Save me, Kitty! Save me!

My grandparents’ yard was about an acre of a 40 acre property. There was a fence around the other 39 and a neighbor kept cows there. (He paid my grandparents for the use of the property with half a beef every year.) There was a pasture to the right of the house and a wet weather creek back in the woods. We played all over about 10 acres of that property. We had to be careful in the pasture because there were thistles and cacti all over the place. And if we got too close to the cows, the bull got tetchy.

I am 5 years older than my first sister, 7 years older than the youngest. After one visit from all of us without my parents, my grandparents refused to try to keep up with all 3 of us at one time again. But, we did go singly or in a pair. They were very loving and the only punishment any of us ever got from them (with one exception and I don’t blame them, I was unintentionally very bad) was their disapproval. That was usually sufficient to keep us in line. There were occasional threats of corporal punishment. But, they were never acted on. The idea of being so bad that they would actually spank us was was too horrible to contemplate.

One summer when Amanda was 3 or 4 and I was 8 or 9, we visited them together leaving Ingrid with our parents. Our grandparents had a habit of having a cocktail while they listened to a baseball game on the radio, enjoying the evening in lounge chairs in the back yard. They only ever had one. I think his was bourbon and water. Hers was bourbon and Coke. On this particular evening, I took a walk across across the pasture while Mandy played around my grandparents in their chairs under the mimosa trees.

When I was halfway to the other side of the field full of thistles, cows and cacti, I heard my little sister screaming “Save me, Kitty! Save me!” I turned around to see my grandfather holding her by the arm and she was trying to pull away from him. He was holding a stick half the thickness of my arm like he was going to brain her with it. I started running back toward them, thinking “What do I think I can do to stop him? And please don’t let me step on a cactus!”

And noticing that my grandmother was sitting in her chair, just holding her drink. And laughing. When I got to the fence, I could see that both my grandparents were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.

I don’t remember which one of them asked me what I thought I was going to do when I got there. I do remember saying “I had no idea. I just ran because she was hollering.”

When I asked what was going on, Mama told me me Mandy had sassed my grandfather and he had threatened to take a switch to her. So, she sassed him again. Probably saying something along the line of “You will not either.”

He never would have. That was not his way. And part of what was absurd was the tree branch he had picked up. If he’d hit her with that, he would have broken bones. The idea of it was ludicrous.

(The only spanking any of us ever got was 3 swats on a clothed bottom on the side of a very busy road where I had been taking a parade of cousins for a walk. It hadn’t occurred to me that walking beside the highway that ran in front of their house was different than walking on the sidewalk in my quiet neighborhood at home. We scared the life out of all the grown ups that day.)

“Save me, Kitty. Save me.” was one of my grandmother’s favorite stories to tell on us. She was still laughing about it 30 years later when we were grown and he had been dead for more than 20 years.

story grandparents' yard acre 4 - klparmley | ello

This was taken at my parents’ wedding. She was 5 years younger than I am now. He was a year older than her. I was born a year and a half later.

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Remembering my grandparents

I remember my grandmother holding me up to see a cat with new kittens in a dead tree stump that must have been 4.5 feet tall. Because of the shape of the house, I had to have been <4 years old. A renovation took out the porch every one else was sitting on.

I remember sitting in the light of the fire and the Xmas tree lights, eating pound cake and drinking orange juice because she forgot to buy more milk. I think I was 9 or 10.

I remember rides in the cart pulled by my grandfather’s tractor to go pick out, chop down and haul in the Xmas tree. It was a very bumpy ride and it never occurred to us that he already knew which tree he intended for us to choose.

I remember my grandfather letting me hold a baby chick and when I tried to pick one up for myself being chased by the rooster. I was 5.

I remember him taking his pistol outside at dawn because the chickens were making a ruckus. He held up a 6′ rat snake with a rake when we went to the door after we heard the gunshot. I think I was 4 or 5.

I remember going out to the garden in my underpants with a salt shaker in my hand and picking a tomato to eat it like it was an apple. I was 2 or 3.

We went to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University today. Ostensibly, it was to see this installation, entitled Precarity, by John Akomfrah. But, of course, we saw everything else while we were there, too. It is based on the life of “Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden, the first person known to have explored the sonic tonalities of the music we now call jazz.”

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There is a single row of benches in the room. And, in the beginning, we had to stand by the wall because all the seats were occupied. When a group got to their starting place and left, we sat at the end of that bench. But, it was too close for me to see all 3 screens without a lot of head turning. So, I moved back to the wall.

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It’s a curious piece. There’s no actual narrative. But, it’s still very moving. Some of the triptychs are the same scene from different angles. Some are different scenes entirely. There is old footage from the time of Bolden’s life in addition to new footage of … I guess, ghosts of his life.

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I’m glad I saw it.

Along the Carroll Park Canal

There is a Linear Park in Frederick, Maryland with a canal running through it.   There is a bridge over it that has been completely transformed by trompe l’oeil  stones, insets and a duck.

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She was looking for koi and didn’t see the duck until we pointed it out to her because it is flat.  She was as charmed to notice it as we were.

Distilleries

Distilleries I have visited in 2017:

Fainting Goat Spirits in Greensboro, North Carolina (Lovely herbal gin and very smooth vodka)

Broad Branch Distillery in Winston Salem, North Carolina (The blueberry flavor of the Smashing Violet whiskey isn’t nearly as strong at the color suggests)

10th Ward Distilling Company in Frederick, Maryland (We brought home lovely applejack)

McClintock Distilling in Frederick , Maryland (We went to a party they hosted. The cocktails were lovely. We didn’t, however, bring any home.)

Dark Corner Distillery in Greenville, South Carolina (Tasting room, not the actual distillery. We brought home Mountain Peak Espresso flavored rum.)

Copperhead Mountain Distillery in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina (Brought home their “Scotch” which tastes more like Irish because there is no peat.)

Dragon Moonshine in Charlotte, North Carolina (I brought Apple Pie and Amaretto rums home.)

My liver may be in danger.

Portrait of a marriage

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This is gorgeous, rich, lovely mousse. It is made from avocados and organic cocoa. You know. Healthy stuff. 🙂

One of us skims from the top, slivers, slices, layer by layer. And the plastic protector is stretched across the top without risking the loss of any of the tasty, tasty treat.

The other one eats in from the edge and covers the part that is being saved for tomorrow (because it is very rich and luscious) with plastic wrap that is tucked in, blanket-like, around the little mound of delight.

This is us.

Lalochezia

Lalochezia lal·o·che·zi·a (lāl’ō-kē’zē-ə) n. Emotional relief gained by using indecent or vulgar language.

One day, I was at my parents house and needed to store some kind of food. (I’ve forgotten what.) I had a container and was sitting on the floor going through all the lids that had accumulated in the cabinet trying to find the one that fit. And, as is my habit when I’m doing something that’s frustrating me, I was swearing to myself. A kind of sotto voce “shit, damn, hell, fuck, hell, shit, damn, damn, damn, shit fuck, hell…”

My father came in the kitchen, heard me and started laughing. I said, “What? It’s funny that I’m sitting on the floor look for a lid for this damn bowl?”

He said “No. I came in your room one time when you were about 4 years old and you were looking something in your toy box. And you were talking to yourself saying ‘shoot, durn, shoot, durn, heck, shoot, heck.’ It’s funny how somethings don’t change even though the language is more mature.”


I work in a medical lab and our work space is called a bench (even though it is a long table). And the benches in my department are about 3 or 4 feet apart. It is possible to be facing someone else while you are minding your own business doing your own work in your own space. Also, there are days that are a little stressful and my lalochezia kicks in to help me deal with it.

One day, my manager called me in to tell me that another employee had complained about my language. I asserted that I had not been swearing at my coworker. I had simply been doing my work and talking to myself as I did. “Also,” I said, “if she has never heard those words, how does she know what they mean? And if she does know what they mean, clearly she has heard them before and I haven’t been giving her an accidental education.” I thought about it a minute and said “And another thing. If we were that close to each other that she could hear me, why did she need to come complain to you? Why didn’t she just day ‘Kitty! Shut up! You’re bugging me.’? I probably would have.”

Sometimes, I add an extra “fuck” to my conversations at work when she’s around, now.

Artichokes

When I was 14 or 15, a frequent habit in my family was to go to church on Sunday and then have our big meal, usually in the dining room instead or the breakfast nook off the kitchen. It wasn’t always a huge feast that my mother had spent hours over, just the biggest meal that was getting fixed that day. It could very well be chicken salad and pimento cheese with choices of bread or crackers and some chips.

But, one Sunday when we came home, she got stirring around in the kitchen and shooed me out when I came to help. I didn’t argue. I didn’t get let off that hook very often.

After a while she called us into the dining room, where there was nothing on the table except napkins, some silverware and glasses of tea. She was clearly pleased without herself as she told us to sit down and whisked into the kitchen.

She came back with salad plates holding steamed artichokes. And she brought little dishes of melted lemon butter.

We were baffled. She sat down and showed us how to gently pull the leaves off and scrape the tasty bits off with our teeth. My sisters and I had a blast dipping in the butter. My parents seemed to think it was fun to enjoy their artichokes and to watch us having a big time. Eventually, we got down to the choke. She showed us how to scrape off the fuzzy part and cut the heart into bite sized pieces to eat the best of the artichoke.

When we had all finished, she whisked the plates and artichoke debris off the table and banged around in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. Then she brought in bowls of Campbell’s soup and a plate of peanut butter and honey or jelly sandwiches (which was a fairly usual lunch for us).

I looked at my soup and said,”I’m not complaining about the meal. Soup and sandwiches is great. But, it’s kind of anticlimactic after the artichokes.”

She almost looked sheepish and said, “I rarely see fresh artichokes at the grocery and when I do they usually only have 2 or 3. The other day they had 5! One for each of us. So, I got ’em. And if you ever find yourselves faced with one, you’ll know what to do with it.”

So, that’s my mother.

Cake!

This photo was taken to mark my second birthday. My father had turned 24 the previous April and there was chocolate cake.

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I have always loved chocolate cake. And I decided that I wanted a piece of that birthday cake. So, I pushed a chair over to the kitchen counter and cut myself a slice.

I don’t remember where I got the knife. What I remember is standing on that chair eating the slice of cake that I was holding in my left hand and holding the knife with my right hand. My mother walked passed the kitchen door and didn’t register me standing there for a second. I suspect that the horrified expression on her face when she backed up to look in the kitchen is what welded it to my mind. As I recall, she swooped in to pick me up and relieve me of the knife while I diligently chomped away.

About 50 years later, she asserted that children have no memories of any time before they are 3. I asked her how old I was when that happened. She said, “You couldn’t possibly remember that. You were only about a year and a half old!” I said, “You never told me that story in my life. I even remember the dress I was wearing. It was a baby blue dress you had smocked.”

Her jaw dropped. She said,”I guess you do remember.”