Words from a Reader

The “Writing Life Stories” e-mails I receive are such treasures. As soon as I see there is one in my inbox, I read it immediately. I look forward to them and never know how they will touch me. They can be interesting, informative, humorous, and/or touching.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Teaching and Writing Brings Joy to My Life

I have enjoyed teaching a memoir class for the Institute of Continuing Learning the last three weeks. As usual, my students seem to bond and enjoy each other. This class is taught on Zoom which has become the way I see most people in these strange and abnormal times.

Monday will be the last class in this course, and I hope my students have learned much and are motivated to continue writing. It is always a joy for me when my students tell me that the class was important to them in any way. You can see what some have said if you visit this page on this blog.

Some of the things we covered are the importance of using dialogue and how to best use dialogue. Dialogue is the part that readers never skip, so we want it to move the story forward, describe characters, and help the reader know the person speaking. My dear friend, Carol Crawford, editor, poet and writer, will teach a class on writing dialogue on Zoom in September. If you want to take that class you don't have to leave your own home. I will post more about it and how you can register in a later post.


I am always thrilled to see one of my students write and publish a book. 
Author Gene Vickers has a new novel, his second, titled Amen and Amen. It is set in north Georgia, and characters range from high school students to teachers, coaches, parents, business men and women from various economic levels. We have young lovers, Friday night football in the south, and a melding of cultures. The book started from a short story by the author, and someone suggested he turn that story into a novel. I want to do an interview with Gene when he and I both have time. His book is now available on Amazon.com. It is a good read, a book that offers hope and boosts your mood in a time when we all need some of that.

I hope my readers, my friends, will have a wonderful week ahead and find good in every day. No matter how dark things seem, there is always a silver lining if we look hard enough. 


Want a short history lesson? Click here to read what another student, a veteran, has to say about Korean Conflict. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Jane Fonda answers comments on her blog.

Jane Fonda is a favorite of mine and I follow her online. This post she writes about her daily life, not so different from that of most of us as we all try to cope with isolation, not seeing loved ones in person and trying to stay healthy. Click on the link below and see what she has to say.


https://www.janefonda.com/2020/07/what-my-weeks-are-like-of-late/


Sunday, July 26, 2020

John Lewis was refused a library card when he was a child. So was a little white girl.

Today I found myself shedding tears, watching a horse drawn wagon carry the body of a special man, a leader who was willing to give his life for freedom for all in this country. A man who was spat on, beaten and threatened, never gave up.

 His story is touching and shows that determination and doing the right thing can raise a man, the son of a tenant farmer in Alabama, the deep south, to the halls where major decisions are made in the United States of America. I doubt that he ever thought he would reach such heights when he was a young man in his twenties, a follower of Martin Luther King, the pacifist black man who changed our country.






The story told about John Lewis that brings tears to my eyes is not the horrible beating he took on the bridge in Selma Alabama in 1965 when I was a young married woman. It is the story of him going to the library in Selma when he was a little boy and being refused because "the library is for white people only." This child had a hunger for learning, but he was poor and black, and was denied the only place where he thought he might find books so he could read and learn. 

I was a reader from the time I was small and loved to see the Book Mobile come to my house on the farm where I loaded my arms with books to last me until that book mobile came again. I wonder now, did that book mobile go to the homes of the black farmers whose farms were adjacent to our place?

John Lewis' story is a sad reminder of a little white girl who lived on the wrong side of the tracks in Pelham, GA. She, too, loved to read but the only books available to her were at school. In the summer she told her mother she would like to read. She was told to walk downtown a few blocks away and go to the library. 
PELHAM CARNEGIE PUBLIC LIBRARY, 133 Hand Street
The little girl, excited that she would be able to find a book to bring home, made her way down the road and across the dividing line of the Haves and Have Nots, the railroad tracks. She approached the large library doors, already feeling intimidated, and entered. Amazed to find so many books on all the tall walls, she didn't know what she should do, where she should go. Behind a large desk an older woman sat oblivious to the little girl who had just entered. 

"Can I get a book to take home to read?" The shy little girl asked the woman behind the desk. 
That little girl never forgot the look the woman gave her or the words she said. "No. There are no books for you here."

The little girl turned and walked through the big doors. Tears ran down her cheeks as she made her way back across the tracks. 

Eventually the little girl and her family moved to another town and another school. The little girl excelled in school, was a favorite of one of her teachers, and was given a college scholarship. She always loved books, fine literature, best sellers, and even in her last days she found reading a great comfort.

Today, one of her great nephews is head of the libraries in the region of Pelham, GA. I would like to tell him this story and ask what librarians today would say or do if that little girl came there. I hope they would help her.


Visit this site today to read more about John Lewis and my brother-in-law, Stu Moring.
https://www.glendacouncilbeall.com/2020/07/congressman-john-lewis-servant-leader.html#.Xx3azlVKj3g

Friday, July 24, 2020

Staying home is not all that bad for me.

One would think my weekend alone, seeing no one and going nowhere would be boring. But I am very busy doing things I enjoy.

I will attend the Georgia Poetry Society meeting online tomorrow. I will see friends and other poets  I haven't seen in a long time. It starts at 10 AM, and I am often just getting up at that time, but I will be sure to be there.

In the afternoon, I will do a telephone interview with a graduate student, working on a thesis, who has some questions for me. This young woman is related to my old friend, Darnell Arnault, who recommended she contact me. I am usually doing the interviews, but this time I will be the interviewee.

I will work on my lesson for Monday's writing class sponsored by the Institute of Continuing Learning at Young Harris college. I am teaching a memoir class on Zoom, and we are all having a great time. I can see myself holding more classes online in the coming months. If you are interested in taking a class, no matter where you live, contact me. See contact info on side bar.

I will be hosting Writers' Night Out in August with our special guest, Carol Crawford, so I will also be busy sending out invitations for that evening and taking names for our Open Mic that night.
Although technology seems to be changing rapidly, I am keeping up somewhat with learning new methods to teach.
Carol Crawford, writer, teacher and editor
I have signed up for a Tech Class online and hope to learn more about all this new and rapidly moving business. I am so, so happy that some of our older folks are teaching people like me online. I love to learn and this is a great opportunity. I am taking advantage of this hateful virus to improve myself, to learn new things, and meet new people.

I hope you are finding staying home can be a good thing. I miss some things, but am trying to find new and better ways to enjoy life. Stay safe, my friends, and make each day a good one.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Women of the fifties

All weekend I have been pondering what to write about on this site. Today while reading a preview of Grantchester, a series I like, published on public TV, I read an interview with one of the new and younger stars. This is what she said about her character, a journalist in the late 1950s.

LAUREN CARSE:
I love how confident and self-assured she is, because I think it was quite unusual for a woman to be that way in the FIFTIES.

I know many of my readers were young in the fifties as was I. In 1958, I graduated from high school and went off to college. Sadly, I had wrecked my friend's car in July, hit a car that pulled out in front of me, and fractured vertebrae in my back. My mother insisted I see her doctor, a surgeon, who decided to have me wear a metal back brace from my chest to my lower back. I know now that it was the worst mistake we could have made. I entered college in September wearing this brace and wearing clothes made by Mother from patterns that had no waist line. The blouses were straight from shoulders to hem line, about mid hip.
I had no confidence in myself. I felt I looked like some weird person who could not bend at the waist. In fact, I could not bend at the waist. I felt ugly.
But, I met girls in my dorm who were very confident and self-assured. One of them was my suite-mate, Peggy D. She said she was from Washington, DC and was the daughter of a high ranking officer in the military. She had grown up moving from one city to another and from one school to another. She was a pretty girl with long black hair. She had a nice shape, rounded but not over weight. In fact, Peggy was as tall as I was, physically strong and extremely intelligent. I often wondered how she ended up in an all-girl school in Milledgeville, GA. She talked very little about her family, and I realize now that I don't know anything about them.

Our first year at Georgia State College for Women, I wanted to be independent and break rules, feel free to do things I had never done at home, but I lacked the courage to rebel. Peggy bought cigarettes, and at night she persuaded me to sit in our open windows and smoke. My sweet roommate, Catherine, a preacher's daughter, thought we were going to hell in a hand basket, I'm sure. Catherine was a very good girl who followed authority without question.

I had not known anyone quite like Peggy in my sheltered life on the farm, and I was intrigued by her. She soon had a boyfriend from the military college across town. We had strict rules as freshmen as to when and where we could go. Peggy often left the dorm before dark, met her boyfriend, and persuaded me to open the door at the end of our hall, next to her room, and let her in after curfew. No one knew I did that except for our roommates, and they never told on us.

Peggy and I became best friends and signed up to share a room our sophomore year. While we were freshmen, she introduced me to a friend of her boyfriend. I was still in my back brace, but this young man, Richard, wanted to meet me. For the next two years, he and I were a couple. Both Richard and Peggy's boyfriend were officers at the military school. My life was good. I made many friends at GSCW, and I should have stayed there until I graduated.
Peggy did not lack confidence in herself. She planned to go to medical school, and I believe she did become a doctor and lived out west. We lost contact after I transferred to the University of Georgia.

 I was a young teacher here. I don't remember why I had red hair.

I knew other girls who went on to good careers, but many simply found a husband and settled down as they were expected to do. Sadly, some left college to get married and later were divorced with children and it was not possible to get their education. I am happy to find some of my college friends now, in retirement, have the chance to follow their dreams, to become artists, writers and work in other fields.

I became an elementary school teacher and taught in one school in Albany, GA for five years. It soon became obvious to me that this career was not my cup of tea. I was too empathetic and the children who had home problems or reading difficulties I could not help them with, kept me awake at night. My husband wanted me to quit because he worried about my mental state. Teaching at the public school depressed me. That was also the time when my mother needed me most.

I did continue teaching, but as a partner in a private kindergarten (Humpty-Dumpty) where I chose what I taught, and my five-year old kids brought me joy. I have come to know that owning my own business and being in charge of what I do is what brings me joy. I had that opportunity in the mid-seventies and again when I opened my writing studio in 2010.

Young women in the past several decades are offered many and various opportunities to pursue. Some of those careers are more difficult for women. I have been told that women in medical schools face a tough uphill battle. The men students often ridicule them; try to make them feel they have no right to be there.
I make a big effort to see women doctors. They usually understand my needs and my concerns better than men. Some of the women docs, especially the younger ones, are defensive, and I think it is because of the struggles they face proving themselves in medical school. Women have been considered caregivers, nurturers and subservient to men, so when a woman proves she can and wants to take the responsibility of being the doctor or lawyer or take a position in leadership, she faces hurdles men do not face. Some husbands do not cooperate when their wives want a career. I have seen the hurt that causes.

I often wonder if, when I was young, I had the self-confidence I now have, what might I have done with my life. I just have to make up for those years by doing what I am doing today. 

How was your self-confidence when you were young?

Please send me your thoughts and let's have a conversation. It is easy to leave a comment. If you have an email address, you can leave a comment, or you can respond as anonymous. Your comment will not publish right away because I moderate comments to be sure we don't have spam. But I read each comment and every day I check the comments to see what you have said.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Personal Sacrifices - Why can't we make them now?

I admit I had a melt down a few weeks ago - anxiety, depression, and physical illness. I have tried to understand why. Being alone is not that unusual for me. I have always enjoyed my private time. In fact, I am relishing the fact that I don't have children who would come in to see me and bring COVID-19 from their outings with friends. I think it was the uncertainty of what I should do to protect myself.  We were getting so many mixed messages in the beginning of this pandemic.

I am grateful I have my own home, and I do not have to go out to work. I can work from home, as I will do soon, teaching a writing class on Zoom. How fortunate I am to be savvy on my computer so I can do that. Many of my generation cannot.

I was thinking today about all the personal sacrifices my parents made in their lifetimes. My father had to go to work when he was just a boy, before there were child labor laws. His father died when he was ten. His childhood was far from normal.

Mother and Daddy lived through WWII and sent their oldest son off when he was only nineteen. They did not know if he would be killed or come home safely. Two of his cousins went to that war and did not ever come home. Those personal sacrifices for the sake of our country were the hardest anyone could ever make.

During the Great Depression when my parents had three little children, long before I was born, they lived above a store they ran. In front of the store were gas pumps and their place was called a filling station. When their customers lost jobs and had no money to purchase the food or gasoline, my family lived off the food on the shelves of the store. They did not buy clothes, groceries, and certainly did not travel. Today, if folks can't take their family vacation to the beach, they are angry and upset. They have not stopped ordering off Amazon and can get almost anything they want delivered. My parents stayed home in Pelham, Georgia. They were not the only ones. Most people had to sacrifice comforts they had once enjoyed.

A friend of mine who has a twenty-something son says his generation has always had what they wanted and won't sacrifice anything now to help stop this corona-virus if it means staying home or avoiding friends and gatherings. I wonder how they would handle the draft. What if they were told they must serve in the military whether they liked it or not in order to preserve our country?

What if food was rationed? They could only have certain foods and only a small amount of it.
What if they could only buy a small amount of gasoline each month? What if they had to make a personal sacrifice to save the lives of their parents? What would be their answer?

That is what is being asked of them now. Make a personal sacrifice that can save the lives of your family and the lives of others.

A nurse told me today that she wore a mask, not for herself, but to protect others. Her grandfather is in his nineties, and she would be horrified if she brought this deadly virus  to him. She also said she was not sure she believed the mask made that much difference, but it was a small sacrifice to make if it saved even one person's life. In the hospital where she works, she said there was around 100 people diagnosed with COVID-19 at this time. That hospital is about thirty minutes drive from where I live. She had been with three of those patients in the last few days.

Recently a smart and caring young woman who wants to come and visit her family, after hearing how the mayor of Atlanta, who was being careful and following the guidelines given to all of us, has tested positive for COVID-19, decided not to come home and is self-quarantined in her apartment. Four members of her family are all sick with the virus. The older of the four is the sickest at this time. Even when we wear masks, and we go out among people, even people we know, we have a good chance of getting sick. Most people don't know where they caught the virus.

Many people are making huge sacrifices because they have jobs they must go to every day. Many are among those with the lowest income, minorities, people of color, and they are dying from this virus. That is the biggest sacrifice. Not missed vacations, missed concerts, missed entertainment. Some are concerned about their future - will they have a job when they finish college? Who knows, but still we all must give up gathering in groups where we could become infected.

I have had to give up going to certain doctors who will not enforce wearing a mask and who will not wear one themselves. I think, if they won't wear a mask to protect me, are they doing anything in that office - sanitizing after each patient, or are they just among those who don't believe there is a deadly virus going around that kills us? Why don't they believe something so obvious?

We must make the sacrifices necessary to stop this enemy in its tracks or we will never feel safe going out in the world again. I applaud the young people I know who are doing everything right, wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowds and practicing social distancing. If only those who seem to be selfish and uncaring would think of others when they are so determined to have a good time with no precautions.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/magazine/personal-sacrifice-coronavirus-world-war-ii.html


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Writing Life Stories and teaching Memoir

I like to teach memoir writing and will be teaching an online class for the Institute of Continuing Learning, ICL, beginning July 13. 



I have been my family historian for years and have collected many stories about my ancestors and my immediate family. I have binders filled with family history and tons of stories on my computer. 
I published a family history book in 1998 and have used that book as a reference for other stories I have written. 
These are some of the things I teach my students about writing memoir:

Factual details paint the story's canvas. But the emotional truths comprise the story's soul.

Writing is Rewriting
Writing never comes out perfect the first time. Good writing means rewriting. Give yourself the time and space to rewrite material, until you have something that is an authentic expression of your life, voice and wisdom.

Get Support
Find a writing teacher, take writing classes, read what you want to write.
Find a writing friend or a group that will tell you the truth about your work.
A coach or writing teacher can guide and advise you, especially when you are not sure how to proceed.

Hold on to Your Vision
When you are stuck or discouraged, remember why you are doing this.
Is it to leave a legacy? To share your wisdom?
Think about how happy or touched others will feel after reading your memoir. Think about how your story will make a difference in their lives. Think about how satisfied you will feel completing it.

Hold on to your vision of completing your memoir.

The good thing about teaching classes on Zoom is you can take this class no matter where you live. I would love to have students who live far away from our mountains in North Georgia or Western North Carolina. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Words from Charlie Council in 1953

I am hooked on genealogy and often research members of my family. One day I came across this quote in a school yearbook. The writer is Charlie T. Council who was a principal, a lifelong educator who is in his nineties now. 

From the yearbook: The Sandspur 1953
Principal’s Message

The world and its conditions reflect the kind of life that inhabits it. Collective life is merely the sum total of our individual lives. The reason we have hardships is because someone is overstepping his rights and infringing on ours in this life. When we assert our “rights” to the detriment of others, we are adding to the misery of other people’s lives. We were put here to help each other.

Now, if all the people in the world would live to help others, then all of us would enjoy the same rights and privileges. This being true, each person should strive to be a Christian and a missionary. Christianity can best begin within one’s self, and mission can best be started at home. The sooner we correct our own lives the better that world will be as a result.
                                                            Sincerely,
                                                            Charlie T. Council

These words are especially significant today with the interest on social injustice in our country.
"When we assert our “rights” to the detriment of others, we are adding to the misery of other people’s lives. We were put here to help each other."

As we all struggle through the pandemic, our emotions, our anger and frustration cause us to turn inward to our suffering, our needs that are not being met. I know it is hard to think of others when we feel the chaos all around us. I have been guilty recently of having my little pity parties and wanting to strike out at someone, anyone, in order to vent my feelings. 

Reading Charlie's words gives me pause. Maybe we all can work on our own lives, think about others and what they are going through. Nurses, medical personnel, physical therapists, doctors and anyone who is out there everyday trying to take care of all of us, need our understanding if they are not their usual cheerful selves. 

I am trying hard not to be a grumpy old woman, and I am not the only one. Even the young ones are grumpy now. I have watched The Walton's today and realize that is what I need. I need to see loving people who are not committing a crime, blowing up anything, or fighting in some way. I don't need to watch the news channels which are very depressing.

With all the need for kindness and caring, what better way to immerse myself in it than watch Earl Hamner talk about his family and remember what a message that show gave to America. His parents were the same generation as my parents, and they had the same values and love of family. Wish we had more families and Television shows like that now.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Love heals

In these times of unrest and frustration, anger and judgmental emails and Facebook posts, I found solace this past week with my family in Roswell, Georgia. Love - it heals the heart, the mind and even our physical bodies.
Gay came up and took me home with her last week. She and I always find ways to laugh! Laughter is the best medicine ever. She has a terrific wit, and I can't be with her long before my dark mood is brightened by her light.

Living alone with no one to talk to when the world seems to be evolving into chaos is not lessened simply by sending an email or talking on the phone. Getting on Facebook is upsetting when you see that people who are your friends are spouting opinions that make you wonder How can we be friends? I didn't know my friends had such closed minds, that they don't see why the confederate flag is a symbol with vicious meaning for descendants of slaves. Why do I see that, but my friends don't?

I was glad I was with my loved ones when I read that the head of a Christian organization opposed the new anti-lynching law protecting members of the gay community. Does he think it is okay to hang a human being because he is of a different sexual orientation than this so-called Christian?

One of the things I like about visiting my sister is we watch the online service from their Alpharetta Presbyterian church on Sunday and discuss the sermon. I grew up attending a little Methodist Church out in the country where a fire-and-brimstone preacher visited once a month. The man in the pulpit frightened me when I was a child. Later, attending another Methodist Church in my hometown after college, I learned that the men in the church had decided they would stand in the door of the church and refuse entry to any black person who wanted to attend church there. This was in the mid-sixties.

Of course, I did not go back to that church. I asked the young minister, "How can the people in this church call themselves Christians?"

I eventually joined the Presbyterian Church where I found my people. PCUSA, is built on values of love, caring and embracing all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background. No one is forbidden to enter the church. Women are welcome to minister here.

In some churches women are expected to do all the work, but are refused leadership positions. A good friend of mine told me, "I had been a part of this church for many, many years, teaching vacation bible school, Sunday School, and doing anything I could. But one Sunday when the leadership of the church was discussed, it dawned on me. I would never be asked to take a leadership role. No one wanted my opinion or ideas. I could not be a deacon or an elder, simply because I am a woman. She said she stood up and walked out of that church and never went back.

In my little mountain town, Barry and I were so fortunate to find the most loving and caring little Presbyterian church soon after we arrived here. We both loved to sing and soon Barry had helped form a choir. Singing is uplifting and helps our spirits. He became a leader in the church and because of his outgoing and friendly personality, our circle of friends grew. We had several couples join us each Sunday for lunch after the service. Several couples joined the church simply because Barry made them feel so welcome.

Today when I hear the pastors of Alpharetta Presbyterian Church speak on the injustice of racism and how we can help, I am glad to be a part of such an institution. We can reach out and we can be a part of the changes that need to take place. In our town, the only black church here is a sister church to ours. And the pastor of that church gave an eloquent speech on our town square this past weekend.

I came home yesterday filled with love for everyone, especially my sister who is also my best friend. She is a person who understands my thinking and feels the same way as I do about social justice. However, she keeps telling me I can't change or save the world and must look after myself.
She is also very protective of me because of COVID 19. We will see each other every two weeks for a while now, either here or at their home. As I age, I realize how fragile life is. I want to spend time with the people I love most.

I was so proud of my little sister. She looked so cute in her majorette uniform at Albany High.

I hope you have had a great week and that the coming days will be good. Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts as we all cope with a new normal.

























Thursday, June 18, 2020

Eating at a restaurant for the first time since COVID-19

I have not been to a restaurant since the end of April, but tonight I had an early dinner on an outdoor patio with my family. I felt safe, although a large party of ten people came and sat at a table at least six feet from us. The staff at the restaurant wore masks and made me feel they were making our visit safe for us.


We arrived at 5:00 p.m. and left as a crowd of people came around 6:45. It was fun for the five of us to eat together and have the opportunity to chat. This restaurant has done a wonderful job of social distancing with large picnic tables spaced well on a grassy area where they can have a band playing. I don't know if this is what the medical people would consider safe for people like me, but at least this restaurant will be able to survive unless someone gets sick with COVID. 

I was concerned when the owner came over to speak to us. He did not wear a mask. The reason for my concern is that he is in close proximity to all the guests there, and he could easily be infected by one of them. If he contracted this illness tonight, his coming over to talk with us could have shed the virus on us.  I am assured I was very safe, and I believe I was, but I am leery of going out among people. I will not likely do it again soon.




Monday, June 15, 2020

Revisiting my wedding day

Fifty Six years ago on Flag Day I was a very happy girl!

I am re-posting this from June 2015. Click on this link and go back with me to my wedding day.



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Our Neighbors Were Not All White

Recently my 91 year old brother told me more about our family, about the neighborhood my family moved into when they bought a 125 acre farm in 1942. He is an encyclopedia of history of, not only our family, but the families of all who lived in our community.

The 125 acre farm my father bought with the help of a government loan, had been part of a 500 acre plantation. On the west side of our farm another strip of land belonged to Mr. Womble who also had been accepted for a government loan. Behind us was a long rectangle of land that belonged to Lester Branch, a black man. Mr. Debary’s farm bordered ours. Across Fleming Road Mr. Barbre, with a large family, worked his farm.  Adjoining his land was the McLemore farm. West of the McLemores was a farm that belonged to Mr. Toomey. Mr. Toomey was a black man.

My brother, Max, said in the evenings if you were outside you could hear a trumpet playing. It was Mr. Toomer. He was an accomplished musician who could read music. He was also one of the best hands anyone could have when it was time to harvest peanuts because he was magic at repairing machinery. Daddy admired him and his ability as a worker, not for his knowledge and talent as a musician.

Years later, Mr. Toomer would sell his farm to my Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Judy. I never met Mr. Toomer. I did not know Lester Branch either. He was a good farmer and would have kept his farm but his son, Raymond, while plowing with a spring tooth harrow, was badly injured. He died and Mr. Branch lost his will to fight for his farm. He sold out and moved away. My father and Mr. Branch had a good relationship as neighbors, but the white supremacy was accepted and practiced even with good people like my Daddy. 

On our farm lived Geneva and Johnny and their son, Bay. Bay and I were close in age. Geneva came down to our house once a week to do the washing. At that time, electricity had not reached the rural areas of south Georgia. Geneva worked behind the smoke house where a long bench held two galvanized wash tubs. One was for scrubbing the sheets, towels, and clothes of our large family. The other tub was for rinsing all that laundry. But, before the clothes were scrubbed, they were soaked in a big black wash pot sitting over a hot fire. Geneva used a long stick which, I remember, looked like an ax handle, and she batted the clothes around in the pot for a while before dipping them out and plunging them into the galvanized tub to scrub. This job took Geneva all day long. It was a back breaking chore and her pay was a tenant house in which to live. Her husband Johnny helped on the farm.

Bay was about my age, and I was four or five years old. My baby sister was too small to play with me, so I was happy to see Bay when he came with his mother. In those days you played with your family members or close neighbors. We had no planned play, no play dates, no special attention for the children. I ran outside to see Bay and Geneva when they came. Bay and I played under the big oak tree that sheltered our house for over fifty years. That is, we played until one day when Daddy told Mother he didn’t want me playing with Bay anymore.

I know now that Geneva knew my father’s wishes, although I didn’t know. I was sad and confused when I was told I could no longer play under the big oak tree with Bay.

This poem is about my first experience with racism and not understanding it.

The Big Black Pot
By Glenda Beall

A big black pot sits three legged, over red-hot coals.
Monday means Geneva comes, brings Bay, her boy,
in overalls, no shirt, no shoes, bare shoulders, dusty feet.

He chases me, I chase him. We tussle, wrestle,
and we hug,
color-blind five-year-olds,
becoming best of friends.

Geneva, scrubbing Daddy’s shirts, looks up, and yells to Bay.
“Come heah and stir this pot of clothes, and leave that child alone.”
Her face shriveled like dried apples and her eyes two burning sparks,
she takes no sass, and we both know it.

Quick as starlings taking flight, Bay’s grin departs.
Left bereft and all alone, I storm inside to Mother.
“Neva’s being mean,” I say. “She’s mad as fire at Bay.
He didn’t hurt me. I didn’t cry. Neva’s mad and I don’t know why.”