The Not-Royal Wedding

With all the talk about tomorrow’s Royal Wedding, I decided to pull out a piece I wrote several years ago about my own nuptials.


I once heard an elderly neighbor say to a minister, “I’m ninety-six years old, and that was the loveliest wedding I’ve ever attended.”

This was not about the wedding. It was about her being ninety-six and still quite attractive. She wanted credit.

Well. I am fifty-two, and mine was the loveliest wedding I have ever attended.

That is about the wedding. It was lovely.

First, the rehearsal. I didn’t bother to pay attention. I was wearing a lovely new green dress and jacket and the tanzanite necklace that David had given me, and I assumed that somebody else would tell me what to do when the time came. I also assumed that David would be nervous and might get something wrong before I did.

The minister said wedding rehearsals were the only time he could feel like a football coach, with a chart with little Xs and Os, telling people where to go. He complained that I’d done such a thorough job of writing it all out for him, he felt like a coach who had to use someone else’s plays.

Well. I have directed two one-act plays and two class plays and have helped with a number of proms and graduations. I’m good. And I can’t turn it off that easily. Anyway, if you want something done right…

The rehearsal dinner was at El Mercado, and the staff remembered that we were coming, which was a relief. I’d called several times to remind them, and the manager was beginning to sound fatigued.

I presented the boys in the wedding party with watches and the girls with pieces of china that Mother’s youngest sister gave me when I was in my teens. David presented all the children with water pistols. Guess which gift went over big. There were pistols left over so David also presented them to several adults. Because these particular adults are just tall children, things ran amok.

It was lovely.

Our families sat together and talked to each other and behaved as if they were enjoying themselves. Four of David’s five brothers came, with two nephews (eight and three years) and a three-year-old niece. The eight-year-old was an usher, along with my pre-teen great-niece and -nephew. I had nine- and ten-year-old great-nieces at the guest book.

Having children involved takes a lot of pressure off the bride and groom because everyone watches the kids.

Of course, my eighteen-month-old namesake toddled around in the aisle with her sippy cup before things started and then jabbered so loudly that she and her mother got to spend most of the ceremony outside.

Now the service. The first thing on the program was music: two songs David chose and burned onto a CD: “The Alphabet Song” and “La Vie en Rose.” The bridesmaids stood shoulder to shoulder in the foyer and swayed back and forth as people looked over their shoulders and smiled.

Then my trained soprano sang “Simple Gifts” and, later, “The Prayer Perfect.” I went to the trouble and expense of finding and hiring a glorious voice, and afterward nobody could talk about anything except “‘A’ – You’re adorable…,” which cost David the price of a blank CD. Go figure.

But starting off that way made everyone relax, and that took a lot of pressure off, too. And not every bride gets to have Jo Stafford sing at her wedding.

It was lovely.

Wilson Wade, a former pastor at my church in Fentress, read 1st Corinthians 13:1-13, Shakespeare’s “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment,” and a passage from The Little Prince. This part was called “Kathy Has a Captive Audience and They Don’t Get Ice Cream Until They’ve Been Properly Edified.” I like words–so sue me.

It was lovely.

My cousins Lynn and Mary Veazey and my friend Maryellen were attendants. They wore dresses of their own choosing. When your bridesmaids range from fifty to sixty-eight years in age, you don’t put them in apricot taffeta with puff sleeves. Actually, I thought having attendants at all at my age was pushing things a bit, but these are my dearest friends, and they were as excited as the children.

And they were lovely.

Pictures took too long and were a pain. If I had it to do over, I’d lump everybody together and have one big photo taken, then have the photographer take candids at the reception. She did get some good shots. We forgot to give out the disposable cameras we’d bought for the children. Of course. Actually, I was so tired by that time that I look in the pictures just like I felt.

But the photos are lovely.

Flowers were lovely. My bouquet was HEAVY. I had no idea the load brides have to carry. Most of them are probably sensible and carry mostly baby’s breath, but no, I had to have FLOWERS. I carried it to Smitty’s Barbecue the next day for lunch with my family–milking it for all it was worth–and it held up well in the refrigerator for quite a while.

The reception was lovely. Except it didn’t go as planned. I was going to be Hyacinth Bucket and float from table to table being gracious, but I got stuck at one end of the room and never made it to any tables at all, including the food. Which is where I really wanted to go. I also never got out of my strappy little sandals that looked so lovely with my dress and cut into my feet like piano wire.

I’d planned to get the little girls together and throw the bouquet. But I figured if my aim was off, it could send a child to the emergency room for stitches and me to court for some kind of negligence. So we said good-bye and then just hung around, and I ate brownies and cheese and dropped a blueberry on that white lace dress while my darling relatives put up tables and chairs and swept the fellowship hall.

They really are nice. Lovely people.

At some point the minister came over and said they’d finished getting the pulpit and such back in place and all we had to do was clear our stuff out of the choir room. He also said he had the license ready to mail and that he would mail it. The certificate has arrived, so I suppose we’re legal.

Now all I have to do is figure out what my name is. I think David and I should alphabetize together–that’s the librarian thinking. But if I’m not careful, I could lose my both my middle- and surname and end up Mary Davis, who was my great-great-something-grandmother. David said it was okay for me to keep Waller. After all this time, it’s hard to give it up. But I would like to take his name. He called one of the caterers a couple of days after the wedding, then reported, “I told them I’m your husband.” His expression suggested he’d done something revolutionary.

Anyway, a good time was had by all, I think. I learned so much that it’s a shame we can’t do this every year or so. Among the lessons:

1. Wedding cake is not necessary. People like brownies and ice cream sundaes better.

2. It doesn’t matter what they tell you at the rehearsal–you’re going to get the hands wrong anyway. David said his brother kept hissing, “Turn, turn!” but David thought he shouldn’t and he didn’t and we ended up married anyway.

3. It is possible–and amusing–to make your matron of honor laugh just before she’s supposed to walk down the aisle. Lynn and I both collapse into giggles when one of us says, “Fourscore…”–after Mayor Shinn in The Music Man vainly attempting to recite the Gettysburg Address at the July 4th celebration. While we were lined up waiting for Wilson to finish reading, I handed Lynn a note–in large font to make sure she could read it without glasses–that said “FOURSCORE…” If I’d waited until we were at the altar, as I’d planned, she would have broken up the ceremony. If I hadn’t done it at all, she’d have sobbed through it.

4. If you want an elegant, solemn, sophisticated wedding–get over it. People would rather hear “The Alphabet Song.”

5. If you marry a twin, there will be confusion. Two of my friends walked up and said, “HI, DAVID!” and I had to tell them that they’d just greeted the best man.

6. Children like water guns but will not use them on formal occasions unless they see adults using them first.

7. If you’re getting married in Texas in June, pray for rain so the long-sleeved dress you bought in February will not fry you. Also, get to the church early and crank the thermostat down as far as you think you can get away with. Buy the shoes you know you should buy, not the ones the dress store lady says you should buy.

8. You can control a wedding, but receptions get away from you.

9. Do not move your furniture into your apartment ten days before your wedding and seven days before your prospective in-laws are expected to descend. If you break this rule, you have a choice–work ’round the clock to get things in place so they will think their brother is marrying a person of quality, or let them walk around the boxes. I chose the former. They now think their brother has married a person of quality who is ‘way behind on her Geritol.

(Seriously, I didn’t completely crash until the day after the wedding.)

10. It’s a lot easier for the bride and groom to get away with a light touch when they’re geriatric. If I’d married when I was twenty, I’d have been a wreck. Instead, I had fun.

And it was lovely.

Miss Q. Responds

Winged Victory Side
Image via Wikipedia

That’s the way it was on April 13, 2011.

I wish I could say that’s the way it is today.

But Miss Q. says Mr. Wynne-Jones can go jump in the lake.

She doesn’t want to be the victim.

She doesn’t mind a few cuts and abrasions, and perhaps a hospital stay, but she has no intention of being written out of the story.

Miss Q. is an old battle-axe.

But she’s just so darned cute.

And she has just begun to fight.

Obviously, so have I.

Image of the Winged Victory of Samothrace by (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Killing Miss Q.

The Muse
Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

A friend recently made a comment that has stayed with me: “And on a good day our words can change those who read them.”

Some words I heard a week or so ago changed me. Or if they didn’t exactly change me, they changed my way of thinking about a particular situation.

A couple of weeks ago, I timed pitch and critique sessions at the Writers’ League of Texas Young Adult Writers Conference (not because I write for young adults, but because WLT needed timers and I needed to get out of the house and do something useful).

At Saturday’s luncheon, author Tim Wynne-Jones spoke on the topic of “Reading Yourself Seriously.”

Here’s a summary of what I heard.

Wynne-Jones says that when we write with intention, we write with genius. We may call it a muse, genie, goddess, inner writer, “or Brenda,” but whatever we call it, we work with a co-writer.

(Muse and goddess have always sounded pretentious to me; inner writer is too close to inner child, and she and I are too busy arguing to write; and I know only one Brenda, and she doesn’t write at all. So I’m calling my collaborator the genie.)

Anyway, the genie, Wynne-Jones says, knows much more than we do. And it leaves “text messages” in the story.

So when we hit a major obstacle and can’t find a way around it–we have no idea what happens next, or we’ve written ourselves into a corner and can’t get out–we need to consult the genie, to find out what message it has left in the words we’ve already written.

We need to recapture the “feeling of enchantment” we felt when we wrote the first page.

And we do this by reading ourselves seriously: going back over our manuscript, reading creatively, paying attention to the unconscious, discovering the “tool” that will lead to the resolution of the problem.

It means sifting through the pages to see what we really want to write about, “ooching the implications to the surface.”

Reading ourselves seriously means accepting our own genius. And our genius is the ability to accept clues, which is also “the reason we write in the first place.”

Now, when Wynne-Jones began to speak, I expected to be entertained and perhaps inspired. But I got something more.

For the past umpteen weeks, I’ve been stalled. I saw a potential problem with my plot, I didn’t know how to fix it, and heaven forfend I should try to just write through it and see what happened. Oh, no, I preferred to worry, fret, and whine.

Maybe this is the time to pull out whinge. I whinged.

Sad to say, this is the same problem I wrote about several months ago. At that time, my CP convinced me I could make the thing work. I was resolved to do so.

But somewhere along the line, my courage came unscrewed from the sticking post.

So there I sat, listening to Tim Wynne-Jones, and toward the end of the talk, it suddenly hit me. I turned to CP, another volunteer timer, and said, “I have to kill Miss Q.”

Miss Q. was the original victim. But she was just so cute, I decided to give her a slight overhaul and keep her around.

But the manuscript has been telling me she has to go.

I didn’t even have to read myself seriously. The manuscript had been shouting at me for weeks, but I’d been ignoring it.

I felt as if the genie were right there, sitting on my shoulder, saying, “Kill Miss Q.”

(Perhaps instead of calling it the genie, I should refer to it as the devil.)

There you have it: Wynne-Jones words, which were supposed to provide a little R&R in the middle of a busy day, acted as a catalyst.

Or like a slap upside the head. One I’d needed for quite a while.

I left the dining room feeling changed. A bit boggled, but peaceful. I possessed the tool to resolve my problem. It had been there all along.


Image of the Muse by Guillaume Seignac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

AROW80 Sunday Report

Title screen for Burbank Films Australia's 198...
Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

Write 500 words/ day on Molly: 0

Exercise 30 minutes / day: 1/4

Go to bed by 11:00 p.m.: 2/4


1. Writing: Sunday night I received chapter 1 of a 4-part mystery that’s being written by members of the local Sisters in Crime chapter. My job was to write chapter 2. That’s what I did all week–wrote, revised, tweaked just over 1000 words’ worth of mystery.  I had a wonderful time, no “writer’s block,” no worries, no cares, just took the situation that had been set up and had fun putting my spin on it.

Isn’t that always the way. If I’d been working on my novel, I’d have spent the week moaning and groaning and suffering over what to do next. In this assignment, I was free to do whatever I wanted (with the knowledge that someone else would have to pick up where I left off, poor thing), and I did it. The mystery will be read to honor (aka roast) a member of the organization. My fun may come back to bite me: I inserted the phrase Barker Black Blenheim Boots, but I have to read my chapter aloud, and I can’t always say that phrase without tripping over my tongue. Too many B’s.

2. Exercise: On Thursday, I exercised in the pool for 11 minutes. I had spent the previous 19 minutes inching into the water. Burned at least 2000 calories just shivering.

3. Sleep: Still a mixed bag. It’s now 11:09, and I would be happy to keep on writing until dawn. A repeat of last night’s Lark Rise to Candleford is on, and at midnight MI5 will begin. It’s a repeat of a repeat. Of a repeat. But well worth keeping an eye on while I write a second post.

On the other hand, if I post and link and then retire, I’ll be in shape to work on Molly tomorrow.

It would be pleasant to have a few hundred Molly words to report on Wednesday.

To see what other AROW80 writers are doing, click here.

AROW80 Wednesday Report 2

Title screen for Burbank Films Australia's 198...
Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

Write 500 words/day on Molly: 0 – BUT today I printed out the entire original draft and partial revisions so I can get the big picture. I also wrote about 1500 words in blog posts and my section of a 4-part mystery.

Go to bed by 11:00 p.m.: Ha!

Exercise 30 minutes/day: Ha! Ha!

I shall not change my goals. Slowly but slowly, I’ll get there.

Sincerely, Jonathan

Girl Scout in uniform
Girl Scout in uniform, 1973--Image via Wikipedia--Public domain

Does anyone remember The American Girl magazine? The old one that was published by the Girl Scouts of America?

My mother surprised me with a subscription the year I was nine. I was in my second year as a Brownie, but I didn’t know the magazine existed until it landed in the mailbox with my name on it.

I loved The American Girl.

It provided access to information about movies, fashion, health, etiquette, and, most important, things I didn’t want to ask my mother or didn’t trust her to get right.

It also introduced me to fiction, as Nadine Bonner says, “about teen-aged girls trying to find their place in the world, just like me.”

Of the eighty-one issues I received over the next nine years, the  first is the one I remember best. And I remember it because of a story: “Sincerely, Jonathan.”

I don’t know who wrote it–except that the writer was not Betty Cavanna. I’ve googled and come up empty-handed. Without further research (probably of the paper kind) I can’t offer a citation. But I can tell what I remember:

Rosemary belongs to the “crowd” at her high school. They hang out at Ford’s, the malt shop. They burn up the roads in hotrods on Saturday night. They don’t study. They don’t make good grades. They manage to just slide by. They show no sense of responsibility or compassion. They’re cool.

Rosemary also has a secret. Before she moved here, she belonged to “The Honor Roll and Uplift Society.” At her new school, she had a hard time fitting in, and somehow she found herself taken up by the popular kids. She was embarrassed at first to introduce her friends at home, and she knows her parents worry about the change they see in her. But she does everything she can to protect her new identity. Her friends mustn’t suspect she’s a fraud.

Then one rainy morning on the way to school, she slips up. She sees the new boy, Jonathan Hockersmith, standing in the middle of the street, stopping traffic. With one arm he holds a stack of books; with the other, he holds his cello case as high off the ground as he can. A big Boxer pup is playfully jumping at the cello, blocking Jonathan’s way. Rosemary’s friends stand on the sidewalk, laughing.

On impulse, Rosemary hands her books to a friend and dashes into the street. She takes Jonathan’s books, he lifts the cello above his head, and together they run to safety. Jonathan thanks her, but she gets away from him as soon as she can.

Now she’s worried. She has allowed the crowd to glimpse the real Rosemary.

“I had reverted,” she says, “to type.”

Later, in class, Jonathan passes her a note:

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
I’ll remember you as someone who’s lovely and good and true.–Sincerely, Jonathan.

Rosemary quickly tucks the note into a book, but at the malt shop it falls out and into the hands of her friends. She tries to brush off their teasing, but Jonathan won’t leave her alone. He stops her in the hallway, waits for her after class, offers to help her study.

Spoiler alert: Because the ending is so fine, I’m going to tell it.

One afternoon, caught between protecting her “popular” persona and wanting to defend Jonathan to her friends, she surprises them by announcing that she won’t join them at the malt shop. Walking home, preoccupied, she catches her heel in a crack in the sidewalk and falls, hard, spraining her ankle. As she lies on the concrete, wondering whether her ankle is broken and how she’ll get home, Jonathan appears, picks her up, and carries her to her house. While her mother calls the doctor, Jonathan takes the casserole out of the oven and keeps the baby occupied.

Rosemary’s friends visit, laugh and joke, borrow a sweater and some pearls, and say they’ll be back. On Saturday night, however, they’re absent. Jonathan comes, though, and every night for the next week he brings her assignments and helps her prepare her work. He predicts she’ll make good grades. By the end of the week, she’s tired but happy.

When her friends finally crowd into her bedroom to report on the fun they’ve been having, and to say the pearls and sweater she loaned them are now ruined, they meet Jonathan on his way out. In response to their squeals and jokes, Rosemary tells them she won’t be coming back to Ford’s at all.

“At my last school,” she says, “I belonged to the Honor Roll and Uplift Society. And I aim to make it here.”

That statement breaks up the party. Alone with her thoughts, Rosemary summarizes what has occurred: “I had reverted, permanently, to type.”

That’s a lame account–I’d rather link to the story so you could read it yourself. But I’m surprised, after fifty years, at how much I remember.

At the age of nine, I didn’t hotrod (I never hotrodded, in fact). I was too young for malt shops and jukeboxes and a “crowd.” I was too young for the “needle heels” that Rosemary was wearing when she fell.

And it was years before I figured out what “reverted to type” meant. I didn’t think it had anything to do with a typewriter, but I wasn’t sure.

Still, I knew what the story was about. I read it over and over. I loved it. I tore it out of the magazine and put it away with my treasures.

I have a pretty good idea that it’s in a box somewhere in storage, waiting for me to feel industrious enough to clear things out and read it again.

I wish I thought today’s teen magazines were publishing stories like “Sincerely, Jonathan.” But unless something has changed since I shelved my last batch of periodicals, I know current fiction doesn’t come close. Nor do the magazines come close to matching the quality of The American Girl.

That’s not age talking. It’s fact.

I don’t know when I’ll read that story again. I feel no hint that I’ll be deluged with industry any time soon. Until then, I’ll have to go on depending on memory.

I’ll remember you as someone who’s lovely and good and true.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”

Sincerely, Jonathan


Image of Girl Scout in uniform by father of JGKlein, used with permission (Father of JGKlein, used with permission) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


A Jersey Lily, portrait of Lillie Langtry
Image via Wikipedia

Mama was livid.

“Judge Dunne proposed and you refused him? Minna, I’ve been sewing your trousseau since Christmas. You said you had him hook, line, and sinker.”

I did say that. But during six months of parlor-sitting with Milroy Dunne, I started thinking about Papa. When he was Colonel Veazey of the Texas Militia, he took the whole family to the war down in Cuba.

Milroy would never measure up to Papa. Marrying him would be like marrying a legal brief.

In June, Judge Dunne and I were outside watching fireflies when he dropped to one knee. I helped him up and told him I was taking my new teaching certificate and heading west.

“Don’t worry, Mama,” I said. “The Judge will survive. And I’ll be the best-dressed teacher west of the Pecos.”

As it happened, I was the best-dressed anything west of the Pecos. Around Wrangle, Texas, at least. Tea gowns didn’t serve for mopping floors or comforting a child with a revolted stomach. White linen didn’t serve for battling Harvey Lubeck.

Harvey was sixteen, too old for school but he’d been kept back. He was smart but idle. He proposed to drive me crazy.

Not overtly, of course. Dirt in the water bucket. A snake in Imogene Culpepper’s desk. Ink spilled on the floor, a permanent stain. A string of disasters, and Harvey’s blue eyes always twinkling from across the room.

Then one day he asked to be excused. Suspicious, I followed. He disappeared behind the boys’ privy and returned carrying the biggest, nastiest vinegarroon I ever saw.

“You hellion.” I grabbed his ear and dragged him inside, vinegarroon and all.

“Bend over.” I unhooked the board of education from its peg and whacked him three times on his backside. Then I stood panting, my knees all wobbly.

Harvey’s lower lip trembled. “You’ll git it now, Miss Petticoats. My daddy’ll fix you.” He tore out of the building.

“His daddy’s mean,” said Imogene.

After school, as usual, I swept and straightened. Then I sat down to wait.

Two hours later, I heard hoof beats. I was alone in a gray waste of cenizo and prickly pear.

When I heard boots ascending the steps, I willed myself to stand and hold my head high.

A burly, red-haired man opened the door. “You the one whupped my boy?”

I nodded.

He lumbered up the aisle, then stopped and removed his sweat-stained hat. “Ma’am, I thank you for what you done. Boy’s been needin’ a good whuppin’.”

He stuck out his hand. We shook.

“Harvey says you’re pretty as the Jersey Lily. We seen her when she come through Langtry a few years back. B’lieve Harvey’s right.” He put his hat back on. “You keep that boy in line, now. Make him act proper.”

Nodding, he headed for the door.

I sank onto my chair.

When my hands stopped quivering, I took up pen and paper and began: “Dear Judge Dunne.”

According to Mama’s last letter, the Judge was still pining.


“Minna” first appeared in Chaos West of the Pecos, vol. 15 (2011), under the title “A Day in the Life of a One-room School Teacher.”

Image of Lillie Langtry by John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ranching I: Goat

A goat inside a barn.
Image via Wikipedia

The tomatoes live.

So does the pepper.

It’s a minor miracle. Sometime between Friday night and Saturday noon, the door to the bathroom, where the crops were hidden, was left open. I found the leaves on one side of the pepper in tatters.

Notice how gracefully I employed the passive voice in the preceding sentence. Not a whit of blame did I assign.

Both David and I admitted we might have left the door open.

I don’t know who ate the leaves.

I suspect William. He’s always shown more interest in plants. Ernest eats sweaters and blankets.

But I’m not sure, and I don’t want to be unfair, so I continue to speak of the incident in the passive.

Discovery of the serrations sent me running to the veterinarian, who said that, considering the size of the helping, the amount of time that had passed since its ingestion, and the absence of symptoms, the only consequence might be a tummy ache. No tummy ache ensued.

It’s possible, of course, that no one ate anything. There may be little bits of leaf drying up under the refrigerator. Everything else, including two flash drives, ends up there.

But back to the crops. When I wrote the post about farming, I didn’t mean to imply that I’ll be plowing and planting. I have nothing to plow. It’s patio farming or nothing.

Neither did I mean to imply that I’ve ever lived on a farm. I lived in town. The farm was several miles away, on the other side of the river. I did most of my work on the town side.

Our house sat on a quarter-acre on one end of the block; the other quarter-acre (and other half of the block) was fenced, and at one time or other over the years served as home to sheep, chickens, horses, and calves.

So instead of farming, I really ranched.

My pet goat, Whitey, lived there, briefly. A friend of my parents had given her to me, and she resided with the sheep (which were, I suppose, a holdover from World War II, when mutton was common in our area).

When my father and my uncle loaded the sheep into the trailer to transport them to new accommodations on the farm, Whitey jumped in, too.

Years later it dawned on me that no one took heroic measures to remove Whitey from the trailer or to snare her during the unloading and bring her home where she belonged.

I suspect the lapse was deliberate. The “patch,” as we called it, beside the house, was fenced with hog wire, which was just the size and shape for a goat with a fully developed set of horns to push her head through, but not designed to allow her to pull it back. Whitey would push through to get a bite of greener grass, discover she was stuck, and bleat until my mother appeared with the wire cutters. As soon as Mother got back into the house, the bleating would start again.

After a time, the fence looked shabby.

It’s no wonder, then, that when Whitey jumped into the trailer, no one tried to dissuade her from leaving. My father would come home from the farm and report that he’d seen Whitey teaching sheep to climb over barbed wire fences.

I was sorry she was gone, but I got over it. We had never been really close.

It isn’t easy to bond with an animal who butts you down every time you turn your back.

Image of goat inside a barn by jcfrog (IMG_5072) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

AROW80 Sunday Report 1

Title screen for Burbank Films Australia's 198...
Image via Wikipedia

Progress since Wednesday:

  • Write 500 words a day on Molly: 0/0

  • Go to bed by 11:00 p.m.: 2/4

  • Exercise 30 minutes: 0/4

No excuses.

One step forward: I realized what must be done to untangle a major snarl in the plot.

If you’d like to see how others are doing, click here.

Image by Burbank Films Australia; Restoration credit: Myself, TaranWanderer (DVD Ltd. DVD release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

AROW80 Report

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Although I don’t mind reporting my progress, or lack of it, I do mind reporting it on my own blog, to be read by people who know me.

Since Monday night, I’ve written over 1300 words. They don’t apply to Molly, which was my intent, but they do apply. It’s something.

Regarding the goal about getting to bed earlier, I’m at 50%. And I was only thirty  minutes over on the night I was up late.

Regarding the goal about exercise, I’m at 0%. There’s room for improvement.

The embarrassment of recording more failure than success is likely to prompt me to do better the second half of the week. Which is no doubt the reasoning behind AROW80.

Vida Woodward Waller

The woman on the left in the photograph above is my father’s mother, Vida Maud Woodward Waller. On the left is his father’s sister, Jessie Waller Meadows. The photo was taken, I believe, sometime before 1910.

Aunt Jessie lived to be nearly ninety, so I knew her well. I didn’t know my grandmother. She died in 1920, when my father was five years old. By the time I was born, thirty-one years later, she was rarely spoken of. Her younger sister, Nettie Watkins, who volunteered to be “Nanny,” and my grandfather’s sister-in-law, Bettie Waller, told me a little about her.

Here is what I know.

She was short and had red hair. She was the seventh of nine children in a family that remained close all their lives.

She had beautiful hands, and she was vain about them. She paid her older sister, Bruce, to take her turn at doing dishes so the hot, soapy water wouldn’t spoil her hands. In the mornings, before she and her brothers and sisters went into the field to pick cotton, she carefully wrapped and stitched each finger in strips of cotton fabric. Then she put on work gloves. “That just fascinated me,” Aunt Nettie said. “And she always slept in gloves.”

There wasn’t a horse in the county that she couldn’t handle.

She scandalized the town by being the first girl to ride astride, wearing a split skirt. (And judging from the photograph, she corrupted Aunt Jessie.)

She and my grandfather eloped. Her mother did not approve of my grandfather as a son-in-law. I don’t know what Granny’s objections were, but having known my grandfather, I imagine some were justified. We all loved him dearly, but he could try one’s patience.

She drove like a maniac and regularly plowed the car into a high curb or a fence post or a bridge abutment and had to send for my grandfather to get the bumper unstuck.

She had a wonderful sense of humor, and she loved babies. (No one told me that. I inferred it from being around her sisters.)

She had her first child in 1911, and the others in 1913, 1915, 1917, and 1919. All boys. One day when she was in town, she heard a woman say, “There’s that Mrs. Waller. She has a baby every year.” My grandmother turned around and said, “No, I have my babies every two years.” End of conversation. The tradition was convenient for the entire family: if you knew how old one of the sons was, you could easily calculate the ages of the others. From there, you could fill in most of the cousins.

She could do, and did, whatever needed to be done. If bedtime came and all the boys’ pajamas were in the wash, she sat down at the machine and sewed up a batch of pajamas. If she wanted a fence around the yard, she went out and put up a fence. I suspect she found out fairly early in her marriage that building a fence was quicker than waiting for my grandfather to build one. (See, try one’s patience, above.)

She tended to be plump but wanted the hourglass figure that was the fashion. She laced her corsets so tightly that during every dress fitting, she fainted. One dressmaker became so frightened at the prospect of a client who routinely toppled over that she refused to sew for her any more. (I should note that the Woodward family was known for its fainters, men as well as women, so the corset might not have been entirely to blame. They were a hardy family, not a nerve in the bunch, but under stress they fainted.)

She would dress up for a party, stand before the mirror, and say, “I don’t look good enough.” And she would stay at home.

She had a strong will. No one ran over her.

The morning of the day she died, she was preparing to make a cake for Donald’s third birthday. She went outside to draw kerosene to fill the kitchen stove, and some of the liquid spilled onto her robe. When she lit the stove, the robe ignited. She panicked and ran. Maurice and Joe, seven and nine years old, knew how to smother the flames, but they panicked, too, and could only scream. Bill, Donald, and Graham, the youngest at eight months, were there as well. Graham, of course, didn’t remember his mother. Donald and my father always said they remembered nothing about that day, but I believe my father did.

She was buried the next day, on her thirtieth birthday.

The Pledge

Title screen for Burbank Films Australia's 198...
Image via Wikipedia

My promise to post daily in April having crashed and burned, I now set out on a new adventure: A Round of Words in 80 Days.

I’m starting late, so my round will comprise only 73 days. But, as Huckleberry Finn says, that ain’t no matter.

A Round of Words in 80 Days bills itself as “The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.”

Funny–every time I’m positive I don’t have one, I discover I do. This time it was the notorious newsletter. I kept adding and fixing and writing and rewriting, all week long, and finding one more thing to do. It went out Saturday and is slightly shorter than Gone With the Wind.

At this rate, my literary legacy will be titled, The Collected Newsletters of Kathy Waller.

So again I take The Pledge.

The first requirement is to post measurable goals.  Here are mine:

I will

  1. write 500 words a day on Molly, 5 days a week;
  2. exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week;
  3. go to bed between 9:30 and 11:00 p.m. every night, including Friday and Saturday.

Those goals are easily measured. Listed in order of importance, they would be reversed, but this is a writing challenge, so writing stays on top.

The second requirement is to sign up by linking this post to the ROW80 list.

The third requirement is to check in on Sundays and Wednesdays.

The final requirement is to end this post and start working on #3.


Image by Burbank Films Australia; Restoration credit: Myself, TaranWanderer (DVD Ltd. DVD release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Working the soil

I’ve decided: I’m going into farming.

It was an impulsive decision, of course. Like all the others.

A scanned red tomato, along with leaves and fl...
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On my way into HEB this morning, passing shelves packed with plants, I had a vision: homegrown tomatoes. Red, sweet, tart, fleshy, seedy, from-vine-to-table tomatoes. Real tomatoes.

Bacon and tomato sandwiches.

I selected two hardy specimens and set them in the baby seat of my shopping cart.

A recently blossomed flower on a Quadrato d'As...
Image via Wikipedia

Then my eye fell on the bell pepper plants, and I had another vision: $1.18 each, regular price.

That’s today. Goodness knows how much they’ll cost tomorrow.

I selected one pepper plant and set it in the shelf at the front of the cart.

Then I pushed them all over the store so people could appreciate my virtue.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that God made the country and man made the town.

I shall sow little seraphic seeds, regenerating the asphalt jungle.

I shall be a veritable Wordsworth, taking solace in nature.

Five minutes into planting, I shall start to itch, but a poet must sacrifice for his art, and I’m determined to have at least one decent tomato before summer is over.

It won’t be easy, though. I come from a long line of farmers, there’s not an agrarian bone in my body. I spent my life wandering among the cotton wagons lined up at the gin scale, but I can’t tell you when the ginning begins. August? Late July?

Image via Wikipedia

Every summer, I asked what people meant when they talked about the square, and my mother would launch into a detailed description of the maturation of the cotton plant. I never got the picture.

I know what a nice stand of maize looks like, and I can identify a corn field burning up in the sun (South Carolina, summer 1986), but that’s about all. I know that oats are very green and very pretty in winter.

I should be ashamed of myself. My father loved nothing more than getting on a tractor and plowing, watching the black soil turn. He and Mother talked crops and cows over dinner.

I, on the other hand, spent my life with my nose in a book. In summers, I took my nose out long enough to go swimming and horseback riding, but most of that was done between chapters. I named all the cows, but I saw them as pets.

My body was in the country. My mind was in the bookmobile.

But now I’m returning to my roots.

I brought the plants home, set the tomatoes in front of the microwave and the pepper on the table. (Counter space is at a premium here.)

When William jumped onto the table, as I knew he would, I put the pepper in the sink.

Before I go to bed, I’ll put all three plants into the bathtub and close the bathroom door. Cows you can trust; cats you can’t.

Tomorrow I’ll buy potting soil, get out the Benadryl, and make myself a farm.

And then I’m going to apply for my government subsidy.


Thanks to William Cowper ( “The Sofa,” from The Task ) for writing, “God made the country and man made the town.” Thanks to Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) for writing the rest of that sentence.

Image of tomato by David Besa from Sonoma, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of bell pepper (Quadrati d’Asti Giallo) by JayMGoldberg (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of cotton boll by KoS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons