Blabberings

I just have a lot to say.
January 31st, 2018 by celesteconner@comcast.net

Well, I Come from Alabama

Several years ago, I let my subscription to Southern Living lapse. I thought superiorly, I just don’t read magazines anymore. I’ve been concerned about my own lapsing “Southern-ness” ever since.

I feel like the decline began when I started eating lunch at noontime and dinner in the evening (except on Sundays, of course). I’ll declare, there are just too many things about me that belie my Bible Belt beginnings. 

I don’t fry chicken. I tried a few times as a young woman, but I was far too impatient. I fry chicken fingers occasionally, but I buy them pre-breaded at Sam’s.

Chuck grew up in Memphis. I have been there 100 times since I met him in 1982, and I have never been to Graceland.

I have been to New York City, but I have never been to Savannah or Charleston or New Orleans.

I raised my children to eat boiled peanuts like they’re mother’s milk, but I have never boiled them myself. 

I deleted make a quilt and put up pickles from my bucket list.

I have never read Faulkner nor seen a Tennessee Williams play nor been to Monroeville for the springtime outdoor production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

None of my children has a double name.

I haven’t been fishin’ since Daddy died in 1978.

I don’t love a tomato sandwich. (See, I said tomato sandwich not ‘mater samich. That’s pure shameful.)

My children have never chewed sugar cane nor shelled a single pea.

I attend a church that is too large and fancy for dinner on the ground. We have churchwide luncheons.

I have been to the Grand Ole Opry only once, and it was for a show choir competition, for heaven’s sake.

I warm frozen biscuits, and I don’t make gravy.

I buy sweet tea at the grocery store. Not always, but enough to be ashamed of myself.

Bless my heart. I ain’t no better than a damn Yankee. I might as well plan for my children to be married on Iron Bowl weekend and prepare for my mansion to be in the North of Glory. Dadgummit! Is there anything of my heritage left in me? Have all those years of watching the Today show homogenized me? Who in tarnation am I, if I am not a daughter of Dixie? Surely I have some redeemable Southern traits. Surely my upbringing wasn’t all in vain. 

Well, by golly . . .

I have seen Rock City.

I taught myself to fry okra and cornbread, since Mama and Granny are dead; and my cornbread rivals theirs, if I do say so myself.

I cook a mean pot of butterbeans—not lima beans, and with a hambone—not Goya.  

I poured peanuts in my bottled Coke that I pulled from the machines at Daddy’s shop. 

Little Granny taught me gratefulness by muttering in sweltering heat, “I sure am glad I don’t have to pick cotton today.” She was mighty happy with a bowl of pot likker and a skillet of pone cornbread for supper.

I know what red dirt smells like.

I visited Helen Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

I named a dog Magnolia.

Andy Griffith helped me raise my children.

My second cousin married Pat Conroy. Our granddaddies were brothers and best friends. Mine manufactured church pews. Hers farmed peanuts. 

I know that the sweetest sound on earth is a squeaking porch swing to a background chorus of crickets and bullfrogs, and the sweetest taste is a Chilton County peach.

I remember a country store down the road from both of my grandmothers’ houses with a slamming screen door and wide plank hardwood floors.

The muddy water of the Chattahoochee River is my Tara.

I agree that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is the Greatest Country Music Song Ever Written.

I remember the excitement of passing through North Carolina on vacations and buying Orange Crush.

I buy Golden Flake potato chips, Bama jelly, and Sessions peanut oil.

I had great aunts named Effie Dell and Josie Bell.

One of the best date nights Chuck and I ever had was to a Willie Nelson concert at the Dothan Civic Center. I had the shingles and Chuck had the flu (there’s a country music song waiting to be written), but Willie sang “Seven Spanish Angels” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and we plumb forgot.

I have a vague 5-year-old’s memory of viewing Daddy Byrd’s body at his house, but I don’t know who sat up with it.

I have never attended a barbecue, but I savor every bite–and lick my fingers. 

I married a guitar picker. He plays “Amazing Grace,” “Old Rugged Cross,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and it sounds like a back rub. I sure hope one of my girls marries a fiddle player.

I wave as I pass strangers, and I’ve been known to ask, “Who are your people?”

I recently downloaded Rick Bragg to my Nook—and renewed my Southern Living subscription.

Strap a banjo on my knee, Susannah; I might be ah’ight after all.

 

December 20th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

Hope

“The world is starving for Hope,” proclaim both preacher and politician. Barack Obama’s presidential platform was Hope. Bill Clinton’s campaign touted him A Man from Hope. We name our daughters Hope. We sing about that little ole ant:

He’s got high Hope! He’s got high Hope! He’s got high, apple pie, in the sky Hope!

“Tomorrow is another day!” proclaims hopeful Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

At the end of our story, we sigh, “All we had was Hope. We never lost Hope.”

Ah, Hope. Some days I hate Hope.

Hope precedes the interview, then the email: “Thank you for your interest, but we chose someone better than you.”

Hope buoys for the follow up doctor’s visit: “It’s worse than we thought.”

Hope gets flushed down the toilet month after month after month when menstruation starts.

Hope yo-yos. 

Hope lends a hand up, then shoves you back into the dumps.

Hope breathes life into your soul, then sucks it out again.

Hope devastates.

“If only I hadn’t gotten my Hope up.”

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . .” (Proverbs 13:12a)

“The miserable have no other medicine. But only Hope.” (Claudio in Shakespeare’s Measure by Measure)

Hope manages easier during daylight. “The tigers come at night,” Eponine sings in Les Miserables, “with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear your Hope apart.” And rob you of your sleep.

But sometimes, even in waking hours, Hopeless befriends kinder than Hope.

Hopeless never turns its back.

Hopeless never hurts feelings.

Hopeless is consistent, constant, steady.

“Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse,” instructs wise Lily Tomlin.

I twist my hair and suck my cheeks. I hold hands with Hopeless.

The tall friend forces eye contact. “Are you okay?”

“I’m never okay. I just usually hide it better.”

Into the safety of the darkness, a sunbeam slips. Like Bert in Mary Poppins, I feel a subtle wind change.

“Uh oh,” I confess to a beloved, “I’m feeling hopeful. Please talk me down off the ledge.”

She giggles and encourages, “Give up! All Hope is lost!” Then admits, “Who wants another day if it looks like this one?”

Stupid, stupid Hope.

Emily Dickinson calls Hope “the thing with feathers.”

Alexander Pope rhymes it “springs eternal in the human breast.” 

Apostle Paul lists it in 1 Corinthians 13:13 as one of only three things that last: Faith, Hope, Love.

“If you had lost all your Hope, I wouldn’t be here, and here I am.” (Fairy Godmother in Disney’s Cinderella)

“. . . but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12b)

Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.

Dadgum. It’s bubbling up again.

 

November 26th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

War Eagle, Daddy

I miss Daddy most when Auburn wins.

I miss him every day. I miss him when I sit behind the desk he built for Mama. I miss him when I smell Vick’s Vapor Rub. 

But I miss him most when Auburn wins, especially when they win spectacularly.

He was a likeable feller who was passionate about Auburn University in the 60s and 70s, when it seemed everybody was a Bama fan. We listened to “Your Auburn Radio Network” from our backyard on Decatur Street, while Daddy cleaned the catfish that he caught that morning, which Mama would later fry for supper. Auburn would score, and he and his three girls would whoop and holler. He would throw his arms up, dance a jig, and yell, “Touchdown, Auburn!” His right arm was crooked from a childhood break that was set incorrectly.

He was devoted to his Tigers (both Auburn and Dothan High), but he was generally and genuinely a fan of football. He shouted “Roll Tide!” at least twice. He and Mama went to New Orleans with Bama friends to watch Alabama win the Sugar Bowl in 1975 (v. Penn State) and in 1977 (v. Ohio State). I remember watching the game at home with Little Granny and cheering for Penn State. He taught me later, “We want Bama to win. It’s fun to beat them, because they’re good.”

He was a gracious loser and a gosh-awful winner. He could take it (he was faithful in 1976 when Doug Barfield’s team won only three games); but, boy howdy, he could dish it out. (God bless the friends who suffered through “Punt, Bama, Punt!” ad nauseam in 1972, when Auburn won 17-16.)   

The friends, in turn, righteously harassed him the next year when Bama won 35 to zip. 

He never saw an AU win in the Iron Bowl again.

He never heard Jim Fyffe holler, “TOUCHDOWWWN AUBUUURN!!! He never said, “Fear the thumb.” He didn’t know Bo.

“If Daddy had lived . . .” is the mantra my sisters and I have hummed for four decades. If Daddy had lived past 1978, I am certain that he would not be alive today. I am certain he would not have survived past January 2011. First, his Auburn elected one of his granddaughters (whom he never knew) to be their Miss Homecoming that season. Then, they rallied from a 21-point deficit at halftime to surprise Alabama (and everybody else) with an Iron Bowl upset. Finally, they went on to beat the Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS National Championship.

The jubilation of those combined events would have taken him straight to Glory; for without a doubt, life on Earth could not surpass that. He would not have lived until 2013 to fall to his knees at the Hail Mary against Georgia nor praise the miracle against Alabama. He would not have been here to toot his horn over the triumph of the Great Comeback Year.

Auburn football soars and plummets. Yet, it is when it rises that my heart aches.  

‘Cause I miss Daddy most when Auburn wins. 

 

November 21st, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

Happy Thanksgiving, regardless

Dear Father in Heaven, 

Thank you for mamas and daddies.

Thank you for little boys and little girls.

Thank you for sunbeams and raindrops. 

Thank you for a taste of something salty to chase the sweet. 

Thank you that the leaves change colors and fall off the trees and that they grow back again, green and shiny. 

Thank you for percussion and woodwind and brass, for the sweet music they make together, for the melody and the harmony.

Thank you for villages, communities, casseroles.

Thank you for folks who work in the kitchen and those who work the front counter, for folks who come early and those who stay late. 

Thank you for the smart ones who think they’re not funny and the funny ones who think they’re not smart.  

Thank you for integrated preschool classes, full of special friends and typical kids. 

Thank you for Pentecostals and Primitive Baptists. 

Thank you for red, brown, yellow, black, and white. 

Thank you for righties and lefties. 

Thank you for Democrats and Republicans, that each keeps the other from their own Too Much. 

Thank you for seesaws and swing sets. 

Thank you for the famines, so we can appreciate the feasts. Forgive us when we whine about overeating. 

Thank you for the powder white sand of the Gulf of Mexico and the cool, red dirt of the Deep South, for seaweed and pine straw, for scuttling hermit crabs and croaking tree frogs, for grouper and catfish.

Thank you for high tide and low, for ebb and flow, for flora and fauna. 

Thank you for hard copy books and e-readers. 

Thank you for accountants and plumbers, for electricians and architects, for doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. 

Thank you that azaleas and dogwoods bloom in their season. Forgive us when we whine about sneezes and itchy eyes. Thank you for antihistamines. 

Thank you for the old men who ignore the old women who complain about being ignored by the old men. 

Thank you for AC units and hot water heaters. 

Thank you for peas and cornbread, for biscuits and gravy, for peanut butter and jelly.

Thank you for the spiders that make the webs to catch the bugs, for vacuum cleaners that battle the webs, and for the itsy bitsy spider who goes up the spout again. 

Thank you for flat irons for curly-haired girls and curling irons for straight-haired girls. 

Thank you for those who iron blue jeans and tee shirts and for those who prefer a dryer toss.

Thank you for the Iron Bowl. 

Thank you for fat, squishy newborn hands and old, wrinkly wisened ones.

Thank you for deep and wide, for joy, joy, joy, joy, for peace like a river.

Thank you for each new day, for yet another chance, for 360 degrees, for the Circle that remains unbroken. 

Thank you for grace. 

And for the gifts we so abundantly receive,

Amen. 

 

October 17th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

A Dip in the Temp

She put on a jacket for the first time this season. Fall is always late to show in Alabama. It’s her favorite. She loves blue jeans and turtlenecks and cardigan sweaters. She loves autumnal shadows.

She walked across the park where she works part-time. She opened the doors to the schoolhouse and saw little children sitting in rows, practicing arithmetic on slates. She saw the older girls helping the younger students. She saw the little boys daydreaming about recess.

She opened the doors to the church house, and Shall We Gather at the River bellowed out, all four parts. She saw three generations on one pew. She smelled the fried chicken, brought to be be shared after preaching. She hoped the sermon would be light on hellfire and heavy on Love Your Neighbor.

She raised the flag by the gazebo. She apologized to Old Glory for her lack of adeptness. She was respectful in attitude, but her process lacked poetry. She blamed the fact that she wasn’t a Boy Scout, or even a good Girl Scout. She thought about the United States of America and pondered if most folks are as troubled as the ones who get the attention. She thought about how tired her soul is and wondered where the loud ones find the energy for the anger. She laughed—and cringed—about the time the sun pierced her eyes as she pulled the ropes to lift the stars and stripes. And how the men and women from the Army came that day to volunteer. And how she greeted them one by one at the gate with a cheerful Thank you for your time and for your service! And how she was so proud to be there. And how one of the soldiers asked, “Why is the flag upside down?”

Oh good Lord.

She unlocked the farmhouse and watched the wind nudge the empty porch swing back and forth. She heard Charlotte the Pineywoods cow declare her delight at the softer temperature. She thought:

Perhaps I would like to have lived 100 years ago, in a time sandwiched somewhere between the Civil War and the Great War . . . I like staying home and working around the house with all my babies nearby . . . I like moving slower and more purposefully . . . I like avoiding makeup and pulling my hair back . . . I despise modern Christmas Chaos . . . I could keep the women at the quilting bees in stitches . . . I wish I had lived next door to my sisters. Our children could have played outside together every day. Taking care of Mama and Granny and Aunt Betty would have been easier. Not easy. But less difficult . . . From a distance, life seems to have been simpler. Not simple. But less difficult.

Definitely, she thought, I’d like a turn-of-the-last century life.

With indoor plumbing, of course.

And air conditioning. She’s never experienced Alabama in August without AC, and she’s too old to start.

Oh! The mosquito truck! The South must be dusted weekly in summers with mosquito spray!

But that’s it. That’s all she needs. She can revert to hard copy books and lined-paper journals and walking to the country store. Easy peasey.

Oops. She forgot about the Chickfila drive-thru. And cute-and-comfy shoes. And Excedrin.

Well, if she could have those things, she’d move back in time tomorrow.

At the end of the day, she locked up the farmhouse, said goodbye to the make-believe schoolchildren, and silenced the imaginary parishioners. She folded the flag without letting it touch the ground.

She picked up Chinese on her way home.

After supper, she changed a load of laundry, took the trash to the road, and eased into a long, hot bath with an ice cold glass of sweet tea. Later, she grabbed her iPad and tucked herself into a bug-less bed. She scrolled through Facebook and wished happy birthday to friends she hasn’t seen in years, then she browsed Netflix for a new show to binge on. 

 

June 17th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

Character Marks

“Character marks are part of the dappled beauty and authenticity of natural materials that are unrepeatable in man-made surfaces. Often, marks highly desired by some are considered defects by others. For many designers the natural appeal of veneer is in its irregularity—the marks that tell the tree’s unique history over decades. The general appearance of the veneer and its character are considered in the grading process which can be somewhat subjective.” (doogeveneers.com)

Phillip graduated from high school at 7:00 pm Friday May 19, 2017. He moved his tassel with one hand and picked up his welding torch with the other. He walked off the stage and straight to the local community college, where he began welding classes at 7:00 am Monday morning, May 22nd.

He was so excited about going to school and working with his hands. He cannot imagine ever sitting behind a desk again for the remainder of his life. He wants to learn all the trades. He wants to take things apart and put them back together. He wants to fix things and sweat.

But, if you ask him what he wants to do MOST, he will say, “I want to build things with wood.”

His response scores a point for Nature over Nurture.

Phillip’s daddy is a businessman. Phillip’s daddy loves the art of the deal and the rush of the sale. MY daddy fixed things and built things with wood. MY daddy sanded and stained. My daddy, named Phillip, never met his grandchildren. He never taught them the things he loved. Little Phillip never toddled in the shop of his maternal grandfather nor played in the sawdust pile in the backyard.

The summer before his 11th grade year, Phillip’s guidance counselor advised me to put him in agriscience (basically carpentry class).

She said, “That’s where I’d put my boys.”
I said, “Then, that’s where he’s going.”
He said, “I don’t think I want to take that class.”
I said, “Give it a semester. If you don’t like it, you can change after Christmas.”

After the first day of school, he said, “I think I’m going to like that class.”
After the first week of class, he said, “Mama, please email my counselor and tell her thank you for putting me in agriscience.”
After about a month, he said, “I’m going to build furniture for a living.”

For four semesters, he learned.

And he learned.

And he learned.

And he learned.

On the first Wednesday in May of his senior year, I began to think about decorating his table at the senior luncheon at our church. It’s tradition for the mamas to set the tables to honor their child. I pillaged Phillip’s room for treasures to display to represent the boy he was and the young man he had become. It was easy. But I needed one more thing . . . .

Hmm . . . .

I saw some tree rounds at Walmart for $15 each. I texted him a picture.

“Can you make me some of these by Sunday?”
“Maybe. How many?”
“Eight.”
“No way.”

On Thursday morning, he texted, “Coach says we can get them done.”

He coated and coated and coated and coated the cherry tree slices in polyurethane. He applied one last coat Saturday evening. His table was handsomer than I’d imagined.

Later, I set our dining room table in preparation for a post-graduation brunch with family. We talked about giving the tree rounds as party gifts to the ones who’d shaped him most:

one for him to keep
one for Chuck and me
one for each of his sisters
one for each of my sisters
one for Papa Chuck
one for Miss Jordan.

The night before graduation, he noticed they had begun to split. In all that quick polyurethaning, he had not covered the backsides. The moisture had to escape. Like an ice cube tray in hot water, each tree round cracked, almost identically.

He was furious at himself. He wanted to trash them. He wanted to start over. He wanted them to be perfect.

Of course, I had a story to tell him.

~

It was warm outside. 1976, 77, or early 78.

Daddy had taken the front doors down to refinish them. He put them on sawhorses in the driveway. He sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded. I be-bopped up and uttered the phrase that sends shivers down the spines of parents on a mission.

“Can I help?”

“Sure,” he answered. “But you have to be very careful. You have to sand along the grain of the wood. If you sand across the grain, you will ruin the door.”

“Okay.”

I picked up the sandpaper and sanded across the grain.

“WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU?! WERE YOU LISTENING TO ME?! I JUST GOT THE WORDS OUT OF MY MOUTH!!!!”

~

“Only the good die young,” crooned Billy Joel in 1977.

I think folks who’ve lost Beloveds too young—parents or friends and especially children—want to believe this is true. Maybe it is. It seems unfair, but maybe the not-as-good get a little longer to straighten up, like Mr. Scrooge. Tiny Tim’s life was better in the end, because Uncle Ebenezer lived long enough to confront his ghosts.

That’s preposterous pondering, but my point is that 40 years gives a dead man’s family enough time to turn him into a saint. And Daddy wasn’t. But he was a good man. This is the only time that I remember him yelling at me. I remember lots of cross looks when I had just said something I shouldn’t have—or was about to. But not yelling. Not many times.

~

Daddy took a deep breath. He showed me what I had done. He made me watch him sand and sand and sand and sand to remove the blemish I had carelessly created.

Then, he let me help him again.

I did it right a few times. ~~ Oops. ~~ I quickly glanced at him to see if he had noticed. He hadn’t. I tossed my sandpaper and hopped on my bike to go find Becky and/or Evelyn. I didn’t tell him what I had done. I didn’t want to be yelled at again. He’d never notice anyway. He’d way overreacted, I thought.

I’m sure he was thrilled to see me go.

He stained the doors and hung them back up. I came home. He said, “Come here.”

Uh oh.

He pointed to the scratch, much darker than the rest of the door, clearly visible, seemingly screaming, “Look at this shoddy workmanship!!!”

He said, “When you grow up and don’t live here anymore, I will think of you every time I see this scratch. I will remember all of the life you brought to this house. And I will miss you. I am so glad to be your daddy.”

He didn’t live much longer. I am the one who lives in the house. And it is me who misses him.

At some point, the doors needed redoing again. Mama chose to have them painted. It was the 80s. I guess that’s what folks did.

~

Standing at the front door, holding a cracked tree round, I told Phillip my story. I told him the scratch is there underneath the paint. He promised to find it for me one day, and to not fix it.

~

Chuck has three scars on his right shoulder from three surgeries. They form a Z. He claims he was slashed by Zorro. Emma’s TMJ Disorder is outwardly visible along either side of her jawline.

It’s the scars that refine us. It’s the struggle through the hard class—even if it’s merely for a passing grade—that makes us proud of ourselves, not the easy A, as much fun as those are to get. Exercise strengthens us, not eating ice cream, as giddy as that makes us at the moment.

Phillip will be a better builder the next time, because of those cracks in my tree rounds.

I hope he makes eight more for my dining room table. I hope they are shiny and perfect and just like he wants them. But in a few years, check underneath his groom’s cake at his wedding reception, and then a few years after that, look under the floral centerpiece, surrounded by casseroles, at the dinner on the ground after my funeral. You’ll find a tree round with a great big crack in it.

 

June 14th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

According to Andy

Abby wrote the following essay for a scholarship application several years ago. I don’t remember what the theme was or what question she was specifically supposed to answer. She didn’t get that particular scholarship, and I hoped she’d be able to use the essay somewhere else. Well, I guess this blog is Somewhere Else, because I always liked it. I found it deeply profound and profoundly clever. But, I’m biased. 

People are pressured to give to those less fortunate in their communities and are overwhelmed by the needs that exist. No one person should feel the responsibility to save everybody. Even Superman cannot save everybody in the world; however, it is not impossible to change one person’s world.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia emphasizes, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” That may mean just being there for someone to talk to or buying Christmas presents for a family in financial trouble. It might mean helping rebuild a house that was torn down in a storm. No one person could do all of this for an entire community, but it is possible for an individual to do all of this for one person. One act of kindness can change a person’s day or change his or her whole outlook on life.

Andy Andrews writes and speaks about the Butterfly Effect. “Every time something happens, something else happens.” One person can affect the lives of many. Fostering or adopting a child from a disruptive home could have a positive effect not only on that child, but also on the generations to come by breaking the cycle of neglect. Tutoring a child, or even an adult returning to school, could affect that person’s future and the future of her children and of her children’s children by encouraging education. 

Andy Griffith, one of the wisest men ever on television, was momentarily blinded to what the other Andys preach. In the episode “Opie’s Charity” from The Andy Griffith Show, Andy was ashamed that his son Opie donated three cents to the Underprivileged Children’s Fund. He tried to explain to Opie how to share and how he needed to share with everybody, but Opie realized that his money would be better spent to help one person than distributed among many. Through all his efforts to encourage Opie to give more money to the charity, Andy never asked him what he was going to purchase. Opie was saving to buy his girlfriend a new coat, because hers was worn and her mama did not have enough money to buy a new one. Opie’s $2.20 would not have made a difference in the lives of the 400 boys, but it kept the little girl warm the next winter. When asked by Opie what they were having for dinner that night, Andy replied, “I’m eatin’ crow.”

For me, this means that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Instead, one should take time, money, and energy to impact the lives of the few for the betterment of the many. It does not mean to stop contributing to the organizations that support large groups of people. It means not to lose sight of the needs of the individuals closest to home.

 

June 6th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

#DearMrZuckerberg

I consider myself fairly level headed . . . 

. . . not too savvy; not too behind-the-times . . .

. . . not too quick tempered; not too mild mannered . . .

. . . not too knee-jerky; not too pokey . . . .

Though I walk fast and talk fast, I’m more of a tortoise than a hare. (But a tortoise who comes in 2nd or 3rd place. I’m not going to win the race.)

I’m a medium-type American 70s girl, who wanted Billy to not be a hero, wished the Rambling Boy would settle down, and hoped the Little Girl did not go away. I eat too many French fries, choose shoes that are 49% pretty/51% comfortable, and need a new bra. I mostly shun Change, but I allowed my older girlfriends to talk me into bolder lipstick, even though I rarely tote a pocketbook and don’t reapply.

So, how come I’m the boring-est person ever to be banned from Facebook? How come I’m doing the time, if I didn’t do the crime? Well, lean in closer, and I’ll tell you.

Beguiled. Bamboozled. Hoodwinked.

“Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!” Brer Rabbit outwitted Brer Fox and Brer Bear. 

My Brer Rabbit said, “Your Facebook account has been disabled due to security reasons. To unlock it, review your account here: (insert phony link). Facebook Team”

Oh, Hindsight! Where were you?! You slay me now!

My yelp scares my children more than a speeding, lane-invading car. I’m certain they cried more as little kids over my reactionary “OH NO!” from their stumbles than they ever did over the bloody knees.  

My immediate response to the faux Facebook Team message was a similar overprotective “OH NO!” And I clicked.

Hooked. Lined. Sinkered. 

I know. You’d have known better. I should have known better. I do know better. And yet, I gave my password to Brer Rabbit. I threw him in the briar patch. 

On the night of March 2, 2017, the Facebook profile known as Celeste King Conner shut down and went to bed. The next morning, it had ceased to exist. All traces of Celeste King Conner had been erased from Facebook. If you searched for it with your whole heart, you could not find it.

The American Red Cross hates me for spending a semester in England in the 80s. Facebook hates me for momentary gullibility. I believe both to be sins of O-mission rather than CO-mission, as the preacher says. Sins, nevertheless, I reckon.

On March 3, the real Facebook Team emailed and asked me to upload a form of identification with my name, birth date, and face, so they could prove I’m really me.

Check.

“Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”

There is no way to contact Facebook, so I waited. My friend has a friend who works for Facebook (my friend-in-law?). He submitted two requests for me, whatever that means. I waited some more. After a couple of weeks, I had actually detoxed from Facebook, when I began receiving texts and emails: “Are you okay? You’ve taken yourself off Facebook” and “Have I offended you? You unfriended me.”

Yes.

No.

I had another email address, so Celestia Joy King Conner sent friend requests to the friends of the former Celeste King Conner, who didn’t want to accept them, because they assumed she was hacked and that the account was phony. Lawdy, friendship is complicated.

I don’t have an end to the story. I suppose Mr. Zuckerberg has a few security risks greater than a chatty mama in Lower Alabama, at risk for Mad Cow Disease, who wants access to her photos, words, and virtual memories back.  

I don’t have a moral to the story either, except, I guess, “Don’t be stupid,” but sometimes we just are.

I raise my battle cry: #freeCelesteKingConner!

I solemnly swear to pester Mr. Zuckerberg for the rest of my life: #freeCelesteKingConner!

With my last breath I’ll rattle #freeCelesteKingConner!

Mr. Zuckerberg is younger and smarter, healthier and wealthier than I am. But, by golly, I am more annoying than he is.

#freeCelesteKingConner!

 

 

June 1st, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

Him

He litters his bedroom floor with wet towels, sweaty undershirts, and nasty socks.

He seems incapable of turning off lights or fans.

He cannot put dead batteries in the trash to save his life.

He usually needs a haircut and a shave.

His drumming skills vastly supersede his vocal skills, as he belts out 70s rock and roll and plays his own bedside percussion.

He enjoys naps during Big Church and English.

He displayed more Bs and Cs than As on his report cards and couldn’t care less.

~

HIM TO ME (when he saw the pink ink pen with the pink ribbon at the store during the month of October): Mama, will you buy this? It’s pink, for breast cancer. We support breast cancer!!

~

His 1st grade teacher told me, “I have moved him all over this room. There is no one he won’t talk to.”

His 2nd grade teacher repeatedly reminded him to do his seat work. She exasperatedly enunciated, “What are you waiting for?!?!” He answered honestly, “Recess.”

His 3rd grade teacher’s eyes welled with tears when I suggested he try 3rd grade a second time.  

~

ME: What have I always taught you about discussing a girl’s weight?!

HIM: Never call a woman fat to her face.

ME: That’s not exactly right, but it’ll do for now.

~

He learned to say ball, dog, and daddy, then refused to try new words for months, as if he had mastered all the language he needed.

His eyes popped open on field trip mornings, liked he’d never slept at all. 

He donned one of my old bridesmaid’s dresses for church youth group on a dare.

He dissects the fine art of blowing up cars in killing movies with his daddy, defends his choice of favorite Disney princess with his sisters, and dances to “Shipoopi” from Music Man with his mama.

He loans his strong arms and sturdy back to folks in need of someone to do heavy lifting.

He fuels his lean, muscular body with Peter Pan peanut butter, Pop Tarts, and Dr. Pepper.

He ponders life questions like: “Is still continues redundant?”

He promises, “I’ll be careful. I’ll say my prayers. I’ll drink my milk.”

~

HIM TO ME: If you don’t do it, you’re going to regret it 50 years from now—uh wait, I mean—10 years from now.

~

He tucks in his shirt and ties his tie occasionally, and he cleans up real nice.

His guidance counselor suggested carpentry for his junior year, and he discovered his inherited love of woodworking, passed through me from my daddy, whom he was named for but never met. 

He loves his sisters and lets us hug and kiss him in public and often tells all three of us, “You look pretty today.”

He provides most of the fetching and provokes the majority of the laughter in our house.

He cried his last boyhood tears the night his friend died.

He was hard to feed but easy to wake and a joy to raise. 

He’s my favorite son. 

He’s my baby boy. 

He’s a good man.

family close up

 

January 28th, 2017 by celesteconner@comcast.net

All at Once Everything Looks Different

It happened on Monday, January 23rd, Abby and Emma’s 23rd birthday, our 3rd and final day of the long weekend party. The setting is Magic Kingdom. The story began around 3:30 pm.

Abby, Emma, and I were celebrating with Jordan, Layne, and Angie. 

23 at Disney

I had seen a picture on the internet of a wooden leg named Smith. (Mary Poppins fans know what that means.) I hunted it on our last Disney trip (for my 50th birthday). I didn’t find it, but I guess my heart wasn’t in the search. This time, my BFF Jordan was with me. She is the most curious person I know and can’t ever leave well enough alone.

We knew the leg was on a Lost and Found shelf in Frontierland. The Disney cast members we asked thought we were crazy. Jordan decided it had to be at the train station, which was closed for repairs. Knowing it never hurts to ask, Jordan grabbed a cast member in Frontierland garb who was sweeping up trash. His name was Kent. She said, “We’re looking for a wooden leg named Smith. We think it’s up there. Can we go look?” Kent hesitated only a moment, then said, “Yes, but let me go first.”

Smith 1

He escorted us through the roped-off entrance. We giggled like we were skipping school. We easily found the Lost and Found shelf over the front windows. We compared it to the picture I had on my phone. Definitely the same shelf. Other items on the shelf were the same. The discolored places on the wall were identical. The leg wasn’t there.  Perplexed but happy that our search could continue through another trip, Kent took our picture. We thanked him profusely and grimaced when saw him cornered by someone who looked like a supervisor. We crossed our fingers that he was getting praised and not scolded, then scooted to our next ride.

Smith 2

Angie knew Jordan and I were on a quest. She walked up the hill to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to wait for everyone to gather back together. She saw a man wearing a Vietnam veteran’s cap. Never one to leave a stranger unspoken to, she said, “Thank you for your service.”

“Thank you for noticing,” he replied.

She smiled.

He asked, “Would you like to ride the roller coaster with me?”

((Yikes!))

“No sir. I’m waiting for the rest of my group.”

“They can ride, too. How many are there?”

She told him there were six of us. We wandered up, not surprised to see that Angie had made a new friend. She said, “He gave us Fast Passes!”

He commanded, “Come with me.” 

So we did. He led us to the disability access entrance, the back door. The cast members waved us to the rear of the coaster, because he likes the back seat.

We had no idea what had just happened, but we lifted our arms and squealed as Big Thunder slung us around.  

When we got off, we finally got some info.

Kenny

Our new friend’s name is Kenny. He is retired Navy from Missouri. He and his wife live in Orlando in the winter. They like to go to Magic Kingdom. She dines with friends and shops. He hangs out at Big Thunder Mountain and meets folks and takes them for rides. All the cast members know him.

As we were about to say goodbye, we realized that we hadn’t used our six Fast Passes on the ride. We asked Kenny for one more. Our friend Ben had joined us. He works at Epcot but was off for the day, so there were seven of us, instead of six. Kenny said, “Sure. Here. Let me give you another set.”

We LOLed at our luck as he counted out seven more Fast Passes from the stack in his pocket. He hopped on his scooter and rode off to find his bride.

We used our first set of Fast Passes at Haunted Mansion.

The Fast Passes Kenny gave us were paper. Printed on each was the expiration date (January 31) and exceptions: “Not accepted at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Peter Pan.”

((Remember that it never hurts to ask.))

Jordan decided we were going to ask if we could use them at the Mine Train, a ride with a 90-minute standby wait, a ride that’s impossible to get a Fast Pass. She said to the attendant, “We have Fast Passes. I know they’re not good here, but we are celebrating these girls’ 23rd birthday, and it’s the 23rd and we wondered if you would honor them.”  

The attendant said, “I can’t, but you can ask a supervisor.” (She didn’t say yes but she didn’t say no.)

We had Fast Passes on our arm bands to Space Mountain. I gave mine to Ben and waited and watched for someone who looked supervisory, while they dodged shooting stars in the dark. I pounced on a young man wearing a headset:

“Are you a supervisor?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so. You look official with your earpiece and walkie talkie.” (See what I did there?) “We have Fast Passes. I know they’re not good here, but we are celebrating my twin daughters’ 23rd birthday, and it’s the 23rd and I wondered if you would honor them.”

He said, “I’m not a supervisor for this ride, but I know who is.” (He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no.) He said, “I’ll tell MacKenna.”

My family and friends returned from Space Mountain. MacKenna appeared and whisked us back. She did not take our Fast Passes.

We lined up for the ride. Somehow, another couple got between some of our group, and we weren’t all seated together. When we whirled to a stop and stepped off the ride, MacKenna reappeared and said, “I wanted y’all to ride together, so you could have a cute picture!” And she put us back on the ride.

Our third Fast Pass-less ride in under three hours.

We exited the Mine Trail howling with guffaws and gasping for breath. (The more Angie and I laugh, the more we cough. Asthma in stereo!)

We had 6:45 dinner reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table at the top of the castle. We said goodbye to our buddy Ben and sent him off with another good Disney story to tell.

We passed our seven Fast Passes to a family of five. We told them to look for Kenny. I texted Kenny’s wife and told her to tell him to look for them.

During dinner, we were pampered by our waiter and posed with the princesses. We watched the Wishes fireworks explode out the windows by our table.

dinner

Gradually, the restaurant emptied. The children at other tables fell asleep and were toted off by their tired daddies. The six women savored each remaining second.

Eventually, the restaurant manager wandered over; we assumed to shoo us off. He said, “I heard about you. I wanted to say hello and see if you need anything.” We told him of our glorious afternoon. He told us of his 20 years working at Walt Disney World. We asked about his blue name tag. He told us he received it two days earlier and that his wife and daughters and some friends were at the surprise meeting. (It’s a recognition awarded by peers.) He said, “I’d like for you to have my card. It has my cell number on it. Please call me if I can do anything for you on future Disney trips.”

I pinkie promise the card says:

Keith [Last Name]

Proprietor

Magic Kingdom

KEnt helped us in Frontierland.

KEnny gave us Fast Passes at Big Thunder.

MacKEnna let us ride the Mine Train TWICE.

KEith gave us his cell number.

M – i – c – KE – y.

There is clearly only one explanation for our day: Mickey Mouse followed us around and manipulated our magical moments. Surely the Sorcerer’s Apprentice can shift appearances at the happiest place on earth.   

The park closed after the 8:00 fireworks show. We didn’t leave the restaurant until after 9:00. The Magic Kingdom was empty. We floated out of the park like Rapunzel in the boat with Flynn Rider: “And at last I see the light, and it’s like the fog has lifted . . . . ”

lights

Angie and I reminisced how Daddy was always the last to leave church, how he frequently leaned over the wall by the organ to flip off the light switch. We proclaimed that it took TWO Kings to shut down Magic Kingdom.

A practically perfect end to a practically perfect day.

As we flopped into our hotel room, ecstatic and exhausted, Emma frantically checked all of her pockets and whispered, mainly to herself:

“Has anybody seen my cell phone?!?!”

phone!

She left it on the tram to the parking lot.

We found it the next morning at Lost and Found, where the whole story began.

Thanks, Mickey.

You know I love full circle.