Friday, April 29, 2011

After the Storm

It has been some week. I am sitting in a hotel room in Tennessee with my daughters and grandchildren, thankful to have made it through the worse storms in Alabama history. I have been through tornados before, but nothing like what happened on Wednesday.

The storm sirens were going off constantly by noon. We were told to go home at 12:30. The children were stuck at school, waiting for anxious parents to pick them up. I had only driven five minutes and there were already trees down on the highway. I spent the afternoon at my neighbor's house in her bathroom, coming out during the calm. We saw a funnel cloud, about half-mile wide, over the cotton field. It was eerily quiet, but it veered away from our direction. Later, when it calmed down once more I attempted to make it to my daughter's house. I made it ten minutes down the road, when there was yet another warning and the ominous storm clouds and flooded streets made me turn
around. By now we had no power and our cell phones weren't getting service, so I had no contact with my family. We listened to the battery-operated radio for all news reports and it sounded bad.

I woke up early and headed north. All of North Alabama was without power. TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) supplies our electricity and was hit especially hard, unprecedented in its history. Luckily, I was able to get gas at one of the few places that had gas. By mid-morning it was 20 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic of people trying to find gas and supplies. Our county had several fatalities and dozens of injuries. My son-in-law works for the Sheriff's Department and had to work search and rescue. He came home soaked to the bone, saying that he'd never seen anything like it.  Still, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham were also hard hit and and I am just now seeing the pictures in the newspaper.
They are saying that it may be a week before power is restored. My younger daughter is expecting any day, so we decided to get a hotel room for a couple of days. We are so fortunate that we have a roof over our heads and everyone accounted for. Many others are not so fortunate.
Please keep the tornado victims in your prayers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Houses that Built Me

In the country song, "The House that Built Me," a young woman visits her childhood home and takes a trip down memory lane. It is a poignant song and reminds us that we can't go home again. I don't think I was ever attached to our temporary homes, but more to the sense of place, at that particular time.

Growing up in a military family we didn't have one particular house that we could call home. We lived in a series of rental houses and government quarters (apartments) until I moved out on my own at the tender age of 19.

There was the two-bedroom house on a country road in Tennessee that had a leaky roof. The landlord farmed the acreage next door and gave us free vegetables. We had a beagle, "Pee-Wee" and a German Shepherd, "Lady". The school bus picked us up at the end of the long driveway. My mother watched "General Hospital" on the black and white television , and we went shopping once a month, because the military only paid you monthly.

When my father went to Vietnam we lived in another two-bedroom house near my grandparents in middle Tennessee. I was ten, and my mother had just given birth to my baby sister. She had five children to take care of and a husband at war. I helped wrap the Christmas presents that year, after picking out my own gifts.
My father came home safely from the war. A taxi dropped him off, surprising us all.

The next house was in Oklahoma. I was eleven and we were studying Oklahoma history in school. I loved the musty odor of the history books and loved the Indian culture that we learned about. I had never seen prairie dogs before, nor buffalo that roamed on the nearby refuge. The house had a crawl space that we would hide in during tornado warnings. It was scary.

When we moved back to Germany we were assigned a four-bedroom apartment on the third floor of government housing. Each stairwell had eight families. At suppertime we could smell what other families were having for dinner and hear footsteps running up and down the stairs with children coming in from the playground. We walked to school, and walked home for lunch, and then back again. We spent the next four years there and we saw many families come and go. I remember in particular one cute Hispanic boy who had played one of the children on "The Flying Nun." His parents drove a fancy car and had a car phone, something unheard of in 1970, so we were in awe of his celebrity status. His name was Ruben.

We moved back to Alabama for the second time when I started high school. The one thing that I remember about the rental house was how it withstood the tornado of 1974. Our family took shelter in a small hallway when we heard the storm pass over, sounding just like a train. When it was over our neighborhood looked like a war zone, with trees and power lines down and several homes damaged or completely destroyed. We were fortunate.

When my husband retired from the Army we wanted our two daughters to grow up in one place. I wanted them to have roots and close relationships with their relatives. They would have their own childhood memories, of course, and not experience the itinerant childhoods of their parents. But there were times that I would get itchy feet and wish that I could move again. My children would say, "Mom, you were so lucky to see so many things and visit all these places." And I was. The houses that built me gave me so much more than four walls.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What I Learned From My Grandparents

Get up early ~ the early bird gets the worm ~ till a garden ~ don't stay up too late ~ don't watch too much television ~ make biscuits from scratch ~ memorize a favorite hymn ~ pray ~ be thankful ~ there's always someone who is worse off than you ~ sit on the front porch ~ say howdy to your neighbor ~ make do with what you have ~ treat others with respect and kindness ~ obey your elders ~ eat everything on your plate ~ there are poor, starving children out there~ learn from the mistakes of others and don't repeat them ~ straighten up ~ the world doesn't owe you anything ~ do your homework ~ help your mother ~ listen to your father ~ watch your tongue ~ hard work never hurt anyone ~ a good name is all a man has ~ nothing is free ~ you have to work for what you want ~ don't make excuses ~ choose your friends wisely ~ think before you act ~ don't talk back ~ say Yes, Ma'am and No, Ma'am ~ say Yes, Sir and No, Sir ~ go outside and play ~ watch out for your brothers and sisters ~ believe in God ~ watch out for the devil

I also learned that standing in front of a hot fireplace in a house without central heat could warm your bones like nothing else could. ~ And that even when the pantry was almost bare, Grandma could knead a little flour and lard and soon those flaky biscuits would melt in your mouth. ~ I learned that even though she didn't have much, there was a warmth and coziness about my Grandmother's house that I still remember after all these years. ~ And I learned that people didn't have to lock their front door and friends and family could simply walk right in and make themselves at home. ~ I learned that people could be happy with simple things, like having family around the dinner table, and happiness was not found in material things. ~ And  I learned that neighbors still talked to one another when walking down the street and having a phone was a luxury, not a necessity. ~ I learned that children were still treated as children and adults hushed their voices when little ones were around. ~ And I learned that the world moves too fast and you have to slow down sometimes and listen to those around you because you might just learn something.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If Children Ruled the World

My daughter, Carrie, as a little girl
If children ruled the world
Grown-ups would have to be quiet
And let children have their say
Grown-ups wouldn't be allowed to interrupt
Or pout when they didn't get their way..

If children ruled the world
There would be no black or white, brown or yellow
There would be no prejudice, no hatred
Just love for one another
And looking out for the other fellow...

If children ruled the world
Everyone would have a chance
To get off the bench and run in the race
With the rest of us cheering, "Hooray!"
As you cross the finish line and come in first place...

If children ruled the world
There would be a giant playground
Where children could play all day
And the world would be our canvas
As we painted and colored the drabness away....

If children ruled the world
Every child would have a home filled with love
A glass of warm milk and a comfy bed in which to sleep
Sweet dreams and goodnight prayers
'Til morning light their little souls shall keep

If children ruled the world...

(c) Anita M. Ashworth 2010

Monday, April 4, 2011

Memories In Black and White

I only have a few photos of my German relatives. The photo of my grandparents wedding is the only photo I have of my grandfather. He died when my mother was nine years old, in East Germany. They had been separated after the war and my grandmother and nine children became refugees, travelling by train from Czechoslovakia to West Germany after the war ended. I know very little about my grandparents, Karl and Anna, so I cherish the few photos that I have.
The next picture was taken of my Aunt Marianne's church wedding in the 1950's, when she married an American airman. My aunt was beautiful and reminded us of a movie star when she came to visit us in her convertible, with a silk scarf wrapped around her blonde hair. She was also my godmother. Sadly, we lost her at the young age of 37.

The last picture was actually an old, old black and white postcard that I had enlarged. It is the Cinderella castle, or Neuschwanstein, home of King Ludwig. No, he wasn't a relative, but I loved the picture of the castle!