Thoughts Inspired by This is Us #2: Moments



S2/E11    –   “The Fifth Wheel”

While Kevin and his mom are talking he backpedals a bit, saying  “I didn’t have an unhappy childhood.”

“It wasn’t as good as I thought,” Rebecca says sadly. “But I know we had moments,” (and we see them sleeping together on the floor during a thunderstorm) “you and me, Kevin. I know we did. I feel it in my bones.”

Thinking about moments with each of my children. The scene of Rebecca and Kevin sleeping on the floor reminded me of the months of my last pregnancy. The two older kids were in school, so me and #3 had a lot of time to spend together. He was my sidekick, my shadow, my nap buddy. After lunch and before his siblings got home, we would snuggle up together on the couch, often to the drowsiness inducing sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen. These were sweet moments.

There was the terrifying moment I had with #4, holding hands with this eleven year old girl as we rode in the ambulance together after our car wrecked, this child who was thrown out of the back window. Those seconds when I could not see her were the longest I’ve ever had. God’s grace was on us that night, cushioning the landing of my youngest in the tall grasses on the side of the road.

Then there was the moment when I landed in Shannon, Ireland. My older daughter, who took a different flight, had arrived an hour earlier. She had made a CD of the Duhks for me to listen to on my flight over the Atlantic. I was so excited and relieved at the same time when I saw her there waiting for me, and the next week was an adventure I’ll always cherish.

A moment I remember with my eldest was in 2003 when I went to visit him in DC. We were riding around, seeing a few sights, and he was concerned because I was so quiet. I didn’t realize then how sad I felt – I couldn’t put a name on it, I couldn’t call it depression. But, he reached over and held my hand. Now, 15 years later he is a nurse, often working with patients who are suffering depression. He stills shows that empathy. He knows.



Thoughts inspired by This is Us #1

I started binge watching This is Us in early February, and midway through season one, I got a call from my brother. Mom was gone. No forewarning, no long illness. This was Mom who, at 81, wasn’t on any meds except the recent prescription she’d finished taking for her knee. This was Mom, who told me she’d only had one headache in her life, who didn’t remember any symptoms of menopause except,  “Well, I guess I did get a little hot.” This was Mom who packed a pistol for her trips to Georgia, who drove her friends to the store and hairdresser, who ran the Bridge Club. Now, I will eventually go back to watching This is Us, but I’ll be thinking of all the This Was Us episodes of my life, Mom’s life, our life. Below is what I’d written before I got the call.

S1/E8                                                                                                                          Pilgrim Rick

Yes, it’s February and I’m watching Pilgrim Rick, the Thanksgiving episode from season one of This Is Us. Better late than never. I was able to watch the first two episodes online – enough to know I HAD to watch them all. The three day wait for my DVD to arrive from Amazon was a long stretch.

The tears began to roll when the Pearson family ended up at the Pinewood Lodge. My flashback was to Christmas of 1995. We were about to have an early Christmas dinner and celebration with my husband’s father who had traveled three hours to our house, when I got the call. My dad was sinking fast; I should come home. So, we packed it all up; some food; the kids unopened presents, including hockey sticks; clothes for a few days; presents for extended family; and then we piled into the car. Our younger son rode with Grandpa Bell, the rest of us were like sardines in a can, cushioned with jackets and backpacks and suitcases into our Chevy Lumina. On the road to Jacksonville we sang along to Stevie Wonder cassettes and I tried to prepare for what was ahead.

We were fortunate to stay in the Homewood Suites sans Pilgrim Rick, where we had our family Christmas, the six of us snuggled together. We opened presents and laughed and hugged, making bittersweet memories. That night our younger son saw Star Wars for the first time and now, 22 years later, he is still a fan.

The next day we spent time with my brothers and their families, trying to be cheerful but not sure how to act without Mom and Dad there. Dad rallied for a few weeks, and I was able to stay with him and Mom for part of that time. He died on January 6, 1996, Mom holding his hand and me holding Mom.

“Do the Right Thing”

Watching Rebecca and her mother discuss the prospects of life with three babies brings me back to when I told my parents I was expecting for the first time. I was so excited, but my joy bubble burst when all I heard in their voices was doubt and worry. It took them a while to adjust to the idea, but they hit the road as soon as we called to tell them it was time. They made the four hour drive to Clearwater, arriving just minutes after the birth of our firstborn. They didn’t persuade us to return to Jacksonville, but when we decided, they had a home ready to rent to us. Four years later we purchased it and two more children later we sold it. With those two children there was still hesitation on their part, the slow acceptance that this was our life and our family. But, they were there for us over and over – loaning us money and babysitting and being there at the birth of not only those next two, but the last, also. They drove to Georgia to be there the day our youngest was born. Mom was with me up until the last few minutes.

Mom is still with me and I’m grateful for the support and model she has been. Not perfect, but neither am I. Not by a long shot. The picture is of Mom and me, both pregnant with our firstborn.

me n mom prego

It wasn’t long after I’d typed those words “Mom is still with me” that I found out she wasn’t. I pray that all she taught and modeled for me will live on in me.

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)

Pieces of My Culture


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.


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)

I Hear the Train A Comin’

train (1)

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



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



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.



South Georgia College Tigers 73-77 Baseball Reunion



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.”

do not argue

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.

red man

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.  


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.”


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.