Thursday, December 10, 2020

Little Gladys Ain't No Peggin


There was a chill in the air electrified with the anticipation of the impending visit from Santa.  Little Gladys sat in the portable building that served as her classroom anxiously awaiting the announcement of Christmas festivities to come.  Twenty-eight third graders shifted and squirmed eyes glued to Mrs. Carter, their teacher.

Mrs. Carter stood at the front of the class, fluffed her bouffant hair, smoothed her tan wool skirt, cleared her throat and began “Class, unfortunately this year we will not be allowed to have a Christmas tree in our rooms.” 

There was a collective exhalation from the eight-year-olds of disappointment.  Mrs. Carter motioned for them to quiet.  “You see we have some students who do not celebrate the holiday with a tree, just as they don’t celebrate birthdays or any other holidays.  Since we are a public school, we must respect their beliefs and because of such we will not have decorations or a tree.  We will, however, still be having our annual pageant, absent of course of the nativity and/or any reference to the baby Jesus.  Now before we all get beside ourselves, let’s remember that this country was founded on religious freedoms.”  She looked with sadness at the deflation of her students and returned to her desk.

The students exchanged suspicious looks, side-eyeing one another in an attempt to ferret out the guilty heretic.  Girls and boys squirmed at the interrogative stares. 

Little Gladys raised her hand, jumping a little in her seat in order to be seen.  That was a problem with Gladys, she never felt seen.  Maybe it was her diminutive size, or maybe it was her being the third child and always being out talked, outweighed and overlooked or maybe it was just her personality.  It was this feeling that made her act a little more dramatically, talk a little louder and ask questions incessantly.  

“Mrs. Carter!   MRS. CARTER!!” she all but screamed, “Why?  Why can’t we have a tree?”


Mrs. Carter sighed “I already answered this Gladys.  Some of our student’s religious beliefs do not allow them to celebrate the holidays. We must respect that.”

“But, why?  I mean is it because they don’t believe in the baby Jesus?” Gladys whined.

“No, dear, it is because they believe that those holidays are in fact not Christian but pagan.  Do you know what a pagan is?” Mrs. Carter waited.

Gladys thought a minute and said “isn’t that like a clothespin.  When you want to hang something up you put in a peggin and you hang your stuff on it?”

A little giggle escaped from the seasoned teacher “No, Hun, Paganism is a form a belief where in they worship many gods or unconventional gods.  It was very common back in olden times.”

“You mean we gots peggins in our class?  Who?” Gladys was aghast.

“No, we would be the Pagans by putting up a tree.  You see some people believe that the tree was a Pagan practice as were many of the other holiday traditions we practice.” The teacher gingerly walked around the subject trying not to be too accusatory.

“I aint no peggin!” Gladys spat.  The class all mumbled the same. 

“No one is calling you a Pagan.  Now let’s get to work on our fractions and forget about the tree.”

The day went on but not as brightly as it should have.  The anticipation dampened with the thoughts of no green and red construction paper chains, no pipe cleaner angels, and no glitter spewing cardboard ornaments.  It was a sad, sad day and no amount of free reading time was going to lift Gladys’ spirits.

As the last bell of the day rang out Gladys trudged forlornly out of the classroom, only looking up to see Mrs. Carter’s sympathetic eyes.

That evening as the color faded from the horizon Gladys sat at the dinner table and told her brother and sister of the criminal restriction from having a Christmas tree.  “She said we were peggins for having a Christmas tree.  Well, Mrs. Carter don’t exactly think we are but she said some kids in our class thought we were and that is why we can’t have a tree.”

Buck, Gladys’ brother was confused “we are peggin?  What is peggin?”

“You know we believe there is more than one God and we don’t worship the baby Jesus” said Gladys matter-of-factly. 

“PAY-GAN!” Buck corrected, “you mean pagan.  Not pegging.  I thought maybe you were playing mumbly-peg at school or something.  I still don’t understand how a Christmas tree means your Pagan.”

“Well, Mrs. Carter said has something to do with the peasants worshiping trees or some such magical nonsense.  I think it is a travesty, us not having a tree.  I am just glad that Momma and Daddy don’t think it’s piggin.”

Matilda examined her mashed potatoes on the fork took a big bite then turned mouth open to show Gladys her food. 

“Stop it!  I don’t want to play see food with you.  This here is criminal!  I mean how would you feel if you didn’t get to have a tree?”

Swallowing Matilda replied “we don’t get to have a tree.  We got the same speech.  Mr. Decker said that it was because of some Jeehosaphats or something.  That they don’t believe in Christmas Trees.  But he said we could still decorate the room and bring ornaments from home.” 

“What are Jeehosaphats?  What do they look like?” Gladys said taking a second helping of black-eyed peas. 

Trooper Bob looked across the table at his progeny, shook his head and continued eating.  This was one conversation he would let them work out themselves. 

“Jehovah’s Witnesses, not Jehoshaphat.  It is a religion.  They are really strict.  Even stricter than the snake handling Baptist over off of Treadaway.  They don’t celebrate birthdays, or Easter, or Christmas, or Halloween or anything because they see them as pagan celebrations” Buck responded.

Gladys’ fork stopped midway to her mouth.  What kind of monsters didn’t celebrate birthdays?  I mean did those poor souls not ever get any presents?  Setting her fork back on the plate she turned to Trooper Bob “is that true Daddy? They don’t celebrate their birthdays nor nothing?”

Trooper Bob saw he was not going to escape this conversation.  “Yes, that is true.  They don’t celebrate.  Now I don’t know a lot about them but I heard tell that they don’t believe in any celebration but I think they do recognize Easter.”

“Well, that just ain’t right.  They should at least let their kids have a tree and some presents.  What harm would it be?” Gladys was flummoxed.

Dinner finished and dishes done, it was time for Gladys to go to bed.  She prayed that night for those poor Jehoshaphat children who wouldn’t have Christmas or birthdays, Easter or Thanksgiving.  Heck, I think I would rather believe in carrying around rattlesnakes as I had go without holidays.  She closed her eyes as hard and tight as she could and she had a little conversation with God. 

The week went forward and not another word was said about the absence of a Christmas tree and the Jehoshaphat children who caused this atrocity.  Well, not a word from the adults.  The playground was a buzz with who was and wasn’t a Jehoshaphat.   There were several theories that the Jehoshaphats weren’t even in their class, heck, for all they knew not even in the school.  Some thought it was a way that the teachers and parents didn’t have to clean up the glitter, popcorn, and crepe paper mess of the season.  Whatever it was it wasn’t right.  Nope, not right at all.

Sunday rolled around.  Gladys dressed in her best clothes and waited while Matilda dressed and made sure her hair and make-up were absolutely perfect.  Buck yelled at them both to hurry.  The three kids climbed into Bucks V.W. Bug and made their way to Sunday School.

Gladys about to burst rushed into her classroom and all but fell into Miss Delores’ arms.  “Ms. Delores, you ain’t  gonna believe this but we can’t have a Christmas Tree.  The teacher says it ain’t fittin.  It is peggin.”

Miss Delores wiped Gladys tears and smiled “I would love to help, but I have no idea what you are going on about.  Slow down and tell me, what’s this about pegs?”

Gladys relayed her tale, leaving out not a single detail as her classmates listened.  Finally, out of breath and out of details she asked “what do we do?  I prayed.  I prayed really hard for them Jehoshaphat and them not getting presents.” 

“Gladys, you have done all you can for those children.  They have their beliefs and we have ours.  You can pray for them, be kind for them and respect them, that is what you can do.”

The following Monday the first bell rang and Mrs. Carter’s third-grade class filed into the cafetorium along with the other 3rd grade classes.  The smell of cinnamon rolls and fried chicken wafted from the kitchen and the cafeteria ladies scurried in and out of the doors preparing for the lunch rush.  On the stage sat a distinguished man and the school’s principal.  Once the students were settled in Mr. Taylor, the principal, addressed the students.  “Boys and girls, there has been a lot of speculation and talk about our decision not to have Christmas trees this year.  I know your teachers have done their best to explain the concerns of some of the parents not wishing their children to participate in this tradition.  I have asked Doctor Bartholomew to help give some insight into the true meaning of the Christmas Tree to Christians.” 

“Good Morning Boys and Girls” the distinguished man started “I am the chancellor at the Christian College.  Last week one of your teachers called me because she was concerned that the display of a Christmas tree was being misunderstood.  She said some children were afraid if they had a Christmas Tree it would mean they weren’t being good Christians.  Well, let me tell you, that is not the case.  I came here today to share with you the Christian meaning of the Christmas Tree.  First, let me say that many religions have used the Fir tree as a symbol of life.  Now with that being said, I would like to share with you the representation of the tree.

You see the green of the fir tree represents God’s gift to us of everlasting life in his love.

The red ornaments and bows on the tree represent the blood that God’s son shed so that we might have everlasting life.

The lights on the tree are God’s love that lights the way.

The Angel on the top of the tree is the Holy Spirit which is always within our hearts.

The presents under the tree our greatest Gift Jesus Who gave Himself to us at Christmas.

The holly bush represents immortality, a trait that God has given to each human being. We are all destined to live forever, either with the Lord or separated from Him.

Christmas bells symbolize the joy of Christmas.

The candy cane is shaped like a shepherd's crook, reminding us that Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

You see children, Christmas Trees embody all things Christian.  I have talked to local leaders and educators and they have decided that you may keep your classroom trees as long as you remember the spirit of that tree.  Thank you for your time and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.”

Gladys and her compatriots exited the warm cinnamon roll scented room returning happily to their classrooms.

When the last student was seated Mrs. Carter once again addressed her students.  “We will have a tree this year and it has been agreed by the Board of Education and our PTA that those students not comfortable with decorating the tree can have free time in the library.  Just see me before lunch and I will arrange a hall pass for you.”

·         Gladys swelled with happiness.  She loved making ornaments and decorating the tree even if her reindeer looked more like trees than deer.  She loved sprinkling the glitter over the Elmer’s glue and shaking the excess off into a newspaper.  She loved bending the pipe cleaners into almost angel shapes and of course, no tree was complete without the paper chains and strings of popcorn.  Mrs. Carter had green and red popcorn.  The class spent the afternoon, creating and decorating and singing Christmas Carols.  As she looked around the room, she noticed not one single solitary classmate was missing.  Doug was eating glue off his fingers; Robin was covered from head to toe in glitter and Lisa was twirling around with a paper chain wrapped around her neck like a boa.  It was glorious.  All was right with the world.  That evening she went home with her hair full of glitter and her hand-out which explained the Christian Christmas.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nurse Meme Nurses

 When I was a little girl and I was sick, my mother would make me get up in the morning.  Take a bath/shower wash my face and get dressed.  Even if I wasn't going to school.  She would tell me it would make me feel better.  So I would do as told and get up and do my morning ritual.  I used to get so angry with her because damn it, didn't she know I was sick.  I felt like crap.
The last thing I wanted to do was get out of a nice warm bed crawl into a steaming hot shower, put on fresh clothes with a clean face and freshly brushed teeth.

  When I emerged from the bath I would find a clean, freshened bed with pillows plumped or a couch made up with sheets, blankets, and pillows which allowed me to lounge in comfort.  There I would lie for several hours at a time watching one of the three channels.  First, it would be the news then Let's Make a Deal and on into the afternoon where Days of Our Lives or General Hospital would entertain me with some awful drama.   More likely it would be playing in the background while I read my latest obsession, be it one of the Little House books or Anne of Green Gables or a Zane Grey I stole from my father's pile.

When I was six or maybe seven, I got really sick.  I had the flu that moved into scarlet fever and then snowballed into rheumatic fever.  I was down for a couple of months.  I read, watched TV, played with my dolls and pretended to be a princess who had been exiled to a strange and distant land.  I built forts from quilts absconded from the couch and the linen closet.  I drank gallons of soup from mugs and ate tons of grilled cheese sandwiches made by my mom.

She worked nights and tried to sleep all day.  During my illness instead of her going to bed when she got home from her shift, she would sleep on the couch, one eye open, jerking awake every time I coughed or blew my nose.  She was ever vigilant.  She would pop up wide awake, drink another cup of coffee as she prepared whatever medicine was needed at the time.  She made grilled cheese and tomato soup and fed me peeled oranges and apples cut into slices.  Eat she would say.  Eat your health.

She taught me many things, but one of the best things she taught me was to give yourself some love.  Get up, put on your lipstick and face the world.  You don’t have to go any further than the couch, but you have made the next step to feeling better.

It’s Flu Season.  If you did or didn’t get your flu shot, I hope you do not get inflicted.  If by some poor happenstance of luck you come down with the dreaded Captain Tripps or a bad case of Coxilliosis of the Blow Hole.  I have these words of advice.  Get up.  Take a hot shower.  Put on fresh clothes.  Eat your health.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I'm Fine


          I had a headache.  My feet hurt.  My back was sore.  It was cold outside and I had things to get done.  I arrived at the UPS Store to find a long line of other procrastinators.  I took my place in line behind a woman about ten years my senior.  An attractive lady in the baby boomer uniform of jeggings, knee boots, and puffy vest, holding a Starbucks in one hand and a large overnight envelope in the other.  She stood as if she had not a care in the world.  She turned and smiled in greeting each time the door chimed, a gust of cold frosty air swept across her pink wrinkled face and blew her short silver hair from her bright blue eyes. 
            The door chimed, the chilly air swept a sigh through the room as a woman of equal age rushed in.  She spied her compatriot and quickly rushed to her side.  Now, we southern women greet one another in a time old fashion.  First, we squeal just a bit.  “Oh, my lort!  Ella May!  How in the world are you?  How’s your mommer and dem?”  Now keep in mind while this exchange begins our voices rise about two octaves and become twice as loud.  Second, we must hug.  Sometimes it is just a quick side hug; a quick squeeze and release.  If it is your church lady friend then it is the full-on greet your neighbor hug.  A front to front squeeze and a little bit longer linger.  If it is a long-lost friend who saved you from Bobby Joe in sixth grade in Dodgeball, then it is front to front full on bear hug that might or might not linger more than thirty seconds.   Finally, if it is that one friend that we all have, it is front to front full on bear hug with a back rub and a little squealing dance that usually last longer than is comfortable and might or might not end with a full-on mouth to mouth kiss.  This greeting was more in the Church Lady friend hug.
            The silver-haired woman was swept up into a hug while “Irma Jean!  How are you doing” was sung at a high loud pitch.   Irma Jean responded “I’m fine.  Just fine and how are you, Stacy?” 
            Stacy took a moment to quickly rundown the fact that her granddaughter was in her first year at S.M.U. and her son was getting ready to retire and he and his wife were going on a cruise.  She continued with the fact that she had just built a new house on the river and was getting ready to host the Sisters of Ruth annual Christmas party.  On and on she went about this and that.  Finally, she asked, “Irma Jean, how is your oldest daughter?”
Irma Jean smiled and wiped a tear from her eye “Oh, Tammy passed away last month.  The funeral was quite lovely.”
Stacy gasped “Oh, I am so sorry for your loss, I hadn’t heard.”  She squeezed Irma Jeans hand “And how is your husband?”
Irma Jean took a deep breath “Well, he’s on hospice.  You know his C.O.P.D. got really bad and then they found cancer and well, they don’t think he is going to make it to Christmas.  That is why I’m here mailing my Christmas cards.  I have things to get done before he goes.”
At this the room became quiet and the whole line of people was listening.  Stacy looked nervously around looking for a positive.  “Oh, I am so sorry.  Please send him mine and Jim’s best wishes.  We will be praying for him.  Now, your youngest daughter?  Is she still up in Denver?”
Irma shifted, took a sip of her coffee “Diane, is in a coma.  She is breathing on her own now but they don’t think she will come out of the coma.  She is in a nursing home here in town.  I go by and spend a couple of hours every morning with her.  Her husband has been a gem.”
             I am almost in tears.  The whole room is shifting from foot to foot and Stacy is speechless.    She clears her throat and marches on “Oh, my I hadn’t heard.  No wonder you haven’t been at the meetings or at church lately.  You have your hands full.  I almost hate to ask, but how is your son?”
            Irma sips her coffee and smiles “He had a heart attack last Monday.  They had to do a quadruple by-pass and he will be out of work for about six months.  They have moved in with me.  His wife has been such a God-send.  They have helped us catch up on the mortgage.  You know with all the medical bills I thought we were going to lose the farm.  They have helped so much and having all those kids around keeping the house active, has been really interesting.”
            I began ruminating on my complaints and realized, I had no complaints.  My life is good.  I am betting everyone in that room who was impatient and put-out about standing in line was feeling a little bit better about their life.   Then Stacy asked, “But Irma, how are you?”
            Irma Jean smiled a beaming smile “Oh honey, I’m fine.  Just fine.”
I wanted to scream “NO!  YOU ARE NOT FINE!!  YOUR LIFE IS SHIT!!!”  I wanted to give her one of those hugs where you linger too long and maybe even give her a big smooch.  I wanted to take her home with me and feed her chicken soup and wrap her in a blanket and let her watch sappy movies and drink hot cocoa. 
            Instead, I stood there.  I stood there a stranger to her, counting my blessings.  I stood there, my heart breaking for her.  Suddenly my back felt better, my headache wasn’t so bad and my feet were just fine. 
            At last, she made her way to the clerk, mailed her package and started out of the store.  One by one the patrons murmured to her “Merry Christmas, Irma Jean”.   “May God bless you, Irma Jean”. 
            It was my turn at the counter and the clerk asked: “how are you today?”
            “I am fine, truly fine” I answered.

Friday, November 30, 2018

They Call The Wind Mariah

You know how I come here and rant and rave?  You know how I go off on tangents?  I know my readers, all three of you, are saying, what?   Gladys goes off on tangents?  NEVER!  I know I rant and ramble.  According to my precious Aunt, I have always rambled.  Evidently, I used to sit and talk for hours and she would nod and smile and have no clue as to the nature of my oration.  Oh, who am I kidding?  People still smile and nod and have no clue as to the nature of my diatribe.  And, there I go again, digressing.

I am curious, where did politeness and common courtesy go?  Is it hiding under the bed?  Perhaps, it’s on the top shelf of the coat closet which no longer holds formal coats and jackets but instead is stuffed fuller than Fibber McGee’s closet with junk.  The one which when opened expels everything from hockey sticks to hobnails.  (Quick rush to Google and look-up Fibber McGee and hobnails, I’ll wait).  It is all but extinct, common courtesy that is.  Every once in a great while, a stranger will hold a door or greet you on the street, but it is a rarity. 

When the wind blows in my little neck of the woods, it wails.  It whistles and winds through the trees leaves scattering and swirling.  The dust puffs and paints the pavement with a coating of ever moving impressionistic paintings.  Harv Presnell, sings about it moving the stars around.  It was on one of those days that I was reminded of the loss of decorum and niceties.

Kahuna and I have been talking about buying a couch.  Not just a couch but a sectional.  Not just a sectional but it has to be very specific dimensions, fabric, and construction.  You see our last couches were purchased the year we were first a couple.  We bought two matching sofa’s that we made sure were long enough to nap on and when the back pillows were removed two people could sleep side by side.  We had the made specifically.  I mean you never know when a nap could overtake you.  As the boy scouts say, be prepared.   Alas, those couches are no longer ours having gone to a younger couple who can now have years of side by side naps.   We decided on a sectional so that we can seat enough people without needing a bunch of other furniture.  Honestly, if it were up to Kahuna, a bean bag chair and an orange crate would be fine.  Thank goodness it’s not up to him. 

Again, I digress.
We don’t have a lot of furniture stores in Itty Bitty City, heck, we don’t have a lot of stores of any kind.   I have been shopping for couches on-line.  The problem with shopping for couches online is you can’t sit on them.  I guess you could sit on your laptop, but, I’m afraid that would not be a good judge of it being a nap-able sofa.  There is nothing worse than a sofa that is not nap-able.  It has lumps or dips or isn’t wide enough or soft enough.  I decided to bite the bullet and stop by our local furniture store, Ye Old Furniture Shop. 
I pulled my little car into the parking lot as the wind whipped the leaves here and there, sand shifting on the asphalt.  The wind caught my door yanking it from my hand.  I stood just as a gust hit and flipped my hair over my face only to reverse and blow it back again.  I was pushed to the door by another errant gust, coat flapping, hair flipping, sand shifting pushing me all towards what might be the perfect napping couch.  I grabbed the door before the wind could bluster me back into the parking lot.  I took a deep breath of wood, leather, and foam as I entered the store. 

Waiting just inside the store, the proprietor, Buford, eyed me up and down, then glanced at the flapping door.   He scratched his beard, shut the door behind me and said: “Girl, comb your hair!”. 
Now, I have entered many an establishment to a variety of greetings.  How are you?   Can I help you?  It’s a great day at….   I can honestly say I have never been greeted with a disparaging remark about my hair.  Look, I have no illusions.  I know I have wild hair.  Some days it is wilder than others.  There are times it is so out of control all I can do is have a Shaman sage it and call it good.  Honestly, it has a mind of its own. I know the wind had whipped my hair.  It might have looked a wee bit out of place.  Did it warrant a greeting of “Comb your hair”?  I don’t know.  I just know that somewhere between women burning their bras and men not wearing fedoras and ties, we lost our sense of decorum.  We lost the finesse that once existed in civil social interactions.
How hard is it to say, Good Morning or Welcome to Sofas to Nap On?  I don’t understand.  What happened to be nice and polite?  What happened to civility?  I really couldn’t tell you.  Maybe it’s better this way.  Maybe we should all just say whatever comes to our minds.  Do away with our filters and just blurt out whatever pops into our minds. 
There I stood, windblown in his furniture store.  A customer there to search for the perfect napping sectional.  There to support him by patronizing his store, a local merchant.  I was stunned.  I was gobsmacked.  I was not speechless.   I closed my mouth, swallowed hard and replied: “and you just lost a sale”. 
I turned and grabbed for the door.  The wind grabbed it from my hand and yanked it open.  I walked out leaving Buford standing in the middle of some nice sized couches covered in dust and leaves with his hair blowing in the wind.  As I walked out whistling They Call The Wind Mariah.