Saturday, March 7, 2009

Columbus Journal, Part Deux

I'm back in Columbus for another meeting and get to spend time with my family. The meeting is not until Tuesday, but I left Toledo after an 8 am meeting yesterday at work and lunch with my neighbor and her stepdaughter who was home from school with a slight fever. Then, after riding in a cramped bus seat for three hours, I arrived here and James took me to the nicest restaurant located in Bexeley, where he lived when he attended the Lutheran Seminary.

We had a full course meal, starting with hummus for him and crab cakes for me, all of which was boxed up to go into the refrigerator in my room at his house for later; then we had our main course - James had Duck L'Orange and I had wood-baked salmon with mushrooms, sliced baked potatoes, and steamed asparagus; finally, we had sorbet - raspberry for James and strawberry for me, which neither of us could finish because we were so full. Add to that the Madras, white wine, and Kahula and coffee I had before, during, and after my meal; the two sausage biscuits and coffee I had for breakfast, half a chicken salad I had at Al Smith's (it's the best in Toledo!), the BLT I bought at Al Smith's to take on the bus with me and the honey bun I took from our meeting and also ate on the bus and I had a colossal tummy ache last night.

I usually eat two meals a day and yesterday I had four! But I had a great time at the restaurant and enjoyed the meal immensely. Fine dining is one of the many things James and I have in common. We're going back to "the Monk" Tuesday for live music (there was some in the bar last night). Tonight I'm going out with my sister to a local coffee house that also has live music after we go shopping for her birthday present. D'Ebrar's birthday is tomorrow and I'm going to go to "Gates Ajar," a Christian play she re-wrote and is providing musical accompaniment for in the afternoon. I'm also staying with her and Mom tonight and tomorrow night and coming back to James' Monday.

My mother cleaned the guest room to make it ready for me, although I didn't spend one night with her and my sister when I was here in January. James said it's her way of saying she wants me to spend the night there. He and Debbie and I all agree that Mom can say so much without saying anything. Unfortunately, when I was a young woman and didn't know my parents very well because I hadn't lived with them since I was seven, I was home between colleges and got a very unpleasant taste of my mother's non-verbal communication. I made a dress successfully for the one and only time in my life. I was so proud of my "little black dress," I

wore it to church; however, the dress was designed to emphasize my "decollete" and I guess my father wasn't pleased that his daughter showed off her cleavage at the church he pastored at the time. Well, Daddy had a way of telling Mom when he was upset with me instead of talking to me (the only time he did was when he saw my college boyfriend, Robert, and I making out in the living room of the parsonage through an outside window). My perfectly made dress just disappeared and so did my interest in sewing. Although it was a minor event in my life, I was traumatized by it and am starting an autobiographical novel about by life as a young adult with that incident, which for many years affected my relationship with my parents.

However, all is forgiven now and I'm going to be spending some time with my mom this weekend. I have to leave Monday because I can't stand those judge shows Mom watches all day during the week. At least on the weekend, she watches the news and "60 Minutes." Years ago, after my father retired from fulltime ministry, Mom gave up her soap operas. Now, she's replaced them with real life soap operas. I was at my neighbor's house Thursday morning after sleeping on their couch following my weekly "movie night" with the kids (I saw "Akeelah and the Bee" and it's fantastic!) and my neighbor's wife was watching "Judge Mathis" while I was getting ready for work. There was some guy on there who's been married NINE times!

Speaking of human oddities, I heard on the the news while I was at the bus station waiting for my bus yesterday that an 83 year old Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home body slammed a 97-year old and killed him. I immediatley called my mother and had her cracking up because I told her about the incident, then said, "No nursing homes for you! Even if you have to live in my basement, you will never go to a nursing home!" Mom laughed because she already knows James, Joseph, and D'Ebrar will move heaven and earth to keep her at home where she belongs. We're having a surprise birthday party for her after her Bible Study Class at the church Wednesday morning. Mom's birthday is St. Patrick's Day (fitting since her father may be a descendant of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson, which would explain my mother's natural auburn hair color!) I bought her a yellot suit for her birthday present this year, because she's been wanting one. She didn't want the hat though because she's wearing her hair down.

I love my mom; she's such a lady. Actually, my mother, her sister, Martha, and this four foot tall, four foot wide elegant woman named Fannie Diggs were my "lady" role models as a child. Mom and Mrs. Diggs are the reason I've always felt confident as a large woman. My mother was the most beautiful woman I knew and Mrs. Diggs was the most elegant (my grandmother fixed up nice, but she was so rugged most of the time). My grandmother's twin sisters, Jessie and Ruby, dressed up nice, too, and were much more feminine than Joanna (Grandma). I am adding an "afterword" to my recent book, Finding God's Secret Place: A Spiritual Journey at www.$ because of something I just learned this week about how Aunt J (Jessie) died. She was everyone's favorite aunt, especially my mother's. However, I had a love-hate relationship with her, which I'll explain in the book. James and I talked about how much Mom is like Aunt J last night at dinner; she even looks like her, she definitely has Aunt J's sweet disposition.

James did find a smaller house and he's trying to buy it and sell Joseph this one. He thinks he's slick, but he's buying the house in both our names and it's all on one level (I have trouble climbing stairs because of my arthritis and tend to stay upstairs in his house once I'm up here). He says once his finances improve and he is able to buy a really nice house, he wants to keep the tiny one that has one bedroom and one bath and a full basement. I said, "Oh, you think I'll move here some day." He tries to plead innocent, but I know he and Joseph and D'Ebrar want me to move back to Columbus as I get older because they're concerned about my health; and I may if I ever decide to stop working and spend all my time writing.

I figured out why I like going to the hotel to write other than the quiet. I love living in one room! Maybe I should get a studio apartment. I only spent one night at my house in the last two weeks. When I got home, I had 58 messages; one was from my cousin, Dawn, in Texas, telling me that an old high school classmate was trying to reach me about our upcoming 40 year reunion. My classmate told Dawn she'd reached everyone but me - that's cause no one else had enough courage to leave Texas! I was in Texas when they had the tenth and my grandmother told me about it. I didn't go because I didn't like those people because they tormented me for being a "teacher's kid" until my senior year when they decided I wasn't so bad after all. By then I didn't care and wanted no part of any of them, although I tried to make the best of it when several of us attended the same college.

So, it's been 40 years and all those old hurts and resentments are gone, so when I heard the two messages from "Carolyn Johnson" (who is that?), I tried to call her back, but we keep missing each other. I think Caroly Johnson must be Carolyn Jones, who was part of the "popular" cliche, along with her cousin, Bobby Jones, a cheerleader. The only one I've seen since high school is Evelyn "Baby Faye" Williams who had this high-pitched, squeaky voice. I was at the annual "homecoming" event in my rural community which is held at the black cemetery (I'll explain later) and saw someone who looked like a Ebony Fashion Fair model. She saw me and said, "Geneva!" in that squeaky voice and I knew it was "Baby Faye." She was there for the tenth reunion and asked if I was coming. I told her I didn't know, but I did. I didn't want to go.

However, now I'm kind of interested in seeing my old classmates again and this may be the last chance some of us have to see each other. One of my classmates, Alonzo Chopps, who was a bit of a "gangsta" in school, was killed in his twenties. The rest, as far as I know, are still alive and well. I'm going to try to call Carolyn today to see if I can get some information about when and where, so I may be going "home" in May (that's when we graduated, so I'm assuming that's when we'll be reunioning). The Parish family reunion is scheduled for next year and my grandmother's family is pretty large, so that should be fun. I hope they have it the same weekend as the Cemetery Working so I can attend both.

Oh, the Cemetery Working was an example of collective work and responsibility (all of the Kwanzaa principles were practiced in my community and I'm writing a little book about that later this year and how we can bring that spirit of community back by releasing Kwanzaa from ritual to reality); the black cemetery association didn't have the money to pay anyone to maintain the cemetery, so everyone would clean their families' graves in the summer, usually around Memorial Day weekend and help clean other parts of the cemetery, which is located next to the Colored Methodist Episcopalian (CME) church. Then, either the third or fourth Saturday of July (I think it's changed over the years), we'd all get together and do a final cleaning of any areas that had not been cleaned; it was a huge celebration: the association bought a pig and it was roasted in a pit (usually by my Uncle Calvin, the chef) and each family brought a box of food to share.

Every family got their share of the roasted pig and then people took their plates and went to each family and got some of their food - vegetables, salads, chicken, and desserts - and it was really a lot of fun. You got to see people you hadn't seen in years or at least since the last celebration. After the grave-cleaning and eating, there was a church service with a minister who either grew up in the area or was married to someone who did preached a sermon (my uncles and father preached several times). I really looked forward to the cemetery working every year. It was the highlight of the summer, which. James and D'Ebrar have told me they still remember going to it every year. By best memories are going back as an adult and doing some harmless flirting with my childhood crush, who was married, but still flirted back, harmlessly. I also remembered when he stopped flirting back: when his son was born and he made the decision to stay in his marriage. (I recently saw him at my Uncle Calvin's funeral and, since he's seven years older than me, he looks like an old man now and the thrill is finally gone).

To fully enjoy my time with my family, including my sister's birthday, I'll be offline a couple of days and my cell phone will be off the whole week (although I doubt anyone would call me while I'm in Columbus, knowing I'm with my family!) - leave a voice mail! So, I'll continue this journal at then end of the week before I come back to Toledo.

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