Sunday, August 23, 2009

August Anniversary

Here is folk artist Nancy Thomas's August calendar. This time I placed it on a picture hook near a window and allowed the Sunday morning sun to pour over it. No flash necessary, but standing inside a dormer it was not easy to get very far away from the image, hence the very close closeup.

Even though I have been back to school since August 4th and have been seeing my students since the 7th, it somehow never really feels like school until September arrives. So the school boards may change the dates, but the old inner calendar has been set in stone for a long time.

A lifetime of habits and celebrations and memories revisit our years. There truly is a certain quality of light in August that streams through the window and onto the faces of my parents. The two oil paintings used to hang in my parents' bedroom, but are now in my home. As a small child, I tested the artistic theory that well rendered eyes in a portrait will follow you as you walk past them....and both sets of eyes always did. My father had commissioned these when he was in Italy...somewhere in Sardinia...during WWII. The artist used a pair of photographs with which my father traveled all throughout the war. He came home with many unusual artifacts and relics, but to me these paintings are the real and unquestionable treasures.


My parents were married in 1936, seventy-three years ago today, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My mother had ridden in a bus through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park from Chattanooga, Tennessee to marry my father and used to tell stories about that trip. I know to her it seemed a huge adventure, but my mother's innocent journey toward her future would be swallowed up by an even longer and more arduous journey. Just ahead of the newlyweds lay World War II spawned by the inevitable and tragic events brewing in Europe and the Far East.

" And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

from "The Second Coming" W.B. Yeats 1920

Between August 1936 and the fall of 1942, my parents had their first two children and built a small two story home west of Birmingham. When my father left, he was gone for three and a half years. Indeed, he did return, unharmed, though not unchanged. How my parents and so many others managed to nurture a marriage and their children through those years truly astounds me. My sister Sue (born a little over nine months after his return) claimed Super Early Baby Boomer status, while I (born five years after her) was dubbed just a plain old Baby Boomer.



My mother's oil portrait from the photo featured below.

My father's portrait most likely painted from the photo below.
I think my dad may have sat for this as well.

This is the photo of my father, Captain Patterson, taken in 1942.
He lived from December 1911 to June 1971.

This is the hand tinted photo of my mother, Nina, which my father
kept with him throughout his time in Europe.
She lived from April 1914 to April 1982.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harold Lloyd Connection for Willow


Last night I noticed that our Willow of Life at Willow Manor has a current passion for Harold Lloyd movies. I had to dig out this cherished snapshot of my father as a 13 year old with an advertising drum for the movie Girl Shy to share with her. The first photo is the original, while the second one is a an enlarged version which shows more of the face of the drum. My best guess on the date for this .... other than "Monday at the Strand".... would be late summer or fall of 1924. I will check the release date for this movie. It was probably taken in some small neighborhood near Birmingham, AL. The movie recently aired on Turner Classic Movies.
Sadly, I was away from home and missed it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

School Daze & School Days


Just when I thought I was going to settle down and enjoy my last week or so of leisure before returning to school, I found myself rearranging furniture and replacing old bath towels for new (but still all white), and making extra room in closets. This fall my son and his wife and my one and only grandson will finally have made a move to just one house in the next state and no longer have a place here in town, which means when they are here (which will be often), they will stay with us. Then, last weekend, it was time for my 40th high school reunion! It was great fun, and most people commented on the fact that we were a class that really loved one another. (Believe me, as a classroom teacher, I have observed that entire classes have distinct personalities and sometimes hate one another while the next year's group will be completely opposite.) Our class had a 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, and now 40th reunion. So yes, we really like one another.

Now that I am back at school, and have seen my schedule of all seniors for British Literature, I am experiencing my same old butterflies and mild stage fright: tomorrow is the first day of classes. How silly does that sound? I have been adding up all the years I have actually begun a school year. Above is my first grade picture. I did not attend nursery school or kindergarten, but I did spend the year before first grade enthralled with Alabama Public Television as teachers gave instruction in language and math and social studies designed for use in the elementary classroom. I would set up a little table and chairs in front of our black and white RCA, and I would "attend" school with my dolls and teddy bears. Public television in the US was certainly in its infancy. In fact, Alabama was the first state to have a public television network in 1955! Add to that programming, Romper Room & Captain Kangaroo, and I had a pretty good start! So, when I began to account for every year, from 1957 until 2009, I realized that every year, since 1957, I have returned to a school or college to begin the quest of a New School Year, either as a student or as a teacher. Sometimes, it was a dual beginning, as when I was teaching and attending graduate school. In later years, I was teaching high school during the day, and teaching in a community college at night. If you throw in my year with Public TV, that adds up to 54 consecutive years that I have participated in the ritual of beginning a new school year.

My mother was very much a traditional stickler when it came to dressing her children. Too bad she wasn't there at school to straighten my collar before this picture was taken. She always wanted my hair in ringlets and used a large fountain pen to roll my hair into sausage curls. I hated my bangs because I had a cowlick that always made my hair lift up on one side so that it appeared to me that my bangs were cut unevenly. So, she curled them as well! This was the only one of my school pictures that was black and white. (I think some of the entire classroom photos were in black and white.) All subsequent years, individual photos were in living color.

I vividly remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Maude Clements. She was classic: Think of the darling little lady in the cartoons with Tweety Bird...adorably plump, sweet face, silver hair in a softy shaped bun. I think she was not really very old -- maybe a late forty something. Every morning she would read to us from Psalms or from a Bible passsage relative to a holy day. My best friends in first grade were Teena, Debbie (my maid of honor), and Harold. Teena was all fun and giggles; Debbie was a little blonde princess, and Harold was adored by all as a perfect gentleman who would become a fine, handsome athlete and class leader despite his brush with polio which left him with a limp. We had the little table and chair styled desks which had a cubby hole, so in the back of the room, Mrs. Clements set up chairs for our reading groups. The floor was that rough, unfinished wood that had to be cleaned by pouring an oily sawdust compound on the floor and sweeping it up. Teena's mother, ever active in the PTA and the only working mother I knew of, bought a darling linoleum floor covering featuring many classic illustrated nursey rhymes so that we could sit on the floor in our reading groups. My favorite part of the day was right after lunch. Mrs. Clements would have us put our heads down for a nap. The steam heat would softly hum and hiss while she would play classic fairytales for us on a record player. I rarely slept but listened with rapt attention to every detail and description. This was the first time I ever heard the story of The Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll and other tales like Rumpelstiltskin.

I am certain that first year in her classroom made me a teacher. I loved my classmates, my school, and I loved Mrs. Clements.

About Me

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Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat