Monday Music #19


There are songs, special songs, that can transport us back in time to a certain point, a specific memory. Leaving On a Jet Plane is one of those songs for me. I think I mentioned it once before in a blog post.

The song, written by John Denver, was recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1967. So, I imagine it was around  the summer of 1968 or 69 when my cousin Paula and I sang it at the top of our lungs in the back of her parents station wagon. We, all us Graham/Denmark cousins, had been to the next town over to swim. We were headed home down a south Georgia two-lane, the summer air blowing our hair around as it dried our swimsuits, and I don’t remember if the song came on the radio or if we just started singing it. I’m not sure why this moment in time has stuck with me all these years. I think it was the pure joy of the moment, the carefree happiness of a childhood that was always made better when cousins were around.

A few weeks ago I reunited with Paula for a weekend in Arkansas. It was the first time, probably since that summer, that we had been together for any length of time. In fact, we’d only seen each other 4-5 times in the intervening years. But, there is something about the bond of cousins – the years made no difference – it was like we picked up where we’d left off so many summers ago.  We have led such different lives, yet the bond of family and the bond of Christ has held us together. For that I am grateful.


me 7 P




Comfort Clothes

A few years ago, my cousin Debbie wrote a lovely piece about her trusty brown sweater. She says,

“This is my someone’s at the door, throw over your gown, warm, feel good, soft, sleep in, coffee stained (you can’t see them, thankful brown) enduring, lasting, missing one button, never fail me sweater. I keep it because it is the one thing I can trust to give me that peace of mind and comfort I need.”

This brought to mind Old Red. Old Red was an old red wool coat that belonged to my mom. Long past its prime, it hung in the closet for years. On Saturday afternoons when Dad would kick back in his recliner in the den, with a golf game on TV, he would say, “Go bring me Old Red.” I, or whichever of my brothers was closest, would go it from the closet. Dad would proceed to cover up and fall asleep. But we wouldn’t dare try to change the channel. He would stir up and bellow, “I’m watching that.” I wonder whatever became of that coat; it would have come in handy here in Alabama.

Then there were my overalls.

When I was in college at Georgia Southern, there was this great old fashioned hardware store in town where you could buy painters pants and overalls. In the mid-70s these were the fashion around campus. I wore my overalls a lot. A whole lot.  I have a picture of me in them a few years later at Clearwater Beach holding my firstborn son. I also remember that I had them on the day I rushed out of the house to take my neighbor and her son to the ER. I didn’t have time to change, just scooped up the baby and the diaper bag and flew out the door. Barefoot. I’m sure people were shaking their heads at me at the hospital, especially when I had to go into the restroom to unhook them in order to nurse my baby. Then, when I was pregnant with our second, I wore them through about my fifth month. I think I finally gave them up when they got too many holes in them.

My husband had a pair of comfort shorts. When he finally replaced them, we had a burial ceremony in the side yard. He put them in a  shoebox and dug a hole, and then we and the four kids all trooped out, very somber of course, while he said a few parting words over them. They had lived a good life and died with dignity.

I appreciate Debbie and her trusty brown sweater. Comforts clothes are akin to comfort foods. And to friends.  We need to keep them around.

I love how she ends her thoughts. Thank you, Debbie.

“People are constantly telling us we need to let go of the past and move forward. No, we don’t have to forget the past; it is a part of who we are, where we have been and where we are now. Holding on is what we call “memories” and what’s wrong with having those to fall back to?… It is the thread of life that connects us to each other and if I find it woven in a piece of clothing, I’ll hang on to it and I’ll continue to hang this sweater over me until it or I am no more.”


(originally published 11/15)

Can’t Separate

“It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain” – from A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Today’s PAD challenge was to write a poem about family


3 g

Can’t Separate

Can’t separate me from the past
my grandfather’s desertion
my grandmother’s tenacity
the stories told and retold
by the aunts who remember

Can’t separate me from my childhood
Dad’s bellowing and invented words
Mom’s steadfastness and silly jokes
brothers by my side, happy or not
supper in the kitchen every night

Can’t separate me from those cousins
who made paper dolls for me
we swam and skated and pretended
and whispered into the night
those first and forever friends

Can’t separate me from my husband
who made a new family with me
who grew and stumbled by my side
the one who really knows me
and loves me anyway

Can’t separate me from my offspring
flesh of my flesh who look like their dad
my babies grown up too soon
across state lines and time zones
in joy and sorrow, mine

Can’t separate me from this next generation
the little ones who let me love on them
these two with bits of me inside
this hope for the future
this family of mine

Every Summer

The prompt for PAD Day 10 was “travel.”

Every Summer

Every summer we traveled past the cornfields of south Georgia
I marveled at the tall green stalks swaying as we passed by
My brothers played Punch Buggy and Beaver –
Hitting each other while I dreamed out the window

Every summer as we came into the rolling hills of north Georgia
I marveled at the highway cut right through the red clay and gray rock
My brothers argued over “v” in the alphabet game
While the flatlands of Florida melted from my mind

Every summer when we arrived at Mamaw’s house
I breathed in the sweet scent of the magnolia next to the gravel drive
My brothers inspected the old shed full of ancient tools and treasures
While I admired the claw foot tub and inhaled the soft fragrance of Dove soap

Those were the days of cousins and fireflies and Red Light-Green Light
Where we snuggled up on the creaky couch to laugh at old photos
The fuzzy black and white TV droned in the background
Every summer in Georgia felt like going home

bros 1964

Me and my brothers – before they were punching each other

Throwback Thursday – 70s Magic


Me with my two brothers, all in bell-bottoms.

When Disney World opened in 1971, it was the place to go and take the relatives that came to Florida to visit us. Being just two hours away, we would go and come home the same day. We went quite a few times in the early 70s.

I had lots of fun with my brothers and cousins during those years. Yes, it was crowded but that doesn’t matter to a kid. It was just magical being there. Space Mountain, the Hall of Presidents, the Haunted Mansion, all the oldies but goodies.

Then, in my senior year of high school I experienced the magic of Grad Nite. This after-hours event for high school seniors was wonderful. There was actually a dress code! Girls could wear dresses or pantsuits the year I went. I’m sure that changed over the years. But, in 1976, I was able to see and dance along to KC and the Sunshine Band, as well Natalie Cole, Ohio Players and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

I haven’t been to Disney for a while. It’s just not the same as an adult. Well, okay, I know some “adults” who go all the time, but that’s using the term lightly.  I’m not talking about parents taking kids. I’m talking adults going sans kids, some even sans a friend. I can’t think of anything more depressing than being at Disney alone.

For the record, I DO hope one day to experience the magic again – though the eyes of my grandkids. I will gladly listen to “It’s A Small World After All” 49 times if I have to.  Can you say “bippity boppity boo”?

Throwback Thursday – Cousins


I have no idea where this picture was taken, but I think it was around 1961. I’m the youngest one in the photo. The little boy is my brother, David. The other four are my cousins, all siblings.

I’m thankful for my cousins. I have so many wonderful childhood memories with all of them. The four in this picture are all older than me, so they probably have a different viewpoint than I do. This is how I remember….

Johnny, the tall boy in the back, was the oldest child in his family. All I remember from visits to their house as a kid is that he was there. Then I remember he went to fight in Vietnam. I didn’t understand much at all of what was going on at that time, but I do remember being very glad he returned home safely. He’s now married, living in Texas, with two daughters and bunch of grandchildren. I know him a little better now. What I appreciate about him the most is that he wrote letters to our grandmother over the years. He is a kind man.

Linda is the one with the long dark hair. She and the next in line, Susan, used to make paper dolls for me, complete with several outfits. What I remember most about her is the summer she stayed with us in Ft. Lauderdale. She was supposed to be helping my mom, who was expecting my younger brother. Mom says that’s not what happened, the helping part, I mean. My most vivid memory of that time is when she came home extremely sunburned from a day at the beach. That Georgia girl did not listen to the admonitions to protect her skin. A week or so later my older brother and I would sit and peel layers of flaky skin off her back. It was fascinating at the time – I was 5 ½.

Then there is Susan – the one with her arms around me. We share the same middle name – after our great aunt Marie who didn’t have children of her own. Susan played the flute and had long straight hair in high school. I loved her hair and used to spend time watching her fix it just right. I was also fascinated with her eyelash curler.

The youngest in this group of siblings is Patricia. She spent one summer with us when I was an impressionable young teen. She answered lots of girl-stuff questions that I was embarrassed to ask my mom. She married her high school sweetheart and they are still together.

Cousins are wonderful people. Even though we lived miles apart, my cousins were all a big part of my growing up. I am grateful for the richness they added to my life.