Jean's Take

A blog about words, women, & whimsy

Category: Me-anderings (Page 2 of 2)

Charleston is much more than a dance!

Almost since the day I was born, I have loved the Charleston.  Give me a Fox Trot, Rhythm and Blues, Rock–and I Charleston Around the Clock, Twist–one of the best, but almost any rhythm fits.  The mention of Charleston and my insides start jumping, my feet want to move, and I can’t stop humming for the rest of the day.  Charleston equaled Dance until last week and I went to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit my grandson who is a sophomore at the College of Charleston.

  • Did you know that the College was founded in 1770, the 13th oldest in the US and is covered with Live Oaks covered with Spanish Moss?
  • Did you know that Live Oaks are called Live Oaks because their leaves never turn brown and die and that Spanish Moss is so absorbent that it has been used to diaper babies?
  • Did you know that ‘Rainbow Row’ is a street of preserved row-houses from the 1770’s painted shades of pink, blue, green and yellow–and started with yellow?
  • Did you know that Charleston is the best preserved of old Southern Cities–only younger than St. Augustine, Fla.; that the slave market is now a market with booths and stores of almost anything–except slaves, they’re illegal now–and is only closed Christmas Day; that windows on the fronts of homes functioned as doors, that porches were placed on the sides to catch breeze from the sea; that Charleston is a peninsula coddled by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers and the Atlantic Ocean; that a statue of John C. Calhoun (he’s buried there) stands tall to remind us that South Carolina stands for States Rights and Fort Sumter in its harbor to remind us of the first battle of the Civil War?

All we call Southern from grits and catfish to charm and elegant manners stand side by side with Charleston’s prideful past.  Yes, Charleston is much more than a dance!

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My Grandmother . . .

My grandmother worked hard, even taking in boarders to raise 4 children, then she raised me and then my aunt brought home an Indian girl for her to raise.  When she had finished, she died.  She had finished being what she was supposed to be and doing what she was supposed to do.  I wrote this poem about her . . . .

“Who were you?”I suddenly asked, a foolish question surely, For I knew she was grandmother, mother, wife, wore many hats securely.

“But who were you?”I asked again, my heart was filled with pain.

I did not know; I had never asked.The question came again.

I placed my hand upon her grave, searching . . . . . . . .

Fresh baked bread, still warm . . . hot water cornbread, muscadine

pie, I haven’t had them since.Mother Macree, Hawaiian music and

Wayne King’s band, so sentimental . . . rough hands so gentle . . . am I

getting close?

You told me how, when you were young, you placed a clothespin on

your nose because it was too flat! Your father fought in the Civil War;

he never recovered from that . . . spectacles always lost on top of your

head, and I threaded your needles . . . am I getting close?

Mail-order clothes, Montgomery Wards . . . corsets that were stiff . . .

Ben Hur, the Bible every night, the 23rdgave you a lift . . . am I getting close? Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee?”. . .

you gave it to me once; you loved me.You wrote poems, lots of

them, one when I was born. I have tried to keep them all.

Your bedtime stories, all make-believe, a beautiful princess, a handsome prince—right off the top of your head. We held hands across the beds . . . am I getting close?

A warm iron wrapped in my bed, when I came in from a date, and a flashlight beckoning up the hall when I stayed on the porch too late . . . am I getting close?

You dreamed of places far away not daring to believe that you might get there some day.I went; I took you with me.

That is who you are. You are me.

We are the past, the present, the what will come to be.

You are who you are, and I am who I am, and we are one

with all who were and will be. That is you and me.

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Hawaii Away

I’ve been away, oh, not away, like gone fishin’ away–I’ve written that blog.  No, away, like Hawaii away.  Did you know there are no seagulls in Hawaii?  Well, we flew cross country to San Diego then we sailed the ocean blue–the Pacific is very blue.  It took five days to get there.  Did you know that Hawaii is further away from other land masses than any other place in the world?  It’s that isolated! It seemed like we would never get there and by the time we got back to California, I felt very much like the Ancient Mariner–you know, Coleridge’s  water, water everywhere man.  I recall these words I have given to one of the women I am developing . . . ,  I have always loved the sea, its salty breeze against my face, blowing my hair and filling my nostrils; its relentless and uncompromising power, its irrefutable constancy. Awed by its secrets, I have stood on its shores demanding to know them and imagining others doing much the same at strange places beyond the horizon, facing me, our thoughts touching. Yes, I love the sea, but I think I love it more if I’m on solid ground.  Did you know that Hawaii doesn’t produce pineapples anymore?

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Nutley AAUW and the Cello

I gave a book talk on my special theme of a woman becoming what she can be.  It was at the seasonal kick-off dinner for the Nutley Chapter of AAUW.  I think I passed on my enthusiasm.  While I was signing books a woman came up and stated.  “I’ve decided I’m going to learn to play the cello!”  We all looked at her, thinking that she might be joking, for I had said that when you ask yourself, “What about me?”  you don’t have to ‘run off and join the circus,’ you just have to think of ‘me’–what do I want?  Women are innately nurturers. We don’t think of ourselves first.  My son’s wife told me a story she had read about a woman who went to get a pickle out of the refrigerator and there was only one left.  She didn’t take it in case her husband or one of her children wanted it.  Her husband came in, went to the refrig. and thought nothing of taking the pickle.  That’s just the way it is.  But when a woman asks herself ‘What about me?’, she still may not eat the last pickle–but she might learn to play the cello.What about you?  What do you want to do?  Do you want to play the cello, or just be someone who never eats that pickle.

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Phoenix and Beyond

I’ve been in Phoenix for several weeks and couldn’t write because my laptop wasn’t working well; plus, I didn’t have a niche.Everyone needs a place to think.For example, in my novel Backstage at the White House, Stacey Lea, its heroine, had “The Pondrin’ Tree.” It was a great live oak blanketed with Spanish moss, and it sat less than two hundred feet from the warm Mississippi. “She would close those mossy curtains, climb up high off the earth and shut out the world ’til she could deal with it.”Her father remarked that everyone needed a special place where no one else would intrude.”I used to get in my old motor boat and go up-river to a little inlet.Good catfish there and I’d sit and fish and think.”

I like to go to Phoenix—especially since it has been so cold in NJ for so long this winter, but I don’t know if I would want to live there.Take, for example, the weather.Everyday was sun and blue skies.  That’s not weather.  Where’s the rain, the clouds, the snow, the ice?!!  And the TV weather–well, just an 8 day forecast of big orange suns–no suspense and the monotony!!   —

Hope you have a pondrin’ place.

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