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TALKING TO MYSELF: 10 January 2013 Sherry Chandler started blogging back about the time Bill Gates and Steve Jobs invented computers. Lots of other wannabes have come and gone, but day after day, year after year, Sherry delivers thoughtful insights on a wide range of topics, most often about writing and literature. I don't know how she meets the daily challenge, given her creative output as one of Kentucky's best-known poets plus a full-time job as a medical writer/editor.(Oh, and she twitters poetry too @ bluegrasspoet.) I long ago decided that she has a larger mind than most of us. Today her blog features a review of my new book of essays, Butter in the Morning. In typical Sherry-fashion, though, it is more than a book reivew (or a valentine to an old friend.) It is a graceful and beautiful essay in its own right about the unique time and place we have shared. Thank you, Sherry, for this, and for helping so many of us live life more abundantly.
To read Sherry's blog click here: http://sherrychandler.com/2013/01/10/doing-the-frog-paddle
or read here:
Doing the frog paddle
I was born in February 1945. As I’ve said elsewhere, when I was born, Allied Forces in Europe were firebombing Dresden — though I didn’t know this until I grew up and readSlaughterhouse Five — and in the South Pacific were preparing to invade a worthless rock called Iwo Jima. It was a lonely time to be born. Most potential fathers had gone off to slaughter or be slaughtered. I didn’t know all this either, only that I was the only child my age in our little country community of Sweet Owen and the only child of my age at our family church, Pleasant Ridge Baptist. In 1963, our consolidated county high school graduated 73 students from a county of 352 square miles.
But I was lucky. I have two brothers and a sister. They were born in the middle of the Great Depression and knew a lot about make-do. They grew up working, as we all did, the fields and my sister bought her piano with money she earned from her first tobacco crop. And they had gobs of friends, ready to play softball, go camping on Eagle Creek, or steal one of our Pawpaw’s chickens to make chicken and dumplings (they forgot to clean out the gizzard).
They also had time to tease and spoil a little sister, to play games with me (even if the game was 52 Pickup), to make me think Santa Claus was landing (I grew up skeptical and knew a red yo-yo from Rudolph’s nose), or to listen to “Gunsmoke” on the radio (my brothers laughed that I could always pick out the villain — neither the writing nor the acting was subtle), to borrow date money from my piggy bank (you could go on a date with piggy bank money in those days).
Maybe that was why, when grown-ups came around and started their tales and talk, especially of who was cousin to whom and how that bloodline worked, I tended to take my book off to a quiet spot and go to Oz or eat apples in the attic with Jo March.
My friend of five decades, Georgia Green Stamper, causes me to regret that indifference. She is two months younger than I am and was born about 12 miles away in Natlee, in the same situation, except that she was even lonelier than I, being an only child, In fact, one of the most poignant stories in Georgia’s new book, Butter in the Morning (Wind 2012) tells how her little brother was stillborn because an arsonist had burned a bridge and the ride by ambulance from Natlee to Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, now a short hop down I-75, was even longer and slower than usual on windy back-country roads.
Maybe that is why Georgia loved to sit quietly on the front porch of a summer evening and listen to her people tell the same old stories. Or maybe, though I know she spent her fair amount of time in Jo March’s attic, she just had a different turn, not so bent on escapism and living happily ever after.
Whatever the reason, I’m grateful that she did because she grew up with a dragon’s hoard of stories to tell and an innate sense of how to tell them. The essays in Butter in the Morning will make you cry and laugh. You will recognize your own people in them and you’ll realize that your stories are important too.
It’s typical of Georgia that in the essay, “The Summer I Was Ten,” she wastes no time in condemnation of the arsonist who burned one of the state’s few remaining covered bridges, isolated a community, and possibly contributed to the loss of her long-awaited little brother. Instead, she focuses on the neighbor lady who took her in and took her to her heart while Georgia’s mother was recuperating in that distant hospital.
. . . Hattie held me in her arms and never let go of me again. She held me in her heart for the rest of her life as though I were one of hers.
Though she is far from being a Pollyanna, Georgia’s world view is, in the words of Linda Scott Derosier “one of hope, optimism, and humor.” She believes in the traditional American values of work, tolerance, and inventiveness. And she shows us portraits of people who live by those values. Frugal farm people who see themselves as stewards of the land and models for the next generation.
Not that she whitewashes anyone. She tells the story of how her family “adopted” Leon Harris (1886-1960), an African-American child, in the guise of household help. In defiance of local community attitudes. They saw to his education, had him sit at the table with them at mealtime, etc. And yet, when Harris came back to visit, a grown man and successful writer, Georgia’s grandfather Hudson welcomed him heartily but conversed with him on the porch and did not invite him into the house. He had not the courage to defy convention as his great-grandfather had done.
I think I like Georgia’s writing best, though, when she free associates on ideas like taser gun home parties, technologie’s hard-drive heart, phishing letters from Dubai, Demi Moore Stew:
The word was stew. I pitched Ernie the perfect clue; Dinty Moore. Sigh. He thought I said Demi Moore and shouted back “naked!”
And for goodness sake, don’t miss any opportunity to hear her read. She’ll have you laughing and crying in the same breath.
Lately, as you may know if you’ve been reading here and listening to me complain, I have been reading Paradise Lost. I’ve come now to Book VII in which Milton, in the guise of the angel Raphael, retells the Genesis story of the creation of the Earth and her plants and animals. The abundance of life in this tale
856: . . . for God on thee
857: Abundantly his gifts hath also pour’d,
858: Inward and outward both,
reminds me of Kentucky as the Long Hunters found it. It also has set ringing through my mind the words attributed to Jesus in John 10:10:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Abundant life. I think we’ve lost the meaning of the words. We live now under the rule “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Georgia’s essays in Butter in the Morning show us what abundant life really means.
And as for the riddle of that frog paddle, read the book to find the answer.You’ll enjoy the journey.
Butter in the Morning is available from online retailers and your favorite local independent bookstore.
©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper 2013