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One of our biggest chores as we prepare to move has been going through all the “stuff” we’ve stored for the past 14 years. We brought lots of memorabilia with us from Mississippi to Arkansas, and most of it has stayed packed in boxes in the attic the whole time we’ve been here. Now, it’s time to pitch it!

This morning, my agile 84-year-old husband climbed the pull-down ladder in our garage and began handing me down various items. Fortunately, some were only empty moving boxes, stored for a future move. But one heavy box had to be unpacked before we could examine it.

Inside, were dirty, moldy high school yearbooks from my teenage years back during the fifties. I do still have the annual from my senior year that I’d kept on one of our bookshelves inside the house, and I’m glad I have it. But these others will have to go!

Another box upstairs contained multiple plaques and framed family photos. The plaques were wonderful to receive at the times they were presented to us—some for achievements in our careers, some for our years of service on various nonprofit boards and in church-related activities. But those, too, will need to go. There’s no room in our new place for these old plaques, and there’s no need to tote them to Tennessee just to sit in another box in our new attic.

However, we will give the framed family photos to our kids. They are fun to look at and to remember how we lived back in the sixties and seventies. My large bouffant hairdo and Robin’s dark, horn-rimmed glasses reveal the styles we once thought so elegant. And even our children’s thick, heavy bangs look dated.

I guess it’s good for all of us to realize that sooner or later, even today’s more flattering hairstyles and comfortable clothing will get big laughs from our children’s children and their grandkids too.

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Transition Time

Last month, Robin and I decided the time had finally come for us to move from our “paradise home” here in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, to a new home in Franklin, Tennessee. We’ve been here 14 years, and they have been great retirement years, full of fun and service activities with many friends who have settled here from all over the country. But now we need to begin a new chapter in our lives.

Robin’s heart issues are resolved now—he’s no longer having the spasms with fluttery stomach sensations and light-headedness. His recent stents and pace maker, along with a daily medication, seem to have alleviated those problems.

However, he continues to experience memory loss. So far, it’s mostly vacations and activities from the past that he cannot remember. He still functions fairly well in his daily tasks, so while we are both healthy and able to make decisions and work together, we have embarked on the monumental tasks of sorting through, cleaning out, donating, and selling items we don’t need to take with us to our new place.

At the end of August, we made a commitment to rent a “villa” (townhome) on a transitional senior living campus called The Fountains of Franklin. We plan to live independently in our villa for a number of years, but we’ll have access to assisted living and memory care when we need it. Here is a photo of our new home at 347 Celebration Circle, Franklin, TN 37067

Two of our children, Steve and Sharon, live in Franklin, and our other son, Marty, lives only about three hours away in Maryville, TN, just south of Knoxville. It’ll be great to be closer to all of them and their families.

Moving is always traumatic, and the future is always uncertain. However, we have already sold our home here in the Village, and if all goes well, we’ll be closing on the sale and moving on October 20.  That’s exciting!

Stay tuned, my dear readers. This “Southern Story Lady” will soon be sending you her tales from the great state of Tennessee! Much love to all of you!

Before our wedding in August 1958, Robin and I wanted to earn a little extra money. That’s when we began making and selling sandwiches each night in our college dorms.

My enterprising fiancée got the idea from one of his buddies who had been selling sandwiches in their dorm that winter. However, his friend decided to stop, so that summer, Robin took over the business.

Two or three times a week, he’d jump into his blue and white ’52 Chevy and make a trip to the local grocery store, buy mayonnaise, mustard, multiple loaves of bread, fresh ham and cheese, canned tuna, and peanut butter and jelly.

Then I’d meet him at the Wesley Foundation’s little house across from the main gate of our campus. The two of us were active in both the Methodist students’ organization and the Presbyterian students’ Westminster Fellowship, but the Wesley Foundation had a nicer kitchen.

We’d clear off the long counter, wipe it down well, and lay out all the bread slices. From there, it became an assembly line as we slapped together the ham and cheese sandwiches first, then the tuna fish, and finally the peanut butter and jelly. Each sandwich was slipped into a plastic bag. Then we bundled them together in larger bags of each kind and placed them in the fridge until evening.

That night, we’d each go through our dorms, selling sandwiches to those who were studying or playing cards or visiting. The ham and cheese sold for a little more than the tuna or peanut butter; neither one of us can remember the exact prices now. However, I do remember we did sell out of our merchandise every night, and our sandwich fund began to grow.

In July, we decided to branch out and sell sandwiches at a discount to some of our sorority and fraternity friends who would peddle them in their residences too. By the time Robin graduated on August 7 and we married on August 8, we had quite a nice little account with which to begin our life together.

The following year, we learned that college officials no longer allowed students to sell food in the dorms. Maybe there were health regulations they needed to adhere to, but by then we were well on our way to other adventures.

Road Repairs

This afternoon I traveled down Barcelona Road, one of the main thoroughfares here in Hot Springs Village.

One might think that’s not so remarkable, but the street’s been under repair for weeks, and we’ve been detouring over the mountain on a narrow, hilly, winding road. Today I glided across the smoothly-paved black patch above the newly-installed culvert, and it thrilled my heart.

Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for an 87-year-old friend. His older daughter thanked the congregation for coming, and she told us how she and her younger sister had planned to surprise their father by visiting him together before he passed away.

Again, one might think that’s not so remarkable, but the sisters had been estranged for years, and they had recently worked to repair the rift. Sadly, they didn’t get to surprise their father, but the two of them and their children and grandchildren were together again at the service. I’m sure their mother was thrilled.

Road repairs, both literal and figurative, are beautiful blessings on life’s journeys.

This morning I’ve been thinking back to what turned me on to writing stories as a child. One of my earliest memories was Mother walking to the local grocery store several blocks from our home in Kansas City, Missouri, and she’d sometimes return with an Uncle Wiggily storybook for Cathy and me. This was during the ’40s and money was tight, so it was a special treat when we received these paperback books. My little sister and I read them over and over!

Uncle Wiggily was an “elderly gentleman rabbit” who usually had to deal with a “bad chap” trying to outwit him or harm him in some way—unsavory characters like Woozy Wolf, Bushy Bear, or Skillery Skallery Alligator. Of course, he also had many amicable friends who helped him out of his predicaments—Sammie and Susie Littletail, his nephew and niece; Lulu, Alice and Jimmie Wibblewobble, the duck children; Uncle Butter, a goat; or Dr. Possum, the local physician; to name a few.

Uncle Wiggily’s dramatic episodes inspired me to write similar stories, and my teachers often let me read my stories to my classmates at school. Their laughter and clapping cheered me on.

Today I went online to read more about the creator of these tales. American author Howard R. Garis worked for the Newark News beginning in 1910, and he wrote a new story every day, except Sundays, for more than 30 years! He published 79 books within his lifetime, and his stories are still available. What a great legacy!

Do any of you remember reading Uncle Wiggily stories too?

L’Audible Art

Every year, the Village Writers’ Club presents a free program for our friends and neighbors in the community. We call it L’Audible Art. Each member who would like to participate has five minutes to share an original story, essay, poem, or memoir, and we serve complimentary wine and cheese. This year our program will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 15 in the auditorium at Coronado Community Center here in Hot Springs Village. I hope many of you will be able to attend.

The first year I participated in L’Audible Art was 2004. I’d been a member of the club all year, but I still felt uncertain about what to read and how the audience would react to what I read. However, others in the club encouraged me, and I decided to go ahead.

That year I had written a piece called “Dear Cathy,” a letter to my younger sister. There was a twist at the end where the audience suddenly realized that cancer had taken my sister’s life, but I was speaking to her as if she were still alive. I did not become emotional as I read, but the piece touched several in the audience.

Afterwards, one of the club’s longtime members, Mary Ann Robertson, came up to me and told me how much she had liked my reading. Her words of affirmation meant so much to me! By the way, Mary Ann was a participant in L’Audible Art from the very first year it began in 1997 until she died in 2012.  Her legacy lives on!

See you on Monday, May 15!

Monday, Feb. 27, the Village Writers’ Club enjoyed a presentation by Janis F. Kearney, noted Arkansas memoirist and publisher, entitled “Writing Our Lives—Recovering Lost Memories.” She led us to recall incidents from our past that perhaps we had forgotten—or perhaps even repressed because of the emotional toll it had taken. An early childhood experience popped into my mind.

I must have been five or six when this happened:

During those early years, Mother sewed most of the dresses that my little sister, Cathy, and I wore, and she spent many hours at the sewing machine. One day she accidentally slid her finger under the needle, and it penetrated all the way through. She cried out, and I panicked.

“Manny, run next door and get Mrs. _________,” she screamed.

I started to cry, and I bounded out the door, rushed to our neighbor’s house, and banged on her door.

She was home, thank goodness, and she and I hurried back to our house. By that time, Mother had been able to turn the sewing machine wheel enough to lift the needle from her finger, and our kind neighbor helped her care for the wound.

I don’t remember our neighbor’s name or even if Mother eventually went to the doctor, but now, over 70 years later, I can still recall how frightened I was to see my mother helpless and in pain.

Today, millions of children all over the world are experiencing those same emotions.