Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Sister

My Sister Marlene Emelia Hodges Callis

Marlene and Renee'

I lost my sister a couple years back.  She went to be with our family in heaven.  God opened the doors and welcomed  her into His loving arms.  I am sure they gathered together Saturday night and enjoyed each other's company.  I hope Daddy can hear better now so he could take in all the wonderful conversation between the family.  It had to be a great time.

Over the years being a younger sibling I heard stories of Marlene growing up without me.  They lived for a time in Norfolk in what would be called a family compound on 21st Street in Norfolk, Va, consisting of our grand parents Hudgins, Uncle Willis, Aunt Hazel, Uncle Elmer, Aunt Louise, Jimmy, Dean, Marlene, Momma and Daddy and great grandpa.  They were a close knit group.  Jimmy and Marlene were older than Dean by a few years and they played together sometimes getting into mischief.  Jimmy remembers them getting away from their Mom's and riding their trikes to the rail yard and sitting between the trains and counting cars.  Then they would go to the local restaurant/bar and ride their trikes around the tables in a race.  The one who won would get an ice cream cone............well most times they'd get caught.  As they were escorted home by their Mom's Jimmy would get a wooping all the way home and Marlene would hear "wait until your Daddy gets home.".  Well just as soon as they got home and Momma got doing something else Marlene would sneak back and return with that ice cream cone..........taunting Jimmy.

When they bought the Old Hotel on Gwynn's Island we sometimes lived there full time or rented close to where Daddy worked visiting the Hotel on weekend and holidays.  Before I was born they lived there full time.  Moma always told the story of Marlene and Wayne Presgrave going on a joy ride.  Wayne was the grandson of Poppa Sam Brownley who lived across the road.  Wayne and his family visited from D. C. from time to time. One day Earlene, Wayne's Mom and Moma looked out the kitchen window to see a car go by with a little head poking over the top of the wheel.  It was you guess it, Wayne and Marlene.  They were too small to run the car alone so one was working the petals and one the wheel.  They proceeded across the yard with Earlene and Moma running behind until they reached the small ditch separating the yard from the field.

Daddy told the story of the kittens born in the barn.  Marlene would play with them for hours.  This day Daddy watched as she pick up each one and dunked them head first into the rain barrel then sat them on the ground.  He watched enough and creaped up behind her, picked her up by her feet and dunked her head first into the barrel and sat her on the ground walking back to what he was doing. The kittens never got dunked again.

I remember living in Portsmouth, Virginia as a small child first in Williams Court and then in Craddock.  Williams Court was a development of townhouse style apartments filled with middle class working families.  By no way did the term Townhouse apply to today's standards but it was a nice place to live.  There were always plenty of kids, all ages to play with.  Moma had great friends that stopped over daily for coffee.  Summer fun included picnics and time at the pool. There are pictures of Moma, Marlene and I enjoying these activities. Of course come summer we were right back on Gwynn's Island for as much time as we could spend.  When I was in first grade and Marlene entering High School we moved to Craddock, a planned community which had it's own town center complete with grocery, drug store and restaurants.  We rented and lived beside Miss Mary Sawyer.  Miss Mary's granddaughter Mary Lou lived with her and she an Marlene became instant friends.  I got to share in that friendship days when they would take me to get a treat at the fountain in the drug store.  It was fun.

My sister, must have aspired to be a scientist because she was always wanted to do strange experiments on our animals.  Topper, our yellow Parakeet, who she hated was on of those specimens. Seems one of her teachers told her you could freeze and animal, thaw it and it'd come back to life.  So Topper to her was the perfect candidate.  Thanks to Moma he was saved but my two gold fish were not.  Needless to say after the thaw they were as dead as any fish in the local seafood market sitting on ice waiting to be sold.  No more experiments.

In my second grade we moved back to Gwynn's Island full time again until Marlene graduated from Mathews High.  It was a hoot when her friends would visit.  The girls often had Pajama Parties, a la, Grease.  They'd take over the upstairs apartment in the Old Hotel.  Music from the Victrola would blast through the walls with the 45's spinning.  Food cooked, hair done, nails beautified they had fun.  I'd always try to sneak up there to share in the cuteness but soon I'd be brought back down stairs by Moma.  Sometimes they'd hid me so I could stay longer.

Marlene had many friends.  Her best was friend Betty Jo Mitchem. They hung around together for years.  What one didn't think of the other did.  Stories of smoking, skipping school and other teenage fun abounded.  They were a hoot.  Sometimes to keep me quiet they'd carry me along to insure Moma didn't hear about it.

Marlene met Roland Callis and I think it was love at first sight.  They dated and became engaged and married soon after she graduated from high school.  For one of his birthday gifts Marlene picked peaches at White's Orchard in Middlesex.  I remember going with Moma to pick her up from work with her scratching on the way home from the itchy peach fuzz.  He got the watch but I don't think she picked anymore peaches.

They day she got married, she dressed im the room at the top of the stairs.  I after getting my dress on went up to peak, well the tears started and didn't stop.  I think I cried all day.  Don't know why but I guess at 11 I thought I'd never see her again.

Roland was in the Coast Guard and they moved to Norfolk there he was stationed.  They had a sweet little apartment and I visited from time to time.  Her friend Betty Jo lived with them for a while working at local drive in.  A year after they were married their first child Lisa Michelle was born.  A perfect little baby with 10 finger and 10 toes, I counted. Most of their duty stations was in and around the Tidewater area so we got to see a lot of them and Lisa.  David came next.  The night he was born Roland had just come in off a lengthy cruise and they decided to spend the weekend on Gwynn's Island, David had other ideas.  In the middle of the night we get the call she was in labor and meet them at Norfolk General Hospital.  So Moma and I went there to meet them.  We were renting in Va. Beach then near Daddy's work.  We got to the hospital no Marlene, Roland or Lisa.  Waited and waited, they didn't show up.  Finally we get a frantic call they were at Lee Memorial, her doctor was delivering there and they had been diverted.  When we got there poor Roland was standing there holding a screaming child, Lisa who hadn't seen her Daddy for a long while and didn't really know him, especially with his beard.  With child in toe, we returned home to await the birth announcement of David Wade Callis.  Another cutie.

Not long after that they got stationed in Hawaii.  The day they packed up that Falcon to drive across country was one sad day for our family.  Once again I cried my eyes out.  They drove across country and took a ship to Hawaii.  Quite the experience with two small kids.  Their time there was full of getting to know the culture, watching the kids grow and getting the red clay out of their cloths!!!  Moma and Daddy along with Aunte Teenie visited them and enjoyed ever minute.

Marlene and the kids came home for a visit from Hawaii.  It was a long flight with two small kids.  Moma and Daddy had to meet her in North Carolina. When they arrived to pick them up they found a exhausted Marlene holding Lisa's hand, with a suitcase and a man following caring David.  She had negotiated the airports alone without a stroller.  Finally when they landed a kind man noticed how tired she was and offered to help.

We were still living in the Old Hotel then and it was so good having them home.  David and Lisa loved spending time playing on the porch and messing with the ponies.  Marlene really enjoyed being home with us also seeing friends and family.  While they were there we had a terrible tragedy happen.  Lightening struck our house.  I was reading to the kids, Marlene was finishing up supper dishes when I smelled smoke.  Low and behold it was billowing out of the 3rd floor eves.  Marlene, who by that time was finished the dishes and brushing her teeth, scooped the kids and the dog up and headed to Bunk Gay's to report the fire.  In her rush she dropped her toothbrush on the step leading to the drive.  By morning, the hours was gone.  The firefighters and neighbors did their best to say as much of our personal items as they could. Marlene lost a lot of stuff including her movie camera and kids toys.  It was devastating. Until she returned to Hawaii we were scattered across Gwynn's Island finding places to lay our head.  I felt so sorry for she and the kids.  What a thing to have to leave behind.

When they came back from Hawaii, Marlene had negotiated a good deal on a new car.  A beautiful Dark Blue Pontiac Grand Prix.  She could stretch a dollar a long way.  I think she learned that from Moma but the two of them couldn't resist a sale.  Anyway, they left the Ford Falcon at Moma's and I learned to drive by driving that around and around our house.  Might I say new house we built after the fire.  It soon had a track around it.  Moma didn't mind because she knew where I was.

Wasn't long before they had another move. Just like champs they'd pack their stuff and go.  Getting to know new towns and schools didn't seem to bother Marlene she took it in stride. As I got older it was fun visiting them at their different duty stations.  I remember my trip to Seattle where I ended up staying a month due to flight cancellations.  We visited the city and the mountains.  My first experience of driving a straight shift car on the hills was there taking the kids to school. We'd go to A&W Root Beer and get the best Root Beer and shrimp, go to the docks and get crab legs and cook for dinner.

After all their travels Roland and Marlene settled on Gwynn's Island, Mathews, Va.  They built a beautiful brick home over looking Milford haven with views of the bay.  Their children graduated from Mathews High as they did.  Marlene enjoyed opening her home up to gatherings for her friends and family as well as the kids friends.  Her home was beautifully decorated always with the aroma of some good cooking.

Lisa married Craig Lewis and they set up roots in Mathews.  After a while they decided to adopt.  Marlene was so excited.  She had enjoyed being with my kids Beth and Jay when they were born but now finally a grand child or her own.  Malia was adopted from Guatemala.  Lisa, Craig, Marlene and Roland went down to finalize the adoption and bring her home.  The night we met them at the plane to see their pride and happiness watching that sweet thing walk down the hall was overwhelming.  Passengers passing by saying how cute she was.  It was a bitter sweet time because just before they left Daddy had a massive stroke and died just before they came home. Everyone got to meet Malia at Daddy's funeral.  A couple years later when Luke arrived from Guatemala, their family was complete.Those children brought much joy to Marlene and Roland. When David married Carla, Marlene loved her daughter Cory as her own.  It was so neat watching her grow up in our family and seeing how much she was loved by Marlene and Roland. Cory's father was a cousin of ours and it's so funny out of all our children and grandchildren, she looks the most like our Grand Mother, Eunice Bell Hudgins. Marlene had a picture of her as a young woman and it looks just like Cory.

Moma and Daddy enjoyed having their grand kids close, too.  When we married and moved back to Mathews, the gang was "all here"!  Beth and Jay enjoyed times with Marlene and Roland.  They'd spend the night and eat Cheerios with Uncle "Loland".  Happy and sad memories of times together in good and bad.  We weathered my Dad's stroke, Moma's death and caring for Daddy after she was gone.  We pondered the nursing home situation for him and decided it was best for all after years of taking care of him at home.  We sold the house and divided furniture with the grace our Moma had taught us.  We did our best for Daddy and I was there when he died, telling Marlene to go get her grand daughter. We tried.  But try as you may things sometimes fall apart as our relationship did close to her end.  Sad but the hands of time had worn tired.  Old wounds opened and memories clouded by sickness made things difficult to handle.  Not a day went by after the last encounter that I didn't think about she and her family.  Wanting to reach out, fearing to.

At her passing our family had a healing.  I know it made her feel good to look down from Heaven and see so.  In her memory and the memory of our parents and loved ones we are a tight knit family today.  We will always hold the good memories of our past close to our heart.  We hope to have learned by our mistakes and make the path smooth for those who come behind us.

Love you Sis.  Didn't get to say Good-bye but you are here with me and I know I was loved.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Once a year, every year if we are lucky, we all come upon the same time of celebration or is it.  Why does it seem Birthdays are such a good reason to celebrate?  Well I guess being here another year is something to be glad for, but what does that bring?

When you are young another year older means you can do more stuff.  If you are 5 going into 6 and have grown two inches voila you can ride the next great ride at the amusement park.  You advance to another class in school.  Get to stay up a little later at night.  Maybe if you are lucky with those training wheels off you are now learning to ride an even bigger "Big Girl" bike.  Yes you might have advanced from the Madame Alexander stuffed dolls into American Girl doll look alike with hair set just like you.  You might even be looking at the Barbie Doll or Bratz toys on that upper shelf in the girl toy isle.

Then there's the 10 to 12 years great changes there.  Some girls start to look a more grown up but like the most of us that doesn't happen to way later.  You are still a girl.  Not a teen, maybe a tween.  You are still in the PG 13 theater when you go to the movies unless you have a cool parent that will let you in.  You still can't go to those school dances where the boys stand in one huddle and the girls in the other.  Yes you get to stay up a little later at night but you computer is locked on parent control and you await the time to take the next step.  If you are like me no smart phone yet, I think by then we were off the party system and could talk longer than 3 minutes. No cell phones then.

Then 13-15 now that's a jump.  No more "tween" you have arrived you are a "teen".  What does that mean? Those PG 13 movies are allowed now and you finally find out they aren't all that.  You need your computer more than ever to Google items required for a paper at school, forget the parent control what's that?  Ok you get to stay up later so what all you want to do is sleep later!!!  It's not cool to be seen within 5 feet of a parent, holding hands is out.  You snicker at the thought of the boy you like looking at you when heaven forbid you have no makeup on.  Your heals are as tall as you foot is long, but wait it won't be long when you decide to ditch that.  Sports are so important now a gateway to you future so you hope.  Long phone calls on your smart phone accompanied by selfies and tweets less we forget just how good we look and others do too. The latest fashions are as short as they are long and a must have if you are cool.  Hair, makeup just right to wear to that dance party where you stand in your huddle and the boys in their's the night is over and you seal you fate when you make a date with "Mr. Great"!

16 oh Sweet 16 the magical date.  The party to beat all parties everything just grand.  Somehow it's Ok, now to hold your parents hand.  This time as they guide you through the ins and outs of operating that big monster in the drive with four wheels and an engine that should be marked lethal.  After taking a class in school maybe one hour a day if you are lucky and having a stranger put you behind the wheel and teach you to drive what an awesome experience.  Daunting for a parent.  Only for a short time while you have your learners permit can you along with you parent explore your driving style and of course it won't be anything like their's.  You listen, roll your eyes so they can't see and go through the motions until you get that permit in your hands...........then it's all bets off, radio blasting, seats filled with friends, sun and wind in your hair.  You are off.  That is the beginning of independence, use it wisely.  Many a young life has been cut short due to the lack of listening to a parent.  LISTEN

17 to 18 it starts to hit.  College decisions float on the horizon.  What will you do?  Where will you go?  But first Junior Prom!  All the fun of planning a wedding with about 30 of your best friends without the I do's of course.  The dress, the tux, the flowers, the limo, the dinner...............enjoy.  Senior year look back before you walk out of that dance look at your past.  Look forward to your future without a lot of the kids you grew up with.  Time will take you apart.  School, marriage, families all take a tole on friendships.  Enjoy your last times of "childhood" fun.

20's well those are the days.  Here you are, you've arrived.  It's all up to you now.  College, graduation, weddings, kids, jobs not always in that order.  But it's up to you.  Your life is what you make it do good.
Don't forget the people that helped you get here.  Don't forget God.  Seems this is the age some of us get too busy to remember the important stuff.  Put God and family on the top of you list cause you are on their's.

30-40's these times pass by.  Busy with raising children and rising yourself up the corporate ladder.  Soccer, tennis, dance all the things you wanted to do as a child and now you can, through yours.  Running faster than the next.  Hoping to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or break that glass ceiling before Hillary.  Slow down, enjoy the moments with the ones you love.  Rest you're going to need it later.

50 well it's said it's the new 30 don't believe that.  Life doesn't begin at 50 it could end.  Let's face it our life could end anytime but the older you get the better the odds are for it.  You know that rest you should have gotten in the 40's do it now.  Stop smell the roses.  Take in some good movies, read more books.  Walk slowly with you grand kids, they walk all too fast out of our lives.  Enjoy the quiet you've earned it.  Hold you partner tight.  This is the time of renewal of that love you found so long ago, just the two of you, together, alone again.  Enjoy.

60's well here I am.  64 what more could someone ask for.  Time has brought me here.  In a few days I'll mark another milestone.  Some of the kids will come, I'll miss the others.  We'll go out to eat, tell old stories and if I want I'll make a cake, or not.  I will enter the next year of my life as I did when I was born quietly.  I miss all my family that have gone on.  Never was one for parties but I'd sure like to have one now with them.  Like to go fishing with my Dad and have a cold beer.  Eat one of Mom's Chocolate Pineapple Cakes, ride with Aunt Teenie down the road with all the windows down.  Go out in Uncle Piggy's boat for a sunset cruise. Spend the night with Aunt Hazel and Uncle Willis.  Got to Grand Momma's and Grand Daddy's and have a dinning with all my relatives on Daddy's side.  Listen to the tall tales that used to flow around the table.  Go to Skips Grandma's and eat her potato salad and baked ham.  Go to his Mom's for Lasagna and hot frozen rolls.  Watch his Dad in his garden beam with pride over his tomatoes.  And somehow undo all the years of hard feeling with my sister.

You can't go back only ahead in time.  Focus on your life, start early.  This time is all you have make the best of it cause it's you life and it goes by in the wink of any eye.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Living is a small community it seems everyone knows what your are up to.  Even if they don't know they make others think they do.  Interesting how so many people find the time to worry about what you are doing but don't bother to ask.  I have learned over the years to stay to myself and try to leave people alone.

I read ever day on Face Book how people hurt the feelings of others.  Seems when we put our hand out to lend it, it gets snapped off at the wrist.  How can alleged friends and family be so mean.  They draw you in just to spit you out.  Then they find pleasure going around and spewing their negative thoughts about you to everyone that will listen.  I would like to know what the other person says about me that makes it OK for them to continue spewing their dirt on me.  If you are my friend why not hold up for me.

Life it too short.  Struggles are too hard.  Why can't people just tend to their own lives and follow the rule, "if you can't say something nice don't bother saying anything at all!".  We all need to set aside a few days and go on a mean free diet.  Rid our minds of negative thoughts.  Purge our hearts of hatred.  Consume only good things.  Exercise our happy muscles instead of our frowns.  If we all could drop several pounds of negativity from our person think how much better the world would be, not to mention our own little community.Change you address from Negative Street to Hope Highway.  Set your GPS to find the good not bad. When you ask someone how they are mean it don't let it just be a passing statement.  Listen not only with your ears but with your heart.  Treat others not the way they treat you but they way you would want them to treat you. Show your good side, the one with the cheek turned.

But if all this fails.  Step away.  Don't be drawn into their mess.  Pray they find someone to help them clean it up knowing you have tried.  Remember in this life you can't hire a maid to do your spiritual housecleaning you have to pick up that broom and sweep away what you put down.  Then you will be ready to show the world you can be a better person.  Then maybe you will be worthy of the others that wanted to be your friend.  Then you will find peace in yourself knowing you can be alone and it's OK.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

 Tables full of memories................

I have many memories of spending time on Gwynn’s Island.  However we moved to Portsmouth when I was still very little, high chair age for sure.  We lived in an apartment complex called Williams Court.  Fond memories of Moma’s friends and their kids coming and going all day linger.  There was always a pot of coffee on the stove and a kitchen table to sit around and discuss topics of the day or hour. I had lots of kids to play with and it was a good place to live. In the early 50’s that area was full of growth. Downtown Portsmouth as well as Norfolk was bustling centers of commerce and Mama added to the coffers of all the merchants she could.  She loved a sale.

Mama used to make cinnamon buns, from scratch that put those store bought buns to shame. She and her friends shared goodies and even though she didn’t make these much when we got older I can still smell the aroma of the cinnamon coming from her oven.  I have started using a recipe for my bread machine that makes wonderful Cinnamon Rolls that rival the mall shop.

Cinnamon Sweet Rolls for the Bread Machine
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoon melted margarine
4 tablespoon water
½ box instant vanilla pudding (3.4 ounce box)
4 cups bread flour or 3 cups bread and 1cupwheat
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2-½ teaspoon bread machine yeast
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chopped walnuts, optional
¼ cup raisins, optional
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 3oz package cream cheese, softened
1 T butter or margarine, softened
1 t vanilla
2 cups confectioner’ sugar
In mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Beat at low speed on electric mixer till light. Gradually add sugar, beat until fluffy.  Milk may be added to make a good spreading consistency.
Place all ingredients in your machine in order recommended by your machine's manufacturer. Place the pan in your machine. Select the dough cycle and press start. When cycle is finished, remove the dough, knead enough to punch down and roll to 17x10 rectangle. Combine first three filling ingredients and mix well. Heat in microwave 10 sec. to make it spread able. Spread over rolled out dough with rubber spatula. Get as close to the edges as possible. Sprinkle nuts or raisins over dough. Starting with widest end, roll the dough into jelly roll style. Cut into ½” slices. Place in a lightly greased baking dish with sides. Put in oven that has been heated to 170 degrees and turned off. Cover with towel and let them rise 20-30 minutes. When risen, take out of oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. When oven reached temp, returned uncovered roll to oven and bake at 350  degrees for 15-20 minutes until brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then top with frosting. Yield: 9x13 pan

Mama’s cousin Doris Hudgins Ward lived near us and we were always spending time together.  She had a son close to my age and I remember playing together often.  I can remember going shopping with them and having my arm jerked more than once when I tried to follow him through a cloths rack.  I can see him now with his hands full of tags from the cloths as he held his hand open, grabbing tags as he ran and finally jerking them off as he came out into the light.  The sales people must have loved to see us!

Picnics were a fun past time for us in Portsmouth.  We would go to City Park or just behind the apartments and have an outing.  Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches were my fav as a child.  Sometimes we’d take a basket with chicken and other items to share while we sat on the ground.  I would discover later in life what a learning lesson making PB and Js were when my daughter brought the assignment home from school to practice.  Here is an example of the way to make BB&J sandwiches;

How to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Gather material
  Peanut Butter Jar
  Grape Jelly Jar
  Sliced Bread
Gather Tools
   Butter Knife
   Organize Material and Tools  on your counter top
Assemble sandwich
   Open the Jars of peanut butter and jelly
   Open the bag of bread
   Lay two (2) slices of bread side by side on plate, from bag.
   Pick up knife with the handle keeping serrated edge facing away from you
   Remove peanut butter from jar with the knife
   Spread peanut butter evenly on the left piece of bread
   Pickup napkin and use to clean knife off after spreading peanut butter
   Throw napkin away
   Use knife cleaned knife to remove grape jelly from the jar
   Spread jelly evenly on the other slice of bread without  peanut  butter
   Put knife down on the counter top
   Stack the two sides of bread on top of each other with covered sides together
   Cut sandwich in ½ or use cookie cutter to make cute shape 
   Enjoy your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It seemed Daddy worked all the time.  We’d have to take him to work because there was only one car.  He had a job at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and one with Texaco working on a tug.  He tried real hard to help his Mama and Daddy at home and also had to keep up the house we had on Gwynn’s Island going.  Guess we moved up in the world while living in Portsmouth when we rented a house in Craddock.  Craddock was one of the first planned communities in Virginia and was a cool place to live.  We rented on Farragut Street from a nice lady and next door neighbor Miss Mary Sawyer.  A few years ago my son Jay took us back to Craddock on an afternoon ride.  We rode down the street where we lived and I remembered it being wider.  Our house was still there looking the same as in the ‘50’s.  Things around there had gone down but the town square, not so busy and the school still stands as a reminder of the good ole days.  We of course visited the Fire Station to see some of Jay’s friends as he is a Portsmouth Firefighter himself.  He has a mean hand at the stove at the station,too, wonder where he got that from?

I was about 4 when we moved.  On moving day I had the chicken pox and had to stay with Cousin Doris which I didn’t mind because she always had fun things to do.  I could spend hours watching her sew.  She made beautiful doll clothes for my doll and dresses for me.  She and Mama sewed together at times and boy the things they made were so wonderful.  Often for holidays they made a dress for me, my doll and my cousins Willis Ann and Lillie.  They were the youngest daughters of Uncle Willis, Mama’s brother and his wife Hazel.  Willis Ann was the one who Aunt Hazel was expecting when she took Mama to Richmond to have me.  She arrived 3 months later.

Moma, my sister Marlene and me wearing a dress Moma and Doris made me for Easter

It was in Craddock I learned about the poor starving children in China.  I’d sit at the table for hours because they didn’t have any food and I wouldn’t eat mine.  Green peas and carrots would be stone cold when I’d fall asleep waiting for them to disappear or Mama would give up and put me to bed.

On my 5th birthday Daddy’s Mama came to stay with us.  We celebrated my birthday at the Circle Restaurant in Portsmouth.  To me then it was a grand place. I remember the packages all lined up for me to open.  One contained a doll that squeaked, it was from Grandmama Hodges.  It was the only present I remember getting from her until I was married and Aunt Louise,

Daddy’s sister, Aunt Louise gave me the last quilt Grandmama made.  Those presents made an impression on me.  She had a lot of kids to keep up with and me being one of the last made those presents even more special.

My child hood  memories of Christmas really started while living on Farragut Street.  I remember the year I got my Revlon Doll and the fuss that was made the morning, when I discovered her.  I got up in the early morning to go to the bathroom, when I cut the light on, sitting under the tree was my doll, her eyes reflecting the light from the bathroom. She scared me to death!  Nothing doing, whole house up and we opened Santa’s presents at 4 in the morning.  I loved that doll and she’s here with me today.

I remember before Christmas helping Mama make cookies for the neighbors.  She had this recipe for Cornflake cookies with cherries in the center.  I can see her stirring them up in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.  I would find out later she made sugar cookies because they were her Mother’s favorite.  I stumbled across this when I made sugar cookies for the first time after being married.  Mama had one and looked at me and said “they taste just like my Mama’s.”  Well she’s in here somewhere!!!

Cherry Corn Flake Cookies
2 ¼  cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½  tsp. baking soda
½  tsp. salt
¾  cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3  cup maraschino cherries, cut in half
2 ½ cups crushed corn flakes
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine shortening and sugar; cream well. Blend in eggs. Add milk and vanilla. Blend in sifted dry ingredients; mix well. Add pecans mix well. Shape into balls using 1
level tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Roll each ball of dough in corn flakes. Place on greased baking sheet. Top each cookie with maraschino cherry half. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on bakers rack before storing.

Momsie’s Mama’s Sugar Cookies
1 2/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup Butter Flavor Crisco shortening
3 ½ cup flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ t salt
2 eggs
1 tsp each, vanilla, butter and lemon flavorings
½ tsp cinnamon
Granulated sugar
Mix sugar, butter and Crisco until well creamed in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add remaining ingredients, mix well.  Place in fridge for about 1 hour. Remove from fridge and make into 1 inch balls.  Roll balls in granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet.  Spray bottom of med size glass with Pam and dip in sugar, flatten cookies with bottom glass, repeat.  Bake cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges of cookie are lightly browned.  Dough may be rolled out onto a floured surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  For festive occasions sprinkle with colored sugar or other sprinkles.

Craddock had a town center.  In the middle of the square was a band stand with an open place for people to gather during special occasions.  There was a drug store that had the best fountain cherry cokes and floats, and A & P grocery store and several other stores.  Afternoons after school my sister would take me to the drug store sometimes for a float or a Cherry Cola.  We’d stroll around the circle, I thought it was fun but I think she and her friends were checking out the boys.

 One night Mama and I went to the A & P, I was about 4 or 5.  While I was there I wanted a pack of gum real bad, but Mama said no so she didn’t buy it for me.  When we got home and she hung my coat up in the closet I kept bugging her to get it down, because………….inside my pocket was that pack of gum.  Well, when she found out I had taken the gum, she put that coat back on me and we went right back to the store.  I had to hand the pack of gum over to the manager and say I was sorry.  He felt so sorry for me he wanted to give me the gum but Mama said “NO“.  That made a lasting impression on me to this day.  Thanks to a smart Mama and nice store manager I learned one of life’s lessons early in life.

We stayed in Cradock until the beginning of my second grade.  On weekends when it was nice we’d head to Gwynn’s Island to stay at our house and visit with neighbors and family.  Sometimes Daddy would go to the seafood market in downtown Portsmouth and buy seafood for us to take home.  Huge Maine lobsters were his favorite things to get.  I can remember the claws on those things being bigger than Daddy’s hand.  I can see them now trying to get them into a big pot to steam them.  They were so active they’d have to put a brick on top of the pan to hold the lid down.  When they were done what a feast to be had.  Mama and Aunt Hazel would make lobster salad out of the claw meat and we’d have the tails with drawn butter.  The place would be full of lobsters and our tummies soon would be too.

3 c. cooked lobster, claw meat is good for this, cut into bite-size pieces
½  c. celery diced
2 tbsp. sweet onion, chopped fine
3 tbsp. prepared French dressing
1/3  c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. white horseradish (or less to taste)
Green onion tops, sliced small
Lettuce leaves
In mixing bowl combine lobster, celery, onion and French dressing. Chill for 30 minutes or longer. Add mayonnaise and horseradish. Toss lightly. Line salad bowl with lettuce and fill with lobster mixture. Or fill six fresh rolls with lobster salad mixture and serve. Garnish with green onion tops and paprika. Can also be mixed with torn lettuce leaves as side salad.

Later I would find recipes for Lobster Tails and one that we all seem to like was by grilling them outside.  Here’s an adaptation of a recipe I found.

Grilled Lobster Tails
4 (7-ounce) lobster tails
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature
2 tbs. chopped chives
1 tsp. dried tarragon
Ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Preheat your grill to direct medium-high heat.
In a small bowl blend butter, chives, tarragon, and black pepper with a rubber spatula. Blend thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve. Using kitchen shears, butterfly the lobster tails straight down the middle of the softer underside of the shell. Cut the meat down the center without cutting all the way through. Insert a skewer down the lobster tail so the tail stands straight. Brush the tails with butter mixture and season with salt, to taste.

Grill lobsters cut side down over medium high heat about 5 minutes, until the shells are bright in color. Turn the tails over and spoon a generous tablespoon of herbed butter onto the butter flied meat. Grill for another 4 minutes, or until the lobster meat is an opaque white color. Remove lobster tails from the grill and serve with more herb butter and lemon wedges. 

Gathering around the table full of wonderful food was surely a way our family show it's love.  Love for our family and love for our food.  As we bowed our heads and said our "God is great.......we knew it was also "good" to be together if only for one more time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

        Around our table

When you are young memories are made like a picture in a camera’s lens.  You recall the colors, the smells and everything around you, but unlike pictures life changes. Unlike a photo life does not stand still. Such is life in a small community.  My community a small county snuggled up to the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s coast.  Life here could be very simple.  Simple is good. There are no stop lights, except for the ones on the bridge coming and going to Gwynn’s Island, my home. … not physically now, but will always be home in my heart.  Our lives are deep rooted in the land that has sustained generations by working in the water, without it’s harvest many people would not have survived.  Even with it’s bounty dwindling the Bay still draws watermen to seek their fortunes.  The blue of the sky and the water, the softness of the sand, and the red of the sunsets, keep drawing us to refresh the pictures of our mind, keeps us here, keeps things simple.

My early memories consist of long days playing out in the yard of our home on Gwynn’s Island.  Our home was situated almost in the middle of the Island, right behind one of it’s two post offices, Gwynn’s Post Office a, hub of activity in our small community.  My Parents grew up in Mathews a small County of Virginia bordering the Chesapeake Bay.  My Father, James David Hodges was from the mainland my Mother, Hazel Hope Hudgins Hodges, yes she used all four names, was from that little island attached to the mainland by bridge or in the early years by a ferry, Gwynn’s Island .

Daddy’s family was known seafaring people.  He was the 9th son of Jessie, Jessie Thomas Hodges that is and his mother, Martha Henrietta Hunley.  They had 14 children 9 boys and 5 girls.  The story goes that when the boys grew old enough to wear long pants they were off to find their new life on the sea.  It has been said of my Uncle Raymond he was working in the corn field when he kept walking and the next time they saw him he was an officer on a ship.

Gwynn’s Island, a beautiful little island on the Chesapeake Bay was where my Mama‘s family lived. The island at that time was a bustling place with the water being it’s steady supply of work.  She was the youngest of seven, 5 boys, 2 girls.  Her Mother Eunice Belle Owens Hudgins and father James Claudius Hudgins lived on the water off of Hills Bay.

I was born in Richmond, Virginia.  The capitol of our State.  Travel in 1950 to and from Mathews by any means was slow.  Mama was accompanied by her sister in law Hazel who herself was expecting.  Aunt Hazel described Mama as being “slow as a shags tail” in delivering me and she was sad she had to catch the bus back to Mathews before I was born.  Not before however gathering up Moma’s maternity clothes to use in her next months.  She learned of my arrival  when she returned home.  Melinda Renee Hodges, as Gramdmoma would write Mama, “Hazel, have you lost your mind naming that child that?”  At that time you spent weeks in the hospital recovering.  According to Mama, Daddy was working on a boat in Louisiana and she had to send him money to come home to see me, times were tight.  I was welcomed home by an older sister by eight years Marlene, who I don’t think thought kindly of a little sister invading her territory.  Eight years is a big difference between kids and she had enjoyed the limelight for a long time.  But I guess she survived.

Sadly I don’t remember my Mama’s parents,  but feel the memories of others have helped  keep them alive for me.  Grand mama died when I was 6 months old but I understand she thought a lot of me, even waking me up whenever someone came to visit, much to Mama’s displeasure I am sure.  There was a story of a night Daddy was babysitting me and I seemed to be somewhat of a cry baby.  He had enough of my crying and when Mama returned home she found me asleep in a cloths basket.  Guess I found comfort with the towels and rags.  

I have fond memories of going to family gatherings as a child at my Grandma Hodges.  The house was full of so many people turns had to be taken to eat.  Her long dining table was full of the men first while the ladies served and then the ladies and then the older cousins.  Of course being a kid we had to eat early so we would sit in the kitchen at the “kids table” and enjoyed our meal.  It was fun when Amond, Granddaddy’s handy man came because he would sit with us and tell all kinds of stories. When we finished eating we’d all head to the deep ditch alongside the main road and play for hours.  The neighborhood children would join us and before our play was over a dare was given and taken.  Someone went home wet or muddy and most of the time it was me.  Mama learned early when taking us somewhere be prepared soon out of nowhere a new set of cloths would appear and I was off to do it again.  Unless I was made to sit beside her for the rest of the visit, that happened quite often.

I remember my Grandparent’s kitchen with its big wood stove.  Even though a small addition to the kitchen housed an electric stove most meals were prepared on or in that stove.  Grandmoma made the best biscuits full of crackling, cornbread, cakes………the aroma surrounding that stove was wonderful.  There was a large table in the room that never seemed empty.

Some Saturday nights we’d go there as a family for fish night.  Grandmoma would have her skillet full of fried fish or a pot full of boiled fish.  Corn cakes, or hoe cakes would be flipping off the stove onto our waiting plates, to be topped with a pat of butter and eaten while still very hot.  Even though I didn’t like fish, imagine that, those cakes would taste awfully good with my hot dog much to Grandmoma’s dislike!  I think she could whip up a batch of these wonderful little cakes of  cornbread with her eyes closed.
                                                              Fried Hoe Cakes
2 cups corn meal with
1 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (more or less, to taste)
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cook in hot pan or griddle (black iron works best). Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the hot griddle before each batch of cakes. These corn cakes, that look like pan cakes,  are wonderful served with fish.

Pan Fried Fish
1 ½  lb. cleaned fish, whole of  fillets
1 ½  tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/3  c. flour
2 eggs, well beaten
1 c. corn meal
Oil or melted shortening

After cleaning the fish, soak them in cold water with about  1 T salt for about a hour.  Rinse fish and pat dry; place oil or melt shortening in large skillet. Sprinkle salt and pepper on fish, coat fish with flour, dip in eggs, then corn meal. Put fish in hot oil, fry for 5 minutes per side or until brown, drain on paper towel.

Grandmoma always took pleasure in seeing everyone with a full belly.  Guess with so many people around it was her way of sharing her love.  She made sure if you came to visit you didn’t leave empty.  If you didn’t have time for a meal you had something in your hand to take with you.  She never would let anyone go hungry.  That was handed down through the generations.  My Mama would put the skillet on when she saw us turning the corner on the way to her house.  Problem was she loved us too well
and it showed on our hips.

Sometimes we would visit Grandmoma’s after a hog killing and boy would the house be jumping.  Meat would be ground to make sausage, hams would be cooked fresh and some smoked for later.  Chops fried and loins baked, either way you served it, it was good.  I remember Mama frying the skins, like pork rinds you get in a bag.  They would also make crackling biscuits form the cracklings or fat.  The meat would be ground and mixed with spices to make sausage.  Mama would use the Butts or Shoulders to make BBQ.  Her BBQ was real good.

Crackling Biscuit
4 cups flour
2/3 cup margarine or shortening
2 T baking powder
1½ cups buttermilk
1 t baking soda
¾ cup hog crackling’s, chopped(old ham crumbs can be substituted)
1 ½ t granulated sugar
¼ cup margarine 
1 t salt
Preheat oven to 400° degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Mix well to ensure proper blending. With a pastry blender, cut 2/3 cup of butter into flour mixture. Once butter has been well blended into flour, add buttermilk and chopped cracklings. Continue to mix until biscuit dough is formed. Place dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll dough out until approximately 3/4-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a 3-inch biscuit cutter until all are formed. Or shape by hand and place biscuits in a greased 12” cast iron skillet, drizzle with remaining margarine. Bake 25 or until brown. Makes; 8 to 10 biscuits

At the end of the meal these became a dessert by filling them with butter and using them to sop King PorTa-Ric Molasses from your plate.  You would pour the sticky, sweet syrup onto you plate, put some butter either on the syrup or on your hot biscuit and “sop” or dip your biscuit into the syrup……Yum!

Our post office was once called the Buster House.  It was a small building, red in color on the corner of our land right by the main road.  My Mama had once ran a business there selling snow cones, BBQ and other items.  I would wait daily until I say the mail truck arrive then give Miss Florence Carney time to sort the mail and run through the field to get our mail.  Of course Mama’s watchful eye was on me the whole time.  Everyone always tried to the mail early before Florence had time to read it all!  She always in a chair behind the counter, which was real high, to a little girl that is.  After she leaned over the counter and handed me the mail I’d trace my steps back to Mama waiting for me on the side porch.  She’d go through the mail then return to her daily chores. I’d return to play, picking flowers to get married or finding sticks to make horses out of.  Running around the porches was always fun and the hammocks made a good place to just lie around and day dream.

Oven Baked Bar B Q
1 boneless or bone-in Boston butt roast or pork shoulder, 4 to 5 pounds
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup apple juice or cola drink

Barbecue Sauce
¾ cup vinegar
1 ½ cup water
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon mustard
3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 c lemon juice
1 ½ cups ketchup or more to taste
Hot sauce to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon season salt
Preheat oven to 375 In a bowl, combine the salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard, seasoning salt and brown sugar. Place  the pork in a roasting pan and rub all over with the spice mixture. Let sit for 2 hours or overnight in fridge.  Pour coke over pork in pan and add enough water to come up ½ of the roast. Cover pan tightly with lid or foil, place pork in preheated oven, roast pork for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, roast for about 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until the pork is very tender and easy to shred with a fork.  Internal temp should be 170 degrees.

While pork is baking prepare barbecue sauce. Combine ingredients in microwave proof bow, cook 3 minutes on high in microwave until boiling, remove and whisk until incorporated. When meat is done, remove the pork from the oven, remove from pan, discard liquids, shred, and add pulled pork back into pan.  Add enough sauce to coat and put back in oven and bake covered another ½ hour. Remove from pan and serve with rolls, topped with cold slaw and, sauce. BBQ sauce may be put in plastic bottle with tip to serve alongside of pork.  Keep unused portion refrigerated.

This is the end of chapter one of my book............more to come.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sweet Pickle Relish

For years I have been making sweet pickles.  Not the way my Moma did I found my own recipe and have stuck to it pretty much over the years.  Moma used to soak her cucumbers for 7 days in lime.  That was way too long for me to have to worry about them.  However her pickles were good, nice and crisp, just the right sweetness and perfect color.  They were great chopped in potato salad or tuna salad or just out of the jar on a corn beef sandwich.  Memories come in the strangest packages.

My Aunt Hazel used to make a sweet pickle that she did not cut the cucumbers in slices to soak them but would soak them whole in large jars for about a week, then rinse them and slice and soak in vinegar and sugar for a few more days then put them on the stove to cook  then put them into the jars to seal.  They were good, a little too sweet, but good.

I stumbled across the method I am using now out of necessity.  We had a garden with lots of cucumber plants and I didn't want to let them go to waste.  Right about the time they were to come off the vine, I had hand surgery and was in a cast for 6 weeks.  That made holding onto those long round green things a little tricky to make perfect pickle slices.  So I decided to cut them in larger slices, soak them in the lime and then use the food processor to cut them into perfect relish size pieces.  Voila the birth of my Sweet Pickle Relish.  Relish the thought a cucumber would go to waste.  You see by using this method even if they get too big  you can still use them.  No worry about trying to get too large slices into the canning jar.

So how to make Sweet Pickle Relish.  First you get a good friend like Tenna Collier that has their garden in earlier than yours, to have her husband, Steve call and say that he's stopping by with some cucumbers.  That's what happened this year.  Of course in a few weeks I'll have cucumbers coming off in bucket loads. Anyway back to my recipe.

                                                            Sweet Pickle Relish

6-7 lbs sliced pickling cucumbers, with skins on
2 gal water
1 c pickling lime
In large non metal container mix lime and water, add cucumbers soak for 24 hours stirring ofter.  Careful not to break cucumbers.  

After 24 hours, place following in a large pot cook;
12 c white vinegar
7 1/2 lbs sugar
1 T pickling spice put in tea ball
1 T salt,few drops of green food coloring
 Cook vinegar,sugar,pickling spices,salt and several drops of food coloring over med/high heat until sugar dissolves, about 30-40 min drain,soak 4 times in cold water 15 minutes each, rinse well after each washing, drain well. Fix medium shredding disk to food processor, process until all are shredded, add to pot, stir well, bring to boil, stirring often, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Process canning jars,lids & rings,according to box labels. Place relish in jars leave about 1/4 inch space from top. Put lids and rings on jars.  Place jars on cooling rack or counter to cool. Listen for pop of lid, means it's sealed. Store in cool place, not in fridge.

Have your cucumbers washed and ready to slice.  Of course I had more than recipe called for so I made 1 1/2 recipe for this batch.

Having everything ready for the pickling process is important.  Don't start this if you don't have enough jars or lids or tops.  Get your stuff early.  Pickling spices and lime can sell out quickly so stock up on them so when you are ready you don't have to wait for a shipment or run from store to store.  Sugar well it takes a bunch so pick up that 10 pound bag so you'll be ready when the cucumbers come.  And vinegar, I use white vinegar, go ahead a get a jug or two to have on hand.  It's also good to use in you rinse cycle of your wash to get the soap our so it won't go to waste.

Pickling Spice can be hard to find, cheaper sold in bulk in some stores.

You'll need a container to soak you cucumbers in.  I used to use one of those large plastic jars pretzels come in.  I even had mine marked as to cucumber level and water level.  However sometimes I have more than enough to fill that jar so then I use a cooler.  I like a cooler that the top is not attached so it's easier to pour the liquid out when you are finished soaking them.  If you have a husband that keeps his coolers clean or one that will wash on for you that's great, just make sure it squeaky clean.

Next a place to slice your cucumbers with cutting board and good sharp knife in hand.  I try to sit up so it's easy to cut and drop the cucumbers into cooler with as few steps as possible.  Take into mind if you don't have anyone to help you move the cooler to an out of the way place don't add your liquid to the cooler until you have moved it.  They have to soak for 24 hours so you want the cooler out of the way.

Cucumbers all cut up and in the cooler.

Water and lime ready to mix

Then pour over the cucumbers mix well, 

Place top on cooler and wait.  Be sure every once in a while to give the cooler a good shake or stir to keep the lime and water mixed.

 Cucumbers are draining in the sink and ready for the soakings to get rid of the lime

I use a coffee filter with a Pampered Chef snap holder to keep it together for my pickling spices.

 Bundle up edges of coffee filter and secure with snap holder.  Drop into pan

While cucumbers soak in sink, start your pickling liquid by placing sugar, vinegar, salt and pickling spices into large pot.  Proceed as in recipe.

When time is up, rinse cucumbers and let drain in batches in colander.

Fit food processor with med shredder disk.

Place top on and you're ready to shred.

Work in batches according to manufacturers directions.

When full pour into big pan with the vinegar and sugar mixture

Ready to start cooking

Rings and lids ready to go

Place lids in small pan and bring to boil, reduce to simmer

Everything ready.  Tongs, canning jar funnel, hot pad to set jars on

Ladle, slotted spoon

Skillet with clean cloth, fill with water a few inches from the top

Jars in water bath getting sterilized.

Ready to can..........note the color change.

Ready set start filling

Use slotted spoon or strainer to pup shredded cucumbers in jars, top with syrup

Jar filled, ready for lid and ring

Place lid on top of jar

Add ring, 

Let sit on cooling rack and let the popping begin.  When they pop that means the jars are sealed.

Look it didn't break. No need for cheese cloth or tea ball

Good to the last bit.  I used every crumb!

Ok let's hear those pops

I have done a summers worth of relish in one day.........................

Clean up and I'm done

Did I mention I had to do lunch while doing all of this?

Oh and why not do a Lime Meringue Pie

Oh and baked a chicken.........crock pot style.

Now this is what I have facing me in a few weeks, more CUCUMBERS!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Give back before you it forward

All my life I have had enough. If I wanted for anything I didn't know it. My Mom and Dad made sure we had everything we needed. Mom was very good with a dollar and made it stretch as far as she could. Dad often worked more than one job to take care of us, help my grandparents and take care of our home on Gwynn's Island while we lived close to his jobs.

Mom was always looking out for someone else. If a friend was ever sick she was right there helping. All her life she cared for elder family members. For years her parents and grandparents lived with Mom and Dad. Guess it came natural to us to try and help others. As I have gotten older seems more of Moma creeps out. I can see her now fixing plates to take to neighbors, fixing flowers for the graves, sewing clothes for us and our cousins, just always busy thinking about others. I would like to think I could someday be as good as she.

In the past 5 years I have had the pleasure to use my talents to help others. On a visit to my Oral Surgeon friend Dr. Pirok, for a post op visit, I was asked if I would like to go to New Orleans to work at a free dental clinic to be set up in the Audubon Zoo for victims of Katrina. Without batting an eye I said yes, but I don't fly. So the plan was made then and there that Pam, his assistant and my dear friend would drive my Yukon to New Orleans with all the equipment! During the weeks that followed plans were made. The excitement mounted as we got closer and closer to the departure date. Then...............

Bright and early we headed out, truck packed we were gone. Heading down I95 laughing and talking all the way. First stop Savannah, Lady and Son's Restaurant for some good Paula Deen cooking, stroll down River Street, car tour of the squares then off to Darrien, Ga. to spend the night. Next morning I95 again until we hit Rt. 10 and headed west to NOLA. Stopping along the way to take in some sights not wanting to tarry too long, we rode and laughed and talked hitting New Orleans a little before football time that Sunday afternoon. The hotel had a buffet set up with TV's for all to watch the game. Soon our air travelers joined us and the week was off.
Darryl, and Pam's friend Deb had flown in from Virginia and a soon to be best friend had arrived from Albany, New York. He had heard Darryl had an extra space in his hotel room and became one of our team.

Dinner done, truck unpacked for that leg of the trip, we headed to a much needed rest, but no, rest in NOLA.............not. Pam, Deb and I decided to head to Bourbon Street.......but we had to include the guys. So the five of us went down to check things out. There was not much going on. Streets were almost bare. Things had not returned back to normal after the storm. We checked it out and then headed back to the hotel. Didn't take long for 5 am to arrive and we were heading out.........for the unknown for sure. The lobby was full of folks dressed in scrubs ready to face the day whatever it might bring! Off we went..............

To find the Zoo! Now that was fun. I not wanting to have to listen to back seat drivers, parked myself in the back seat relinquishing my keys to Darryl the Chicago furniture he called himself, his summer job in school. After a while we found our destination and couldn't believe the line that had already started to flow through the parking lot. Unbelievable.

First stop, staff meeting to find out what to do, where to go and who to ask. Next to unpack the truck and get set up. Then to gather the kids that were going to work with us that day. The students from VCU/MCV were not coming to this. We were to work with the Dental students from there. Their school had been destroyed by Katrina and the people that used it during the storm, so they were at Baton Rouge for the time being. Nice group of kids, fun to work with.

We found our little corner. Bound by a brick wall on one side the rest open except for a fence that helped keep our stuff safe during the nights we were not there. Yep we were outside, had a roof over our head from the walkway, but we were outside. Tents and tarps surrounded us full of computers to check people in, dental chairs and equipment to work on patients, triage areas, then further on medical units to do screenings for eyes, diabetics and other things. Impressive to say the least. Then around us some of the animals that survived the storm. Beautiful animals that along with the people could not escape the furry of Katrina's wrath.

From Monday to Wednesday we worked from sun up to sun down. The operation was so massive, couldn't believe our eyes mornings as we pulled into the parking lot still more people lined up for treatment. Some had started treatment plans at the dental school, paid for dentures and bridges and couldn't get the final placement due to the storm. They worried about payment, the MOM clinic was free, their money was no good here.
The last day in NOLA was bitter sweet, we had worked hard, got up to an early breakfast, another cup of Joe and we were on a 3 hour tour of the devastation made by that horrible storm named Katrina. As we rode through the streets of what used to be neighborhoods the heartbreak was everywhere. Seemed no one was spared. Katrina had touched every life in NOLA in some degree or another. The sights were etched in our minds forever. And the sound or lack there of. Birds few and far between, children playing, none, cars traveling, few. Those neighborhoods were trying to recover as some still are today.
After returning from our trip heading back to the Zoo we were packed and off to Virginia. Traveling the same way we came with just one difference. We carried a lot of passengers with us, not in flesh, but in spirit. We carry them still in our hearts and minds. We pray for their recovery and hope for their lives to return to NOLA.

Since then I have worked with Dr. Pirok at other MOM one on the Eastern Shore and one in the foot hills of Virginia near Orange County. Every time I am more impressed at the massive outpouring of help. The volunteers willing to give their time and money to come work in school buildings or firehouses or in open fields. And the patients standing for hours waiting to be seen and get some sense of comfort. The pain they have endured for so long, the mental anguish of not being able to afford the simplest of care that could lead to severe infection, pain and disease.

To these people hope is sent in the form of Mission of Mercy workers. To these people much is given, little payment is expected, except for the thought that one day they themselves can pay it forward. Give without being asked to give, if only for one moment. Give to someone that has a need worse than you. Give of yourself, your time, money or just a shoulder to be leaned on. Just give whatever you have. Pay forward in return of what has been paid to you by total strangers, strangers looking to give kindness, hope and love. Pay with love, send it forward.....
Don't have to travel thousands of miles to help others. Look around in your community. Is there anyone who needs a hand? Sick friend maybe. In your church, you do have a church, anyone having a rough time? Cook a little extra, make a plate stop it by. Make an extra casserole for a family in need, quick visit with it in hand would make their day. Just a short phone call can make someone feel better. A card, a note never know how you can make someones day with what you wrote. Pay it forward, pay with love, follow His know the One from above. He has taught us many lessons, now it's time to show what you have learned. Share, care and do it with love.