Crossroads

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Friendship Fountain

 

“It isn’t as though we were simply standing at the crossroads wondering what path we should take. It is more like we’ve been grabbed by the ear and dragged down a road we had never meant to travel.” – from On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson

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Mandarin Park

 

I can’t say I’m exactly standing at the crossroads. It’s more like I’m looking down the road and wondering what’s over that next hill and thinking, will this road lead me back home? And I (we)  weren’t exactly dragged down this road in the first place, but more like told this is where you are going and tried to go with great expectations. Perhaps those expectations were too great, or perhaps we have failed ourselves. I think it’s a bit of both. And so many deaths, some expected, some swift and unforeseen, have taken their toll on my heart. Now, I just want to go somewhere that feels like home.

 

They say that home is where the heart is

I guess I haven’t found my home

And we keep driving round in circles

Afraid to call this place our own

And are we there yet?

Are We There Yet? – Ingrid Michaelson

 

 

 

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One’s Native Place

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photo-visitjacksonville.com

 

Nothing is as fine as one’s native place – from A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I wasn’t born in Jacksonville, but I’m claiming  this definition from Merriam-Webster: Native – living or growing naturally in a particular region.

I moved to Jacksonville three months shy of my seventh birthday and lived there off and on for 33 of the next 49 years. I lived and grew there; I was shaped by the influences of family and community.

I long to return, though so much has changed and so many of those I love are gone. Though I’ve lived in two other states and different towns along the way, none of them feel like home. Home is where you share childhood stories and you can reminisce with those who get what you mean. I know that in so many ways ‘you can’t go home again’ is true. But if I can’t go home, where will I go?

 

 

 

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)

Monday Music #2

I have a playlist on Amazon that I call Sweet Homes. Not all the songs are about Alabama, though, because I’ve had other homes. Jacksonville, Florida is where I grew up, and I planned this post long before Irma was a household name. My heart breaks for friends and family with cleanup to face and losses to deal with.

 

 

Jacksonville

It wasn’t even in my plan
A week in the sun and some fun in the sand
I was really only passin’ through
It all began on Ocean Drive
Standin’ in line for a burger and fries
Coincidentally, so were you
We took a quiet corner booth

Didn’t plan on hangin’ out in Florida
Never was too good at standin’ still
Suddenly it’s lookin’ like I’m gonna
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville

I’m givin’ up my walkin’ shoes
While the wind and the waves wash away my blues
And you help me lose track of time
Rock and roll, you’re holdin’ me
Rockin’ in your arms by a rollin’ sea
It wasn’t easy makin’ up my mind
I can see forever in your eyes, your eyes

Didn’t plan on hangin’ out in Florida
Never was too good at standin’ still
Suddenly it’s lookin’ like I’m gonna
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville

Songwriters: Pat Mclaughlin / Joshua Otis Turner
Jacksonville lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Ole Media Management Lp/

*originally posted @ Carry Me Home on 7/17/17

The video below  from the Weather Channel, where you can see “Winged Victory” surrounded by water from the St. Johns River.

 

 

 

 

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Cathy – Part One

Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.

I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15

In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”

This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went home to Jacksonville and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.

We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.

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“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf

This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.

Urban Dreamer

When I saw the prompts for PAD day seven was Urban _____, I thought right away of all my trips to downtown Jacksonville and Birmingham.

Urban Dreamer

Driving in from the suburbs
To the city
Where the homeless and the yuppies coexist
Though not quite rubbing shoulders

I stroll the streets
Sipping a latte
Browsing the bookstore
Admiring history and graffiti
Wishing to be a part of it all

Throwback Thursday – Friendship Fountain

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Anyone who lives in or has visited Jacksonville should recognize these  pictures of Friendship Fountain . The first picture is actually a postcard. I remember as a kid seeing the fountain at night with the multi-colored lights shining in the waters and thinking it was so cool. We would take relatives there when they visited, and years later I took my own kids. And, then even more years later I took my niece, and finally my grandson.

Here’s a little fountain history: It was designed by the same guy who designed the Hayden Burns Library, another staple of my childhood. When the fountain opened in 1965, which was the year we moved to Jacksonville, it was the world’s largest and tallest fountain. It was refurbished in 1985, completely renovated in 2011, and it is still drawing visitors today.