Category Archives: Family

Easter Revisited

Easter was a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lovely family day, where on a beautiful spring afternoon, my daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters met in Charlotte for lunch and some sweet outdoor visiting time.  A couple of days later, I saw something on Facebook asking what was your most memorable Easter? so I thought about a few of mine.

For many years, my family went to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, enjoying the big family-style Easter dinner, seeing the Easter Bunny and little girls and boys in their Easter finest gathering brightly colored, barely hidden eggs, visiting the farm animals, especially those comically adorable baby goats!  When my first granddaughter was 1 or 2 years old, she participated in her first Easter egg hunt and fed the animals, giggling at their tongues licking her hand to get every last bite of corn.

One Easter I spent in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dinner was homemade and delicious, including bread made by Eastern Orthodox Church women. We didn’t have lamb as I expected we would, but I was glad.  Then we took a long afternoon drive out in Amish country, which was picturesque and quite charming. Lots of people must have been visiting friends and family because many buggies were on the road that day.  Just as we arrived back to the house, there was a thunderstorm, and we stayed in for a cozy evening with leftovers. It was also Eastern Orthodox Easter. Though the two don’t always coincide the same week, that year they did, so at midnight, very early Easter morning, after dying eggs, we watched the darkened church across the street as its members held their candlelight procession around the church singing and chanting, before coming back to enter a lighted sanctuary and proclaim Christ is risen indeed. Religions have fascinated me most of my life.

Going back further, I spent a couple of Easters playing the baritone horn for the the Moravian church at the Easter sunrise service in Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  We went to bed early, got up in the wee hours to play on the streets of neighborhoods, different bands doing this all over the city, before meeting up at Home Moravian Church for a big early breakfast and going out to the graveyard (God’s Acre) to play for the sunrise service.  Even though I don’t take the Easter story literally, I still have affection for Jesus and what his story represents.  Hearing the music of all the instruments playing those ancient tunes and the birds singing as the sun came up, with that proclamation heard round the world that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed,” gave me goose bumps and was a moving experience.  We then went on to play again in a small church cemetery.  Easter afternoon consisted of dinner, followed by a long nap, as we were all exhausted, but happy.

This brings me to my most memorable Easter ever, and the one that makes me teary.  Seven years ago, after a six-week stay in ICU, my dad passed away peacefully in a regular room (three days after taking him off the ventilator), on Easter Sunday, surrounded by his closest family.  He had been in a coma almost the whole six weeks, suffering from an infection that went from his lung to his brain.  There had been hope he would recover, but when the last shunt change didn’t help, we knew it was time to let him go.  I read him the Easter story from his Bible.  I don’t know if on some level he heard me or not.  Easter morning, we took some pretty flowers from my parents’ yard to his hospital room.  The doctor came in and listened to his lungs that morning and said something had changed.  “I think today will be the day,” he told my mom and me.  My daughters and son-in-law got there, and as if he had waited for us all to be together, which maybe he did, soon afterwards he took his last breath.  It startled us, although we had been listening intently to his breathing and would hold our own breaths when it seemed it might be his last, then he would breathe again, and so would we.  But this time there was no mistaking that for my dad there was no other breath to come….he turned blue almost instantly.  I had never seen a person die before.  We were sad, of course, and yet relieved, too, in a way.  He wasn’t going to get better and none of us wanted to see him that way.  It wasn’t the life he wanted, and we had each been preparing for it in our own ways already.  We sat in his room for awhile, quiet, crying, then after making a few phone calls and going through some red tape, we left the hospital and went to Cracker Barrel and had Easter dinner.  It is exactly what he would have wanted us to do, and I think we all felt his presence and energy there with us in some way or other.  We were able to talk and laugh and share memories.  The more intense sadness and reality hit later, as it usually does, when we were alone or when in doing normal everyday things, we remembered he wasn’t there.  After that, we took a little walk down by the river.  It was a beautiful day and a heartbreaking one.  I wouldn’t trade that time with my dad as he breathed his last breath for anything.  It was a precious moment and by far my most memorable Easter.

Even though I’m a Pantheist now for many years, I still consider myself religious.  I love Easter and what it symbolizes, what the crucifixion and resurrection can mean even to a person who is no longer traditionally religious but carries those old rituals in their memory, part of their very being.  It’s rebirth and the spring season both in the natural world, of which we’re a part, but also within ourselves.  It’s about hope, and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate those things about Easter along with all its pagan elements.  People have loved symbols and rituals pretty much as long as they’ve inhabited this planet, it would seem.  I have cherished memories of lots of Easters over many years, shared with special people, all held close to my heart.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Cornbread and Milk

Sometimes Facebook conversations turn into blog posts.  Recently, it was the anniversary of my dad’s death, and soon after that, I saw an article about Cornbread and Milk: It’s A Mountain Thing”, written by Kim Holloway Stalcup in “Appalachian Magazine.”

I shared the article and wrote the following:

This definitely reminds me of my dad. He loved his cornbread and milk on the occasions my mom made cornbread, and would even bring home leftover cornbread from dinner at a restaurant to have later as a snack in a glass of milk. Interestingly, the woman who wrote this article is from Cherokee County, NC, for a few generations, which is where my dad was born and raised. I think my dad grew up having cornbread every day and they certainly had milk every day, living on a farm. My grandmother never threw food away, so even the tiniest piece of cornbread got saved. I guess to a little boy growing up with nine siblings, and he was next to the youngest, that seemed like a wonderful snack. He might have been lucky to get it lol. Both my parents loved milk, though my mom didn’t do the cornbread thing. But they would each have a glass of frozen milk at night sometimes, chopping and chinking away at it, just plain milk, which is when I knew for sure I was in a weird family lol. I didn’t know any other people who did that, so it definitely seemed strange to me. A lot of work for little reward. For some reason, though, I always hated milk.

Interestingly, that share got more comments than anything I’ve posted on Facebook lately.  People love hearing about folksy, homegrown things like this.  People shared their own memories of cornbread and milk, white bread and milk, warm bread, brown sugar added, and as for the frozen milk, I agree with a friend who said it needed sugar, chocolate, something.  And in regard to buttermilk, which people seem to either love or hate, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground there, one friend shared her suggestion for using it to clean out your septic tank!  While I like cornbread, I never ate the cornbread and milk because I only drank milk if I absolutely had to, like at school or my grandma’s house (unless I could get to the fresh grape juice first).  I never did become an expert cornbread baker either, though I’ve made my share through the years, but not like my grandma would have made it.  I have eaten quite a variety, liking it best very hot, slathered with butter, and maybe a side of beans and chow chow (by the way, I now use Earth Balance for the buttery component).

Cherokee County, North Carolina, includes Murphy and Tomotla and my grandparents’ farm, divided among their many children after their deaths, part of it sold now and developed with new houses.  But the last time I rode over that way, the house was still there, barely, and overgrown in weeds and brush, with a family who were friends of one of my uncles still living there.  They lived with him during the last years of his life at the old home place.  Thinking of trips to Murphy when I was much younger, they had to include a stop for a chili bun (hot dog with all the fixings but without the dog even back then) at Nabers Drive-In in Bryson City, a ride through the Nantahala Gorge, sometimes accompanied by a little carsickness (did you ever see the Andy Griffith Show where his date, Lydia, had to hang her head out the window “like a dog”)?  That was me on more than one occasion.  I’m reminded of taking a walk on the property when we’d visit, swinging on the porch swing, drinking cold water out of a long-handled dipper, helping gather eggs when I was a little girl, chickens all over us when we got out of the  car (which my mom hated, but I thought was kind of cool), walking across the old swinging bridge with a cousin over the Valley River down the road apiece, the route my dad would walk to school as a little boy, an old out-of-tune piano I’d try to play, with half of the yellowed keys sticking, my uncle strumming the banjo or telling a story, and my grandma showing me how to make those delicious boiled chocolate oatmeal cookies, the ones everyone thinks is a special recipe that only their grandmothers make.  She was a quiet, sweet, but no-nonsense woman.  It’s also where my love affair with cats began when I brought home my first little black and white kitten, Bootsie.  My grandpa died when I was young, and while I do remember him, the memories are few.

We usually just visited for the day, rarely spent the night, but we did eat lunch and sometimes supper, and there was always cornbread and real butter (made in a round mold with the imprinted flower design) and, of course, always green beans and corn, too.  I remember seeing my grandma churning butter a long, long time ago.  After we ate, I’d help clean up, and every little dish with even just a spoonful of corn or three or four green beans got saved in the corner cabinet for the next meal.  My grandparents were hard workers, and with ten children and two adults to feed, they wasted nothing.  The milk came fresh from their cows, and I hated it.  I would drink it down with one gulp, holding my nose.  But I understand where my dad got his love of cornbread and milk.  Yes, it’s probably mostly a southern thing, but from what I’m hearing it’s also a mountain/country thing, not fancy, but something good to fill the bellies of a lot of hungry mouths.  I never gave it a lot of thought, but for my dad, that was probably comfort food that reminded him of long-ago times with his family, his Mama and Daddy, brothers and sisters, growing up on the farm.  It was a hard life in rural North Carolina, in the twenties, thirties, and forties, but my grandparents, like so many others similar to them, originally hard-working tobacco farmers, filled their home with faith, lots of love, good fresh and filling food, laughter, music and games, and some happy memories, and seven of those children went on to graduate from college and become teachers.  Food really is powerful beyond satisfying our physical hunger.  It’s about family and love and connections.  It’s nourishment for the soul and the body.  I was grateful for the reminder of my own sweet family memories from an article about cornbread and milk.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge

(I’m hoping to find a couple of photos to scan soon to add to this article)

Pure Sweetness

It’s so sweet when you haven’t seen your little granddaughter in a few days and she runs to the car to meet you and give you a big hug.  Precious memories are made of simple things like this.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

My Irish Name

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  I have Irish roots on my mom’s side and am hungry to learn more about them and the place they came from.  My great-great-great grandparents and one or two of their young children settled in North Carolina directly from Ireland.  As best as I can tell from my searches online and looking at census information and ship manifests, they came from Ballymoney in what is now Northern Ireland.  A couple of their children, including my great-great grandfather, were born over here.  He became a shoemaker and owned a store in Asheville around 1900, his ad stating, “Custom Shoes Made……Fine Shoes a Specialty.” Even before I knew these things about my family, I was drawn to things Celtic/Irish, almost a visceral feeling, maybe some of that DNA and family history passed down genetically through the generations and just a part of me, and now I’m fascinated by this man, my great-great grandfather, Thomas, and his parents.  His daughter, Anna, was my great-grandmother.  She died when I was 6 years old, and I do have a few sweet memories of her.

A few years back, I was in AODA briefly (Ancient Order of Druids in America). The head of AODA at the time, John Michael Greer, who has written books about Druidry and still has a blog called The Archdruid report, suggested we take druid names. I gave him the meaning of the name I wanted, and then he gave me the name.

This is a long roundabout way of saying what my Irish name is: “Merch y Mynyddoedd” and what it means: “Daughter of the Mountains.”  It’s perfect for me, as I love these mountains of North Carolina I live in, they’ll always be part of me, and I also love my Irish roots.

~Sharon
Merch y Mynyddoedd (Daughter of the Mountains)

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Bedtime Story

bedtime-story

(photo courtesy of my daughter, shared with permission)

Sometimes in this year’s political climate, often angry and hateful, there’s just something soothing and comforting about a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old all freshly scrubbed and bathed, smelling of baby lotion and shampoo, getting ready for sleep, enjoying a shared bedtime story from a little girl’s storybook, being ever the big sister.  Such pure sweetness and innocence…..I wish more of us adults could go back to this and embrace it for ourselves and be like little children again.  How much we have forgotten, but our children and grandchildren can remind us.

~Sharon

Cooyright (c) 2016 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Furry Family

Thankful for all the furry babies that have shared my life since I was a little girl.  I’ve never been without a four-legged family member since my first kitty, Bootsie, I got from my grandmother’s farm out in Murphy.  At that moment, my love affair with cats began.  There have been quite a few.  The one that stayed with me the longest, for essentially her whole 18-year-long life, was Princess Grace.  There was Jinxie and Mickey and Cocoa, too, among others.  And now I share my home with tuxedo twins, Oscar and Emmy, and my diabetic “Baby” (as my granddaughter and I call him, although he’s getting to be an old man), Spirit.  They’ve all been with me a few years now.  I really can’t imagine my home without a cat in it.

kitty-picture2

I’ve had some special dogs in my life, too, from Gomez and Snoopy to Caesar, Charlie Brown, and Dag, with a couple of adopted older dogs in between.   But when it comes right down to it, if I “have” to make a choice, I’m definitely a cat person; their sometimes quirky personalities kind of suit me.  I come from a family of animal lovers with several grandpuppies and grandkitties, too, and many of our pets have been rescued.  I see my granddaughter, who’s not even 3 years old yet, also loving animals.  That makes me happy.   The cruelty that so many pets and stray animals suffer just overwhelms me sometimes, with sadness, anger, helplessness, and people who won’t spay or neuter their animals and just contribute to more and more homeless ones, well don’t get me started, so I think it’s important to raise a new generation of kids who grow up to love and respect the non-human creatures who share our lives and planet, who won’t accept animal cruelty or mistreatment .  Anything we can do to make even one of these precious creature’s life better is a good thing, even though it’s never enough, and it makes me just want to hug my furry family tighter and hold them a little closer.

Sleepy SpiritSpirit

basketful of kitties

Oscar and Emmy

Every “pet” (that word doesn’t seem adequate or accurate because they’ve all been family members) I’ve ever had was (and is) special and I remember them all.  They’ll always have a place in my heart, and if you love animals like I do, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  #gratitude

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2016 by Raindrop Ridge Press

family

Thankful for family.  I was fortunate enough to have a happy childhood and to be raised by parents who taught me things like respect and courtesy and that no one is better than someone else because of skin color or the job they have or any other superficial thing.  My grandmother (mom’s mom) lived with us in her last years of life, but all through my childhood I spent a lot of time with her and we were really close.  Both my parents have passed away now, and I still miss them terribly, think of them every day with regard to one thing or another.  Because of them, I think, and probably just my personality, too, I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, enjoying hanging out with family.  I also have the pleasure of having two daughters who are lovely, intelligent, and kind young women, who care about people and animals and treating people fairly, a son-in-law who is a great husband and dad, and two beautiful little granddaughters who are such a joy.  I know I’ve been blessed in the way of family and that not everyone is so fortunate; I don’t take that for granted.

I also have a lot of cousins, many of whom, unfortunately, I don’t know very well.  In the last few years I’ve taken an interest in genealogy, learning more about my ancestors (there’s a lot I don’t know about my dad’s side and my mom’s dad’s side), my Irish connection (maternal great-great-great grandparents), and looking at old photos.  Last week, I had a wonderful time with two cousins over in Asheville reminiscing over lunch, sharing old pictures, and just laughing a lot.  It felt so good to connect with family like that and remember special times in my childhood that give me a warm fuzzy feeling, plus learn things about aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents I never knew.   One of them gave me the picture below, which I had never seen before.  It was taken at either Thanksgiving or Christmas at my grandmother’s house in Asheville many, many years ago.  I loved her house and being around her, with lots of cherished memories of time spent there, especially summer and holidays, Christmas trees, licking cake batter, swinging outside in the back yard, shopping with her, playing under the big tree in her front yard or under the dining room table, and so much more.  I’m the youngest girl in the picture, then a cousin, and aunt.  On the left is my dad, then mom, and Mama Sister (my grandmother I was so close to).  I’m assuming my uncle was the one who took the picture.

I know it’s trite to say, but still true, that we often take our families for granted until it’s too late and as in the case of my own parents, they got sick from infections they never recovered from and spent their last weeks unable to really communicate with me at all, totally blind-sided by what happened.   Enjoy your family, no matter how small, no matter if they’re blood related, but treasure those connections in whatever ways that make sense for you and make you happy.

P.S.  Our pets are special family members, too.  I know that as well as anybody and haven’t forgotten.  They’re getting their own post later!

#gratitude

Thanksgiving3.jpg

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2016 by Raindrop Ridge Press