Pieces of My Culture

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A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

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We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad, much to my shame and regret.

Music is a big component of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”. My first concerts were the Dooobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. I never learned to play a musical instrument, but from the time I got my first transistor radio music has been a part of my life.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Casseroles are the preface and postlude of every funeral; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting.

In reflecting on the elements that shaped me, I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.

 

(originally posted Dec. 2015)

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I Hear the Train A Comin’

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I hear the train a comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend,
And I ain’t seen the sunshine,
Since, I don’t know when,

from Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash

In early 2014, after we decided on a house and our offer was accepted, my husband looked on Google Maps and saw that the train runs very near our house. He was worried this was going to be a problem, but, I like it. I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy hearing the whistle blow, which it does 4-5 times a day. I think if I could get through the brush and woods on the other side of our back fence I would be right at the tracks.

My last train ride was in 1996, the day my father died. Our van was in the shop and it was the only way I could get back to see him. My brother picked me up at the train station and drove me to our parent’s house. That night as I sat with him his breathing became labored. I had to wake my mom from what was probably her first peaceful sleep in weeks. As she held his hand and I held her, he left us. And even though the lonely train whistle often reminds me of that night, it also reminds me that life is going on all around me. Trains and planes and cars are taking people back and forth everyday here  this little corner of Alabama and all over the wide world. I am just a speck.

 

 

Father’s Day Thoughts

Dad

 

“I loved photography for the same reason I loved baseball. Because Dad did.” – Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods

 

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This made me think, are there things I love because Dad did? I suppose there are things I like and things I do and choices I’ve made along the way because of him. I was born in Athens, Georgia and into this family that has perpetually rooted for the Georgia Bulldogs. So, I’ve always considered myself a fan, though it’s laughable to call me a fan of any football team. Dad loved music and so do I, though I can’t say he influenced my choices of musical styles.

Dad’s work ethic was an example to me and I think it had a lot to do with my educational goals when I first went off to college. I majored in marketing with an eye on fashion merchandising. Dad didn’t ever push me into it, but he was clear with his desire for me to get a college education, something he never had. He explained to me the changes in the workplace and how, in his later years, he couldn’t hire anyone without a degree. How I wish he had been there when I finally graduated with a degree in Elementary Education.

Dad was also a wordsmith of sorts. He loved to use big words. He admitted to having poor handwriting and spelling skills; he said that’s what secretaries were for. He also loved to make up words, specifically names for us kids and then the grandkids. Maybe I somehow absorbed his love of words.

Like Woods, I love photography and I like baseball. I don’t know where exactly my love of taking pictures came from, but it has evolved greatly in recent years. My enjoyment of baseball totally came from my husband.

All this brings me to say, I’m glad for the glimpses of Dad that show up in me on occasion. The wordplay, the sense of honesty, the sense of humor. Thanks, Dad.

Love,

Puncie

South Georgia College Tigers 73-77 Baseball Reunion

 

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May 6, 2017

 

For one group of guys from a small school in south Georgia, it was baseball that knit them together  and drew them back, over forty years later, to relive the glory days. During a weekend in early May, members of the South Georgia College Tigers, 1973-1977, met in Douglas, Georgia to reunite and reminisce about their college days, and to catch up on the years since they’d last seen each other.

John Brown, who now resides in Florida, started a facebook page for the reunion and organised the details. Members traveled from Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and various parts of Georgia, many bringing their wives along. Among the group were several that had been drafted and spent some time in the minors, some that still coach, and one, Joel Crisler, who still pitches in a 35 and over men’s league.

During Friday night’s Meet & Greet, the words “remember when…?” resounded throughout the room. Like kids in a candy store with hits and runs and stats, the players gathered around the table in the middle of the room which was covered with newspaper clippings, score books, yearbooks, and other memorabilia. These pieces of the past sparked memories and stories and the phrase “the facts don’t lie”, all in good humor. Afterwards the men, with nicknames like Tater, Woody and Grits, stayed up late into the night in the hotel lobby, telling not only baseball stories but tales of college antics from years past. The stories went from dorm pranks and streaking to memories of their beloved coach, Clyde Miller.

 

Tim Spivey, who met his wife Mary Beth in Douglas, still had a copy of  Coach Miller’s rules, which were a sign of the times and got a quite few chuckles, especially the rule that said “no mustaches, goatees, mutton chops, afros, plaited or braided hair. Keep your hair short enough  that your helmet does not  fall off when running.”

Randy Felix, recalls the first day he arrived on campus. “Coach said, ‘I made you an appointment for a haircut,’ and I went right over and got it cut.”

Beginning with “do not sulk”,  and including “correspond frequently with your parents,” which would mean actually calling (probably collect), or writing a letter,  the rules covered nearly every aspect of a player’s life. Miller even told his players, “There are several churches in the Douglas area that would welcome your attendance.”

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The coaches kept up with their players to the point of dropping by a dorm room on occasion. Bunky Ennis recalls, “Coach Miller and Coach Childers did visit the dorm room one day. They left real quick, mumbling something about a pig sty and the smell was awful.”

Twelve years ago South Georgia College joined with Waycross College  to become South Georgia State College and their new mascot is the Hawks. On Saturday, the Tigers, wearing jerseys brought out of campus storage,  and the Hawks joined together for the first pitch as the old timers tossed out balls to the current team.  Jokes abounded as the No Tobacco signs clashed with Red Man and the players with flowing locks took the field.

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Emotions ran high this weekend. The good-natured arguing was balanced with bona fide compliments such as, “Charlie’s one of my favorite people in the whole world!”, spoken by  Bubba Dubose as he awaited the appearance of Charlie Baker of Jacksonville, FL. Charlie arrived with Rusty White, not a ballplayer but an honorary member of the group, also from Jacksonville.  

Saturday night’s dinner held a wonderful surprise. Ted Miller, Coach Miller’s oldest son, drove over from Augusta, GA for the evening. Ted had  been about ten years old the last time most of the guys had seen him. He teared up as he spoke, as did many others after him. “I grew up with 25 older brothers every year,” Miller said.  Now a teacher as well as an umpire/referee,  he talked about all he’d absorbed from the players as a child and all the lessons he put to use as a player himself.  

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Ted Miller – photo by Carole Wilson

Clyde Miller died in 2005, but his legacy lives on. Speaking about the impact of Coach Miller on his life, John Brown said, “He taught us about managing our lives. This was my family here.” Brown recalled how he looked forward to returning to campus after every school break.  These sentiments were echoed throughout the night by others, reminiscent of the lyrics from In My Life  by the Beatles:

“There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed…     Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them…”   

 

Marshall Justice summed the weekend up when he said, ” It seems like the only times old friends get together are at weddings and funerals, but then there are special times like the SGC baseball reunion.”

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Photo by Carole Wilson

This is one group of baseball players, from one little school in south Georgia, But, there are schools all  across the country where baseball draws boys together and grows a group of men. Baseball is a game of skill and precision. It’s an American sport that endures. Another of Coach Miller’s rules was “Choose your associates wisely. A person is only as good as the people he chooses to be around.”  This group of players chose to be around each other again and it was as if the years melted away.

“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

 

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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

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Me and my brothers – before they were punching each other

His Day

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November, 2012 – Vilano Beach

Today’s prompt(s) were the Two-for Tuesday: Beginnings or endings . My poem is a combination of sorts.

His Day

His days often went backwards
He could not find his hat
He had to have that hat to get on the train
It was time to go
Where was his sandwich?
He knew his mother had made a sandwich
Tomato on white bread with mayo
“Here’s your hat. Just sit down
It’s not time to go yet.”
She said this nearly everyday
He sat
He dozed
When he awoke, Wheel of Fortune was on
They watched together
Sometimes he guessed the phrase before the contestants
At bedtime, he always kissed his wife goodnight
At the end of the day he knew her

Last year’s Day 4 prompt was Distance .  My baseball themed poem was Go the Distance