Thursday, February 15, 2018
This poem was written some years ago by my brother Allen Wright. I think it holds meaning for today. In the photo below, Allen is the boy in the white shirt. Standing beside him is my brother Lee. That's me with the glasses and Evelyn with the stuffed animal on the left.
by Allen Wright
Is Life really living?
Is Death really dead?
Do random thoughts really
Just enter our heads?
We are the same
as the things we see,
A pile of atoms
In shapes such as We.
Where do We come from?
Where do We go?
It's not for the Living
Nor the Dead to know.
Atoms to atoms
And dust to dust.
Is this the Fate
For all of Us?
We will be born again
As the Sun does rise,
To warm those around us
And brighten their eyes.
So We strive to rise
For an unseen goal,
To met our Savior
As eternal Souls.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
©Linda Goodman 1/27/2018
After I passed the fifth grade at James Hurst Elementary School in the Cradock section of Portsmouth, Virginia, I enjoyed a lovely summer vacation. I savored every minute of it, as I knew that, come fall, I would be attending sixth grade at Cradock Jr. High School. Brother Allen warned me that the sixth grade would be hard. He reminded me that Brother Lee, my oldest brother, had failed the sixth grade and had to repeat it. I cried when I heard that. I would have died if I had failed a whole grade. I assumed Brother Lee had been as upset as I would have been in that situation (I later discovered that it did not bother him at all.).
Sixth grade was strange compared to fifth grade. In elementary school, students had one teacher all day long in one classroom. In the sixth grade, I had four teachers who rotated from class to class. My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Mabry, took a shine to me. She admired my taste in books (we both loved Charles Dickens).She also discovered that I was writing a book, and she asked me about it every day. She knew how to nurture her students without being sappy. “Be proud of what you have achieved,” she told me at the end of the school year. “And here is my advice to you: think positive. Whatever task you are given, no matter how hard it seems, just repeat to yourself I think I can. I think I can, and you will always be at the front of the pack.
Sixth grade was not so bad after all.
In the seventh grade, my English teacher was Mrs. Mancuso, and she, too, enjoyed my writing. “You write so well, and you always use the correct grammar,” she told me, “And I have never seen you misspell a word. In fact, I think that you should enter the school Spelling Bee.”
I had never heard of a Spelling Bee. Mrs. Mancuso explained that it was a contest where students competed to see who was the best speller. “I know you can win it,” she assured me. “You just need to have faith in yourself. Positive thinking can accomplish anything.”
So two teachers that I loved thought I could win the Spelling Bee! That was good enough for me. I picked up the official Spelling Bee practice booklet and spent hours studying every word, except the small ones. I already knew them.
Some of the words were so hard that I had to memorize their spellings. But I had two teachers who had told me to say, I think I can. I think I can. I told myself that, too. And then I started telling my classmates, but by then my mantra had changed from I think I can to I know I will. I convinced myself that I could spell better than anyone else in my school, and I thought the more I staked that claim, the more positive I would be and the greater chance I would have to win that Spelling Bee.
Finally the big day came. I, along with nine others, sat on the stage of the school auditorium in front of every class in the school as we waited for the contest to begin. Each of us wore a number pinned to our chest. I was number two. Three judges, one lady and two men, sat at a table to the right of the stage.
Once all the students were settled in their seats and quiet, the woman judge stood up. “Number 1,” she announced, and my friend Maureen stood up. The woman sternly looked at her and said, “Your word is nicotine.”
Maureen nervously spelled out the word: n-i-c-o-t-i-n-e.
“Correct,” the woman announced. “You may take your seat back on the stage.”
How easy could this get?
“ Number 2,” the lady said as she turned her attention to me. I stood up and she announced, “Your word is across.”
What? That was a baby word! Why was I being given a baby word?
The woman cleared her throat and once again said, “Your word is across.”
I was grinning from ear to ear. I would win this contest in no time at all. I stood up tall and spelled a-c-c-r-o-s-s.”
“That is incorrect!” the woman announced. “Please take a seat down in the auditorium.”
I was shocked! Had I really spelled it wrong? A baby word? I could not believe it.
I felt like I was on a walk of shame. As I went down the steps to join the student body, I heard my classmates mates giggling all around me, saying “She bragged to everyone that she was going to win, and then she misspelled her very first word!” Cecil Boudreau, my classroom nemesis, started laughing so loudly he had to be escorted out of the auditorium.
I hung my head low.
My classmates kidded me for a few weeks, but they got over it. I carried the hurt and humiliation, however, for months.
It was Mrs. Mabry who set me straight. “Being positive is good, but you should understand that over-confidence can make you look like a braggart. The good news is, you can always try again next year.”
I took that little nugget and filed it in the deep recesses of my brain. It has served me well. To this very day, though, I cannot spell a word out loud in front of others. In the end, my humiliation made me humble.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
A Special Christmas
©Linda Goodman 12/1983
My very favorite Christmas was in 1983, when we were living in Bay City, Michigan. Phil and I had just gotten married that May, and our daughter, Melanie, was eleven years old. It was our first Christmas as a family.
Not far from us was the tiny village of Frankenmuth. Visiting that scenic little town was like taking a trip back in time. After 25 years of living in the mild winter climate of Portsmouth, VA, Melanie and I were having our very first white Christmas.
For the first time, I was able to buy Melanie everything on her Christmas list (not always a good idea). For myself, I had asked only for a plush, fluffy robe to keep me warm during the cold winter. I got what I asked for, but its color was PURPLE! That was not like Phil at all, as he likes muted colors. I had fantasized the robe as being emerald green or turquoise. I must admit that I was rather miffed, as Phil knew what my favorite colors were. Still, my mother had taught me to appreciate whatever gifts I was given, and I made a fuss over that robe like it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
I'm glad I reacted as I did. After my faux demonstration of delight, Melanie shouted, "Dad let me pick it out!" Purple, I recalled, was her favorite color. I had once told her that purple was the color of kings.
"You're a queen now!" she exclaimed.
I wore that robe until hot flashes began to visit me, just 11 short years later. The robe is still hanging in my closet. Whenever I see it, I remember how blessed I am to be married to a man who loves my daughter as much as I do, and treats her with tenderness and great respect. Phil adopted Melanie on October 31, 1984, when we were living in Baltimore.
I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
© November 29, 2017, Linda Goodman
One summer Sunday afternoon in 1961, our friend Terri spent the afternoon playing with my baby sister Evelyn and me. We were having a lovely time sharing Barbie clothes, playing Go Fish, and telling stories on our neighbors. Terri confessed that she was having so much fun that she did not want to go home.
“Do you think your mommy and daddy would let me spend the night here at your house if it’s okay with my mommy and daddy,” she asked.
My sister and I both laughed. Neither of us had ever spent the night out before. Mommy was adamant that spending the night out was not an option for her children. Neither were we allowed to have someone else spend the night with us. “Parents get enough trouble from their own young’uns,” Mommy said. “They don’t need other young’uns thrown into the mix,”
Terri and Evelyn declared the situation impossible, but I decided to play Devil’s advocate. “I think that if we use our smarts, our talent, and our creativity, we can get Mommy to say okay,” I insisted.
“How are we going to do that?” Terri wanted to know.
I thought for a few minutes, until I came up with an idea. “I think we should make up a song to sing to her. And we could dance, too,” I proposed.
“How are we going to do that?” asked Terri.
“First we have to think of a name for our group. Do either of you have a name you like?” I inquired.
Terri thought The Singing Girls would be a good name. I told her that would not work. Why, in no time we would have to change it to The Singing Women.
Evelyn liked that name Three Little Kittens. I told her that sounded more like a nursery rhyme that a singing group.
I could see clearly that I would have to think up a name myself. I examined each of us thoroughly and noticed that all three of us were wearing Trotters, black flat shoes with pointed toes. Every girl in school was wearing those shoes.
“I think that we should call ourselves the Trotters,” I announced. Terri and Evelyn thought that name was a winner, and so they agreed to it.
I wrote an introduction and a song in seconds, and for the next two hours we rehearsed. Our costume was our Trotters, a white tee shirt, and blue short-shorts; the only articles of clothing that all three of us had.
That evening, after supper, Terri, Evelyn, and I went into the bedroom and put on our costumes. Then we marched downstairs from our second floor apartment to the front of the building, where all the women on the block gathered together at the cement porch to discuss the day’s activities and solve the world’s problems.
Terri, Evelyn, and I began dancing the Twist in front of them, all the while singing the introduction I had written:
We’re the Trotters, Trotters, Trotters.
We’re the Trotters: Trot, trot, trot.
We’re the Trotter Gang, Trotter Gang, Trotter Gang.
We’re the Trotter Gang; that’s us!
The neighborhood women were delighted by our witty and unique presentation. They wanted more.
“We only have one more song at this time,” I told them. “And we are going to sing that to my sweet mommy. But you can all listen.”
Terri, Evelyn, and I began pumping our arms up and down, all the while dancing the Pony as we sang our song:
Oh, Mommy! Oh, Mommy!
Oh can Terri stay
Overnight with us
That is tomorrow!
This time the women responded with a thunderous applause. “What a great song!” they agreed. “You will have to write more!” they insisted.
“Why did you sing the song to me?” Mommy asked.
“Because you are the only one who can answer the question,” I explained.
“What question?” Mommy wondered.
“The one in the song,” I told her. “Can Terri spend the night with us?”
Mommy looked shocked and perplexed, as the women around her began murmuring about the situation and whether the question warranted a yes or a no answer. Some were taking bets on what Mommy would say.
Finally Mommy spoke. “Linda, you know I don’t allow my young’uns to spend the night out or others to spend the night in,” She reminded me. “I got four young’uns, and that’s all I can handle. I do thank you for the song, though. It was real nice. Maybe you can record it one day. Maybe Loretta Lyn will sing it.”
Loretta Lyn never did sing that song. Today it exists only in my mind and on my blog. Not too long after that, though, I did get to spend the night out. But that’s another story.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
©Linda Goodman 10/28/2017
This is a true story. Names have been changed to protect privacy.
This photo of my parents was taken in 1972
I first became aware of Malvie in 1974, when I was on a visit to the little cottage that my parents had moved into after the apartment project they had been living in had been condemned. Malvie’s husband, his left side weak from a recent stroke, was trapped between his car and the car door. Malvie was repeatedly opening the car door and slamming him against the car with it.
His cries of pain did not deter Malvie one bit. She kept on slamming that door with a vengeance. “What an awful woman!” I said to myself.
During our visit, my parents told me about their neighbor Malvie. She seemed to hate everyone. She was especially nasty to my parents, who had the misfortune to live in the cottage directly across from hers. When they opened their front door to pick up the paper each morning, they would see Malvie’s frowning face staring at them through the window in her front door, just six feet away, as though they were infringing upon her territory.
Whenever one of my siblings or I would visit Mama and Daddy, Malvie would take my parents to task. The rental office did not allow the cars of non-residents to park beside the cottages, she insisted. My parents, however, did not have a car. My siblings and I, Mama explained, were merely parked in my parents’ usually vacant space. Malvie complained to the rental office, but they took my parents’ side. That just made Malvie madder. She cussed my mother out on a regular basis, never giving a clue as to why Mama was being singled out for such fierce invective.
Daddy, of course, looked out for Mama. He told Malvie that he prided himself on being a gentleman, but he would not stand for his sweet wife being continually insulted. At that, Malvie picked up a big gob of mud (it had rained the night before) and threw it smack into the middle of his face. He took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the mud away. He shook his head at Malvie as though she were a young, bad-mannered, mean child. Then he took Mama by the arm and escorted her into the cottage. My parents did not spend much time outside after that. I am sure that made Malvie happy.
Things changed on the evening of October 31, 1975. Daddy had just come in from the front porch after giving out all of the Halloween candy that he had bought. He loved seeing the smiles on young faces when they were given their Halloween treats. “Too bad that Malvie had to spoil those young‘uns fun,” he growled. “She screamed and yelled like a banshee every time somebody knocked on her door. A good many of those children left crying, she scared them so bad.”
“I heard her out there,” Mama confided. “I woulda called the police if we had a phone.”
A few minutes later, my brother-in-law Donald, came by to borrow some of my daddy’s tools. As Daddy was getting up from his chair to go to the tool shed, a blood curdling scream came from the cottage across the way, Malvie’s cottage.
“What in tarnation is that woman screaming at now?” Daddy asked.
“Don’t pay attention to her,” Mama advised. “She is just having another one of her fits.”
Just then the blood curdling scream came again. “He’s gonna kill me!” Malvie screamed.
Without hesitation, Daddy and Donald swiftly ran out the door and shot across the way to Malvie’s. There she lay, curled into a ball on her cottage floor, pinned down by a man who was wielding an ax over his head. The man was swinging hard, but was too drunk to actually strike his target.
Daddy and Donald got the man off of her and pinned him down, though he tried very hard to get away. He was crying like an outraged baby. Malvie got up from the floor and ran to call the police, who came and took the man away. Malvie went with them to give a statement.
Donald was livid. “She didn’t even say thank you,” he fumed.
“I didn’t ask her to,” Daddy replied.
The next morning when Daddy went out to get his paper, he found a plate of hot cinnamon buns waiting for him. The buns were accompanied by a note from Malvie. “I would not have been alive to bake these buns if not for you and that young man. I promise I will be good to you and your family from now on. I will cherish our new found friendship.”
Two weeks later, Daddy and Donald went to court to testify against the would-be ax murderer. The whole story came out during the trial: mistaking her house for his friend’s place, the drunken man had knocked on Malvie’s door. Malvie repeatedly insisted that his friend was not there. When the man wouldn’t accept that answer, Malvie had forcibly pushed him off her porch. She had gone back inside thinking that was that, when the man came crashing through her front door and grabbed the ax that was hanging on her front wall. He had knocked her to the floor and was ready to give her a whack, when Daddy and Donald arrived.
The man was found guilty, but walked away free and clear because the judge believed that he was too drunk to actually know what he was doing.
Daddy decided to stay for the next case, which involved a bad check that had been written by a young woman who had no money in the bank. She was found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail.
Afterwards, one of the court newspaper reporters asked Daddy for his thoughts. “I believe that if I ever decide to commit a crime, I will get drunk and kill somebody before I will write a bad check,” Daddy stated.
Malvie was true to her word. She treated my parents like gold after that. She was always baking them sweet treats, but when she found out that Mama was diabetic, she started cooking healthy treats for her. “I could not bear to lose such a dear woman,” Malvie said.
Years later, in 1987, Malvie comforted Mama as Daddy lay dying from bone cancer. A year after that, Malvie shed tears when her husband accepted a new job that took them to another state. After that, since Mama still had no phone, they could communicate with each other through letters only. They wrote back and forth until my mother’s death in 1989. After the funeral, Malvie gave me a lovely pot of yellow tulips, Mama’s favorite flower. I have not seen or heard from Malvie since.
I never did learn Malvie’s back story. She would not talk about her life prior to living in her cottage. Many who knew her speculated that she was possessed by a demon. That does not matter now. In the end, the angels won her over to their side.
Friday, September 15, 2017
©9/14/2017 Linda Goodman
A decade ago my husband, Phil, and I were having dinner at a restaurant in Chester, Virginia. I was about halfway through my salad when an elderly woman came running to our table crying, “Please, please, help my husband! He’s choking, and he can’t breathe!”
Phil immediately stood up from his chair, rushed over to the man, picked him up out of his chair, turned him around, wrapped his own arms around him, and administered the Heimlich Maneuver. On the second rapid squeeze, a huge (for one swallow anyway) piece of steak came flying out of the man’s mouth and landed on the floor.
The quite shaken woman thanked Phil profusely, and the man even offered to pay for our dinners. “Nonsense!” Phil told them. “You could have approached anyone in this restaurant, and they would have done the same.” We left the restaurant without leaving our names. Nor did we get their names. I felt extremely proud of my husband. He acted like it was nothing, but he had saved a man’s life.
A week ago, I myself had the opportunity to administer the Heimlich Maneuver for the first time. Because of a problem with my well, I was doing laundry at my daughter’s house. I was in her bathroom when I heard her choking. I called and asked if there was anything wrong, but there was no answer, just more choking.
Without a second thought, I ran into the kitchen. Her face was a drink crimson, and she was gasping for air. I ran up behind her, put my arms around her, and squeezed for all I as worth; one time; two times; three…..nothing….she continued to choke.
“Don’t worry,” I hollered. “I’m going to call 911.”
I picked up my cell phone and started to dial, but I was so frantic that I could not remember her street address, or even the name of the town she lives in. I thought it was all over; that I was going to lose my only child because I could not remember her address.
Suddenly the choking stopped. She was still gasping, though the air was now getting to her lungs. Deep sobs wracked her body. “I thought I was going to die,” she cried, once she was in control of her breathing again.
It turned out that she had not needed the Heimlich Maneuver at all. She was having a throat spasm, one of the many symptoms of a chronic disease that she is fighting. This was the worst spasm she had ever had to deal with.
Still the situation made me realize that I need a refresher course on CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver. I figure that if I review these procedures over and over again, I will have the confidence I need to be able to perform them when necessary.
I also make sure that my address book is with me and up to date at all times. A daughter is a precious thing. I will not lose mine because I cannot remember her address.
(Now that this whole incident is behind me, and I have had time to process it, it makes me think of the movie The English Patient. Kristen Scott Thomas’ character died because the man she loved had a name that was too difficult to spell. Details are important.)
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
By Linda Goodman
©Linda Goodman August 8, 2017
Today I attended a funeral for the sister of one of my fellow church members. As part of the service, the minister asked for those who knew the deceased to share a memory about her. Some lovely, heartfelt moments came from those memories. They warmed my heart.
When I was 13, my baby sister Evelyn’s best friend, Ann, lost her father to a heart attack. I escorted Evelyn, who was 11 years old at the time, to the funeral at the Methodist church that was just across the street from our house apartment building.
Besides Ann and the woman she lived with, Evelyn and I were the only ones there. Ann had been taken from her mother after her mother had gone on a drunk and had set her own bed on fire. Rather than take Ann in, her father paid a women to take care of her. Ann lived in the woman’s home. Her father picked her up every Saturday morning and brought her back to the woman’s house just after dark. Often he invited Evelyn and me to spend the day with them. He told my father that he had no idea what to do with a child, and that having Evelyn and me along for the day took a lot of pressure off of him.
Ann’s Father would always buy us lunch. Afterwards we might go to a movie or a ballgame, but usually we just spent the day in the bowling alley, where beer was served freely. Before he took us home, he bought us chocolate milkshakes and treated himself to one more beer.
I cried when no one came to his funeral, but I was crying for Ann; not him. He was Ann’s only family, and Ann loved him more than anything else in the world. I knew she was scared. I was scared for her! Did her daddy have a fund set up to take care of her? If he did not, how would the woman who cared for Ann get paid? Would she still take care of Ann if she did not get paid?
I also knew that Ann was devastated that no one, other than Evelyn and me, had come to his funeral. She thought that her daddy had lots of friends at his work. She was so distraught that I could not help but feel her pain. I made a vow right then and there that I would do everything in my power to go to the funerals of the people that I knew. I would go for their families, assuring them that their loved ones were special people who would be remembered with honor, respect and love.
When my own father died, my biggest fear was that no one would come to his funeral. On the evening of August 10, 1987, the hospital had called me at my parents’ apartment to let me know that my father, who had suffered from multiple myeloma for 11 months, had passed away. I called my brothers and my sister. We all gathered together with my mother, trying to imagine our family without its anchor. Tears flowed freely at first. All we could see was darkness.
I need not have worried about people coming to the funeral. The chapel in the funeral home was full. This surprised all of us, as my father was not one to socialize. I did not think he had a lot of friends. Then something amazing happened: the minister extended an invitation for those in attendance to share stories about my father. I heard stories about my father that were completely new to me. Neighbors told about good deeds that he had done on their behalf, never mentioning his good works to others. Co-workers told stories of his integrity and kindness.
Then the family chimed in. My brother Lee told the story about how my father had once gotten his foot stuck in my mother’s favorite coffee pot. Then I told the story of the time that Daddy thought the preacher was the Fuller Brush man. My brother-in-law Donald told about how he and Daddy had saved a neighbor woman from an ax murderer. My sister Evelyn told about the day Daddy had just walked right on into the wrong house to wait for my brother Lee to come home. My brother Allen told about the time Daddy had made delicious biscuits, but had not checked the measuring cup first. Our biscuits were filled with screws, nuts, and bolts. Suddenly the tears were replaced by laughter, and the image of our father suffering in that hospital bed was vanquished. The stories enabled us to celebrate the strong and vital man that he had been, the man whom we were blessed to call father.
I will continue to keep my vow and give comfort and support whenever someone I know loses a loved one. I pray that you will do the same. No one should have to be alone when a loved one is taken away. A kind word is always appreciated. Heartfelt memories are golden.