into my driveway, I saw two of my friends standing on my small front stoop. I got out of my car and walked to them. They spoke, and my world was changed forever. We lost our youngest son that morning. He was eight years old. I have very deep, gray memories of me sitting on the steps of that stoop, rocking back and forth for a long time until they told me it was time to go inside.

Three days later we returned to the family cemetery, and the South Carolina home and porch of my childhood. Sitting in rockers on the familiar, brightly colored porch, were my mother, daddy, and the dark, row-braided woman who had helped raise my children. She had rocked our babies on this porch. She got to me first.

***

          Many years and many porches later, after the recent heartbreaking loss of my beloved middle son, I sit on a porch here in Tennessee, on this day, his fiftieth birthday. It is a peaceful porch, filled with beautiful brown wicker, wonderfully fat cushions, ceiling fans, and dark jungle-green potted plants and trees. It is a porch where music filters softly through hidden speakers, along with the sound of water flowing over rocks. But I am not alone on this day in late April. I am with my eldest son. And we both remember, without saying.

Our deepest conversation is unspoken. This day should have held laughter, cake, and candles. Instead we sit sipping on Scotch, listening to all of my son’s favorite songs, and talk of past porches, long-gone families, tales of the hunt, until way into the dark night.

***

          I have traveled back several times to the old porches of my South Carolina homes. The deserted yards are now tangled and overgrown, the thick wisteria vines gnarled and black. Where tulips grew, there is only brown earth. The towering magnolia tree, which gave children places to climb and shaded the porch for lifetimes, still has hidden, deep and high in its branches, the carved initials of our family’s young boys.

All of the voices have long since gone from these porches, and they will forever hold their silence and secrets.

 

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October 28 Rehearsal Dinner at Buffalo Nickel

Everybody told me in the ten months between the engagement and the wedding ceremony that the job of the groom’s mother is to “shut up and wear beige.” I worked hard toward doing that, failed some, succeeded some, and wore cobalt blue. So now, I’m having my say! (All in fun, and all because I want to remember it forever!)

rd-1Buffalo Nickel Game Room

What a fun October Friday night rehearsal dinner at trendy West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel restaurant! There are so many neat things about this place: the flooring came from 120-year-old barnwood in Kentucky. The 18 vintage chandeliers—some nearly 100 years old—came from all over the world, including a church sanctuary in London. There’s fine dining, farm to table, downstairs, and upstairs are the bar area and a huge game room—three pool tables and foosball and other punch-and-push games—and this was our reserved venue. Our guests selected greens with champagne dressing, an entrée of salmon or chicken, rice pilaf or fingerling potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and dessert.

But this night was about PEOPLE! Guests came to the wedding from 14 states. The rehearsal dinner hosted folks from Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This night was about Leah and Corey, the bride and groom—a CELEBRATION. It was peak-leaf time and a beautiful weekend for a wedding, and the weather was perfectly marvelous.

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WELCOME! to a recap of the night! First was a poem I wrote, beginning with a quote from Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

The others are a solitary hue, brown or green,
But October comes clothed spectacularly
In cheery yellow, orange, and maple red.
The mountains put on a jubilant show,
A pageant in full splendor.
Calliope colors sing a treetop chorus,
Wind-sway, frolic, swirl,
Colors gather round,
Spin joy, fascination, awe
As two hands hold enthralled
And two hearts together beat
In passion, desire, and love
Like the fiery mountainside.

 You’ll always have October to tell your story.

rd-10-bridegroomHappy Bride & Groom

PRAYER FOR LEAH AND COREY.

Lord, help them always remember when they first met and the love that grew between them and the common likes they’ve shared and the team they quickly became. Give them always words both kind and loving, and hearts always ready to ask forgiveness as well as to forgive. Help them to always cherish each other, to endure all things together, to walk life’s path together to its end—and in the yellows and reds of October, as in every day, to be reminded of their story, their love, their vows to each other. Bless our time of celebration, bless our food, bless our evening … in their honor, in your honor. Amen.

rd-8-headtable2Head Table…Two Merging Families

rd-4-headtabledecorHead Table Decorations – a pebble art canoeing couple, a big L & C, and on sliced wood, 3 cylinders with birch twigs, river rocks, and river glass. Pebble art: the canoe came from Devil’s Tower, the paddles from the Harpeth River, the rocks forming the couple from the French Broad River, and the boulders and stones from the Oregon Coast and Jasper Beach, Maine.

DECORATIONS.

The room was adorned with objects that reflect the lives of Corey and Leah, an outdoorsy couple living in the mountains of Asheville, hiking, kayaking, camping. She’s in Outdoor Recreation at UNCA. I pulled in the elements of earth, fire, and water. A few vases held white and green mums and baby’s breath. Most tables were decorated with a host of glass cylinders holding water and some with birch twigs, some with river glass, some with river rocks, and a lighted candle on top of each cylinder.

birch-decoration

Birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal & starting over. It was used by the Native Americans as the center pole in yurts and teepees—the center must start fresh the process of gathering, shelter, and all other representations of home. The Gauls used birch twigs in marriage ceremonies. Traditionally, branches would be lit as a sign of good luck and an omen for a long, happy marriage.

All the river rocks and river glass I used came from Section 9 of the French Broad River where Corey and Leah kayak. He collected them for me and mailed them to me over the summer.

rd-centerpiece-riverrocksglass

Baby’s Breath is a flower that symbolizes everlasting love. The tiny white flowers represent the purity of emotion that two people should have for each other during a wedding ceremony. White is the color of new beginnings.

My sister Judi, her husband Buzz, Adam, Hayley, and Chaderlee took charge of following the theme and making the room fabulous! (Thank you!)

COMMISSIONED POEM.

rd-5-shelfpoemdecor“Celebration” Pebble Art and Framed Poem

I commissioned a poem for Leah and Corey by my longtime writer friend, Susan Donovan Dunham, member of ASCAP, author of several published essays, writer of a song for a movie, and member of the Arts Collective at Journey Church. She prayed about the task before her, got inspiration and a vision, and this is her creation about our sweet couple (whom she knows and has followed for eight years) getting married in October, outdoors in an arboretum next to the French Broad River.

Naturally

Bared soles rest on patches of smooth river stone as
clear, cold, liquid satin flows over twenty toes.
Butternuts, birches and maples create a stained-glass sanctuary,
offering prayers of protection for two hearts, bodies, souls.
Congregations of birds harmonize to the fantasia of the French Broad,
its fragrance filling what’s empty, entwining two lives through
chilled breaths suspended in the autumn air.

 We will~
Naturally

rd-7-headtable1Toast Time!

EVERYBODY GOT A DRINK?

Six toasts were presented by loving guests: Buzz (uncle of the groom and Hardy family patriarch), Karl (grandfather, or Opa, of the bride and family patriarch), Jesse (longtime friend of Corey from Nashville), Pete (brother of the bride), Dave (father of the bride), and Charlie (father of the groom). Fun, funny, happy, tender, sweet, meaningful, loving!

rd-12-toastbuzzyUncle Buzz

rd-14-toastkarl2Karl, “Opa” (L)

rd-15-toastjesseJesse

rd-16-toastpetePete, holding baby son

rd-17-toastdaveDave

rd-18-toastcharlieCharlie

The groom’s father’s toast ended with an invitation for his son to call him any time he needed advice. All Corey’s life, his dad would share lessons and life stories from his vast reservoir of knowledge. He’d preface any advice with that phrase, and it became a rolling-of-the-eyes moment for both sons. But those are the things one remembers. So Charlie had a cup made for Corey, and on it was printed…yeah! Vast Reservoir of Knowledge. Great moment!

TRADITIONAL CUTTING OF THE APRON STRINGS.

rd-25-loves_me_in_nashville_bbq_apronThe legend goes…

In past centuries, toddlers wore aprons or pinafores to keep their clothes clean. These aprons had a pair of ribbons or strings sewn to the shoulders, which the mother would hold onto, rather like a leash. When the child was old enough for some independence, the strings would be cut off. So, “cutting the apron strings” means becoming independent from one’s mother and family and going out on one’s own. Corey has been independent for years, but since it’s a family tradition, we rolled with it.

rd-25-apron

I ordered chef aprons that said “Someone in Nashville Loves Me” on the front. (That would be me.) I explained the legend, pulled the apron out of a gift bag, put it on Corey, and tied it. Then I picked up my scissors and held them to the tie string. “No!” Corey said, “no, no, you’re not going to cut it, are you? I’ve always wanted a barbecue apron. Don’t ruin it!” Well, I’m too practical to destroy something new. And I don’t like the idea of cutting people off and sending them away. So I changed tradition. Instead of detaching and separating, I widened my tent and welcomed in Leah and her family, by presenting her with an identical apron and tying it on her. “Now, you two go off, establish your hearth, and cook on your own, but remember you’ve got a bigger family now, and remember someone in Nashville loves you both.”

rd-21-groomsmengiftsGifts for the Groomsmen

rd-2-judihayleyHayley and Judi

rd-6-chadadamChaderlee, Adam

Somewhere amidst all this fun, we enjoyed food and drink.


A Thanksgiving Visit to the Boone Homestead

It’s just my luck, when traveling, that places I really want to see are closed on the day I am scheduled to be there or they close an hour before I arrive. Such was the case on my trip to Philadelphia PA earlier this week. I’ve wanted to go to the Daniel Boone Homestead since 2001 when my mother and I did genealogy on our Boone family. I knew the place was closed on Monday, but did not realize it was also closed on Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon, I had a flight out to Nashville, but Tuesday morning, we’d planned to visit.

Leah, Corey, and I rented a car and drove an hour northwest of Philly anyhow, to Birdsboro, not quite to Reading. The place was deserted, but half the gate was open for recreational walkers. We drove in and parked at the visitors’ center. Also onsite was an old house, a barn, a smokehouse, and a few other outbuildings. The house, of course, was locked, and all was closed up tightly.

2015.Philly.DBfarm

“Let’s just walk down there anyway,” I said. It wasn’t what I came to see, but it was something, and something is better than nothing. At the barn in the distance, I could see a man herding some sheep. I figured he’d come run us off.

2015.Philly.sheep

We walked around the house and took pictures, and then the two others walked back to the car, but I lingered, and the man approached behind me.

“Do you have any questions?” he said.

“I’m family,” I said. “I am here one day, from Nashville, and the Boones are my ancestors. I didn’t know the homestead was closed today.” I showed him pictures of George Boone III’s house I wanted to see and told him about my genealogy research.

My ancestor George Boone III, weaver and tanner, came to America from Stoak, England, in 1717. He was a friend of William Penn who had perhaps persuaded him to come to America.

“In 1720 they [George III, grandfather of Daniel Boone, and Mary] went to Oley Township, Philadelphia County (now Exeter Township in Berks County), where their daughter Sarah and family had moved earlier. In Oley Township, George III took out a warrant for 400 acres of land on December 20, 1718 and established his permanent home.”

That home has been torn down. In 1730 the son of George III, Squire Boone, purchased 250 acres and erected a log house and spring cellar. Then in 1750 the current stone house behind the visitors’ center was constructed on the log cabin’s foundation. My seventh great grandfather was Joseph, brother of Squire. Joseph owned 400 acres near the road’s “jug handle” at the homestead’s entrance. Joseph bought Squire Boone’s land in 1750 when the latter moved to North Carolina. Maybe the land this stone house was on?

The man pointed to the house. “This was where Daniel Boone (son of Squire Boone) was born and raised. Do you want to go inside?”

2015.Philly.house

“I would love to.” I motioned for Corey and Leah to come, as well, as the man went to get his keys. The house was built over where Daniel had lived back in the 1700s.

Interestingly, there were five intermarriages between the Boones and Lincolns in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The Boones and Lincolns stayed together in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. Mordecai Lincoln’s son, Abraham, married Anne, daughter of James Boone and Mary Foulke. Mordecai Lincoln’s grandson, Abraham, was a friend of Daniel Boone. Abraham Lincoln’s grandson, also Abraham, became the 16th president of the United States of America.

We had a full tour of the house, with explanations and historical details. They actually make period clothes from the sheep on the farm, and the man leading our tour makes period buttons for the clothes. I think he was wearing a jacket made on the farm. He was also a history teacher. He asked us if we wanted to go into the basement—the original part of the house, where Daniel Boone lived.

2015.Philly.basementdoor

Oh yes, we did. Dark, low, with a spring running the length of the old stone cabin—inside.

2015.Philly.DBoverviewcreek

I dipped my fingers in the cold water of my roots.

2015.Philly.spring

The man drew a map and told us where the Exeter Meeting House was, where probably three of my many-great grandfathers are buried. The Boones were Quakers. In accordance with the custom of the Friends Society, no stones were placed on their graves. By 1817, the burying ground was filled. As no additional land could be purchased, dirt was hauled in and filled to a depth of four feet, and a second tier of graves was begun.

2015.Philly.Exeter

Markers onsite read:

HERE ARE BURIED DISTINGUISHED PIONEERS AND FOUNDERS OF BERKS COUNTY
LEE…BOONE…ELLIS…WEBB
THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
NO. 36…THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF BERKS COUNTY 1944

2015.Philly.markermepoint

EXETER
FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE AND BURYING GROUND
ANCESTORS OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND DANIEL BOONE ARE BURIED HERE.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF BERKS COUNTY 1915

2015.Philly.marker

We had a picnic lunch at the Meeting House on a table beside the cemetery under ancient trees. We observed the slope of land where dirt had been hauled in and built up to support more graves on top of the old ones. A gentle breeze reminded me that this was holy ground, that family nine generations before me had walked on this very dirt. That means something to me.

2015.Philly.exetercemetery
It was from this location in Berks County that Daniel Boone asked my fourth great grandfather Jacob Boone, Revolutionary soldier, to go to Kentucky in 1799, where they founded and surveyed the town of Maysville. Jacob is buried there in the Pioneer Cemetery. My grandmother, Anna Bell Boone, was born in Maysville exactly one hundred years after its founding. I look down at those under me and their places in history, and I think about how wonderful it is to know these things and to be in the places they have walked and lived.

I picked up three chestnuts that had fallen from an old tree there [and got them through security] to remember the three greats who lived on Boone land and were buried at the Exeter Meeting House.


What’s Wrong…?

The waiting room was full. I sat facing the other way from the door that went back to the catacombs with tiny rooms and monster equipment. Imaging Center. They take images there so they can see what’s on the inside of you that shouldn’t be there.

I was supposed to be at the Red Cross making Christmas cards for veterans with Susie.

I like to leave a chair between me and the next person, but that was not an option Tuesday afternoon. I occupied an end seat next to a woman in a red blazer. Across from me a man did what I was doing—trying to lose himself in his cell phone. Checking for emails over and over. Looking at Facebook. Messages? Looking for distractions. He never looked up. We never made eye contact.

The door whooshed open. “Kathy Rhodes.”

My stomach dropped. I clenched my purse, made an audible groan, and for some reason, slapped the top of my leg as I moved to get up, like, “Well, this is it.”

I had gotten a call back on my mammogram. When I got home from a business trip, there was that flashing light on the answering machine. I somehow knew what it was. I didn’t check it. I let it flash for four days. I was aware I hadn’t gotten a letter saying all was well with my screening, which was the procedure. They call you if something is wrong.

I finally braved myself enough to push the button. “This is Vanderbilt Breast Center…” I slapped the countertop. What’s with all this slapping?

“Go in this little room [blah, blah, blah] and I’ll explain what we’re going to do when you come into this room.” She pointed to the big room with the big machinery.

“Wait, what did you say to take off?” I was melting into the floor. I couldn’t absorb any words.

I put on the gown and walked into the Big Room. There were two monitors with images. I saw lots of white in the image on the right. Oh Lord.

They needed to check the white out. If they used a bigger paddle and pressed harder, the white should go away. If the white didn’t go away, I would have to get an ultrasound.

Three films and she put me back in that little dressing room while the radiologist looked at the images. I sat on a wooden bench-like board and tried to breathe and wanted to cry and every muscle ached in waiting and I just wanted to go home. I looked down at the floor and saw big globs of dust. I remembered the floor of Vanderbilt’s Big House when my friend Neil had his surgery and walked the halls, and his yellow socks were coated in layers of dust. Vanderbilt apparently doesn’t clean floors.

“You’re good to go,” the tech said. “Nothing to worry about.”

I asked some questions because I thought I needed to. And I left wondering whether next time, I should just come here to this Imaging Center for the big paddles and not fool with the smaller paddles at the screening location. I don’t like call backs.

I walked out the catacomb door into the waiting room. The man that had been sitting across from me looked up and made eye contact. I gave him a half-smile. He kept looking at me, his gaze following me as I walked. I got the message that he wanted to know if I was okay. I smiled the biggest smile I could smile at him.

I dug in my purse for my phone. I knew my son was on pins and needles waiting. He’d already called five times. I needed to let a few others know. Susie, Neil. Neil was a few blocks away sitting in his easy chair taking in cisplatin and gemcitabine. Chemo. What’s wrong with this world?


Have a good 2013?

Here’s a little something to keep in mind…via Herman King on Facebook:

“We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” ~W.H. Auden

Looking out the Windows

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time.”
― Alice Munro

A Quote

“I went on. I had no way of knowing what might happen. The doors of perception had not opened and I could see down the road no farther than the darkness permitted but I was on that road anyway. It was long but it was straight and wide and clean and my house lay at the end of it.

I went on into the night.”