Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for LANGUAGE Arts—Sometimes I Miss the Classroom

For thirty-two years, I got up every day and got dressed to go to either Pascagoula High School (1964–66) or Live Oak School (1966–67) or Woodham High School 1968–96) to teach English. I’m a real roots person: almost twenty-eight of those years were at Woodham, my true home away from home.

I loved teaching and considered it a real calling. In other words, I always thought I was doing just what God intended me to do: educate young people in the language arts, always having in mind making them lifelong readers and writers. Leading teenagers in this direction wasn’t always easy, I must admit; however, it was what I was meant to do.

For most of my thirty-two years, I taught twelfth-grade English, British Literature. You can believe that I had to do lots of “songs and dances” to get those kids to enjoy, no tolerate, the literature of Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton. We managed to get through, many times quite well, and some of my students have even told me (via Facebook) about teaching their children the classics as a result of seeds planted when they were in high school. I hope so, anyway.                       

If we did a survey of language arts teachers and asked why they became teachers, I imagine most of them would say because they loved to read and wanted to teach literature. Not me! I loved literature, but really grammar was my first love in the discipline. I know it sounds crazy, but I took great delight in watching those cartoon light bulbs come on in a student’s head when he or she finally understood a grammatical concept in the language. I won’t try to convince you that I saw those light bulbs every day, but when I did see them, “my heart leapt up” . . . to quote William Wordsworth.

I taught from this book!

I have about 150 former students as friends on Facebook, and they still ask me questions about grammar. For some reason, they think that I can answer any query that they have. If the answer doesn’t come to me immediately, I do a little research before writing back. To prove how much I enjoyed teaching grammar, I have an anecdote from many, many years back. One evening at Open House, two parents finally worked their way up to me. After they introduced themselves, they said, “We just had to come tonight to meet the lady who gets so excited over gerunds!” The three of us had a good laugh.

Now it’s time for true confessions. I didn’t enjoy teaching composition until seven years before I retired. I’m not a creative person, so I never could think of fun, yet educational, ways to teach writing. All I knew to do was teach the paragraph (essays in miniature), the five-paragraph essay. Then one summer, three teachers from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, came to Pensacola to lead us in a writing workshop that was very similar to the Bay Area Writing Project in California, only on a much smaller scale. At the end of two weeks, I loved writing and could hardly wait for school to start so that I could share with my students what I had learned. It was at that time that I became convinced that teachers who instruct their students in composition must also be writers themselves. They needed to share their “art” (writing IS an art, you know) with their pupils. I had great fun letting my seniors critique my writing, and they loved doing that after they realized that I wasn’t going to be offended by their comments. Granted, a teacher must have thick skin to do this, but I found the exercise beneficial for both my students and for me. Toward the end of my teaching career, I found several really good writing projects that made collectibles for my students and very interesting reading for me. In fact, my only really original writing assignment came to me during this time. It was what I called The Alphabet Journal, exactly like the project that we’re doing in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Did someone get wind of my project?

I loved teaching, period. I always thought that my discipline, language arts, was the best because I was privileged to know my students so well since they shared their innermost selves through their writing. Sometimes I probably got to know them too well. They were able to get to know me, too, and because they knew how much I cared for them . . . yes, even loved them . . . they still feel comfortable with me today and share their vocations and their families with me through Facebook.

Let me share one little tidbit with you before I close. It will prove that they know me well. Last night, I had what I call a Sleepless in Cerrillos (the village where I live) night. I awakened at 1:30 with a nagging feeling. I needed to write a letter for a committee that I’m on. So, up I got and wrote the letter. Still wasn’t sleepy, so I did what most of us do if we like to keep up with people—I checked Facebook for messages. I had three. The first one that I saw was from a former student. He was in my class in 1993. That’s a long time ago, isn’t it? He wrote to tell me that he had gone to hear a speech by a former United States poet laureate. Right in the middle of the speech, he told me, he thought, “Mrs. Young would have given me extra credit for doing this!” And he was right. I’d have given him a great big chunk of extra credit. He knew me well . . . and he remembered me after twenty years. Amazing and heart warming. Oh, my how I loved being responsible for those kids, and even now sometimes I miss both the classroom and my students . . . always I miss the students.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Double K

I lived in the South for all but the last ten years of my life, which began in Shreveport, LA. Then my parents and I lived in Baton Rouge, LA; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; and Pensacola, FL. My husband and I lived in Clinton, MS and Pascagoula, MS. Next we moved to Pensacola, a second time for me. So you can see that I’m a real Southern girl . . . not a Southern Belle, you understand . . . because I think of Belles as coming from wealthy families. My family didn’t have money. Oh, we weren’t poor, but we probably had a little redneck in us. By “redneck” I don’t mean that we used poor grammar or rode dirt bikes in the back woods or had tattoos or knew moonshiners. My folks and I were just plain Southern. And even though my family is now in New Mexico, I’m still Southern.

The reason I emphasize so much my Southern roots is that Double K is an important part of every true Southerner’s life. We know that no proper Southerner would drive past a certain green-roofed building with a red HOT sign flashing. No matter what time of day or night, we stop. I think it’s against the law not to.

By now, you might have guessed that Double K means Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and  Southern-to-the-core folks love ‘em!

I can hardly remember a time that Krispy Kremes weren’t a part of my “diet,” my favorites being crullers and hot glazed. The sweet things first came to life in 1937 with the recipe of a French chef from New Orleans, but they weren’t original in the Crescent City. The first KK doughnuts were made for sale in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Until just a few years ago, Krispy Kremes were known only in the Southeast, but now they’re all over the United States, though still probably most prevalent in the South. I remember when the first store opened in Washington State, where most of my in-laws live. My sister-in-law said that the line for getting into the place wrapped all the way around the outside of the building. Evidently, the crowds kept heading for the Southern sweets for several months before business became normal.

We’re going to Pensacola in just about a week, and I can assure you that we’ll be scoping out Krispy Kreme stores all along the way. We know for sure that something bad will happen to us if we don’t stop if that red HOT sign is flashing!

My hero with his favorite breakfast!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Action JACKSON

The evening was sometime in October 2004. The place was the Southside Plaza Café in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The people present were Sandy, Frank, Wendy (their daughter), and Todd (Wendy’s husband). I hope I didn’t jump up on the table and do the happy dance when Wendy calmly said, “We have something to tell you. We’re going to have a baby!” I think what I did was throw my arms up in the air and yell, “YESSSSS!”

You see, Wendy had been married before and had our sweet Corey, who at the time of the announcement was sixteen. Wendy and her first husband had divorced when Corey was about six years old, and Corey and her mother had moved to New Mexico when she was eight. Wendy and Todd had been married for several years, and we had all given up hope of a baby for them. So this announcement was music to our ears. Frank and I would be grandparents to two children. We never thought that would happen.

You can probably imagine that even though all of us adults were ecstatic, Corey was not very excited, and that’s an understatement. She was somewhat mortified to think of what her parents had been doing, and she was also a good bit jealous to think that she’d have to share grandparents. She was the only grandchild on both sides of her family.

Wendy and Todd took Corey with them to the appointment in which the doctor would announce the sex of the baby. When they all looked at the picture and saw what they were looking for, Corey, too, shouted “YESSSSS!” The sonogram showed that there was a baby boy growing and getting ready to join his big sister. You see, what Corey had been unhappy about was the chance that the baby would be a girl. Somehow in her sixteen-year-old mind, she saw a sister as someone to be jealous over but a brother as someone to be proud of. Now we were all happy! Since we are such a small family, happiness is always a good thing.

The naming of the baby wasn’t difficult for Wendy and Todd: He’d be named for Frank and Jay (Frank Jackson Young) and one of Todd’s best friends in his teenage years (Matthew). So Jackson Matthew Yocham had his name a long time before he entered the world. I would have been happy for us to call him “Jay,” but Wendy insisted that he have his own name and be called “Jackson” and certainly not “Jackie.” So Jackson he was!

He was supposed to arrive in June, but he decided that the day for his mom to go to the hospital would be May 17, my mother’s birthday; however, he wanted his very own day of birth and didn’t arrive until May 21, three days before his mother’s forty-second birthday. Since he would be a preemie, Wendy and Todd had to go to Albuquerque for his birth instead of where their doctor was, in Santa Fe. That was okay, though. Albuquerque was closer for the other grandparents to go on the morning of May 21, the scheduled day for him to arrive.

The four of us—Darlene, Ron (Todd’s parents) Frank, and I—met in the waiting room around 10:00 that Saturday morning. Corey, since she was to be present for the birth, came out every once in a while and gave a report on her mom’s progress. Wendy’s labor was induced, so we knew Jackson would make his appearance sometime that day, hopefully earlier rather than later. The last time Corey came to the waiting room, she looked exhausted. After all, she had been through a lot that morning. (Smile!) She plopped down in the chair next to me and announced for all to hear, “I’m NEVER having any children!” We all thought that was a good thing for a seventeen-year-old to think, but we hoped that she’d change her mind when she got older and married.

So . . . Jackson, who was immediately termed “Little Man” by his proud dad, became a part of our very small family (now there’d be six of us) around 1:00 p.m. on May 21, 2005. Immediately, some of us called him Action Jackson, and he has earned this epithet through the years. Corey is our Firstborn, and Jackson is our Secondborn. They’re all we’ll ever have and all we need because our hearts are full to overflowing with love for these two grandchildren. Well . . . I guess if a miracle happened and we had another grandchild, we’d still have room!

Look at those big baby blues!

                                           Jackson and Pop!
Jackson wants to be a "phrotographer" when he grows up, just like his mom!

Firstborn and Secondborn

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for INFLUENZA to the Rescue!

My first memories are in Mobile, Alabama, when I was about four years old. I have definite pictures in my mind of my play closet, a cornucopia-shaped room where my few toys were housed. I know I had dolls, but I also remember trucks and cars. My best friend was Leroy, and he liked to tear up toys, especially mine, and I let him because he’d stay longer to play if he could pull the head off my doll or do some other destructive thing. These memories are indelible in my memory, but what I remember best about living in our little apartment is having scarlet fever and being quarantined for what seemed like weeks. It was probably for only a few days, but I have recollections of being really sick.

Scarlet fever was the beginning of my puny childhood. I guess I was sick off and on a lot, even having chicken pox, measles, and mumps practically back to back. I was a tall, skinny weakling. But then my mother decided that if I took vitamins, I’d probably be much better off physically. They’d make me eat more and put some meat on my bones. Well, she was right. I developed a voracious appetite and started putting on the pounds. I got fatter and fatter in first and second grade, and by fourth grade, I was hearing such things as, “Fatty, fatty, two by four. Can’t get through the kitchen door!” I cried and cried and kept on eating. I’d go home in the afternoon, head for the refrigerator, and eat such things as wieners and my favorite sandwich—mayonnaise and sugar—but not at the same time. My mother would shame me, but I’d just eat and eat and whine because the boys called me “Fatso.”

When my mother and I went downtown in New Orleans to shop and to eat at Morrison’s Cafeteria, she’d poke me with her elbow when a fat lady got on the streetcar and say, “You see that lady. That’s just what you’re going to look like if you don’t stop eating so much.” Her comment would make me sad, but as soon as we got to the line at the cafeteria, I’d load up my tray with stuffed crab, fried potatoes, and apple pie with ice cream. Then when we left, I’d insist that we both weigh on the scale at the door (don’t ask me why a cafeteria would have scales). When it was apparent that I out-weighed her, I’d cry again.

Throughout my elementary school years, I was the tallest and fattest girl in my classes; however, I still insisted on eating. I wasn’t what you’d call obese, but I surely was overweight!

Then came junior high school. I remember being sorry that I was bigger than others, but I didn’t think about dieting. In fact, I don’t think in 1952 that any young people even thought about dieting. My weight was just about to change, though, in spite of not dieting.

Early in 1953, influenza struck our neighborhood. Many children, including me, came down with it. My flu lasted for about two weeks. During that time, I ran a high fever and could keep down only dry toast and hot tea. I was so weak that I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom by myself. But gradually, I got stronger and finally could get out of bed with no help.

When I went to bed, I was a roly poly child; when I finally could stand up by myself, I was a svelte young girl. I had lost so much weight that I actually had a waistline! My mother was so amazed at the transformation that she bought me new clothes, the best article being a wide, stretchy belt. I’d put it on and preen in the mirror, turning from side to side, so happy with the new me. Even though I’d been very, very sick, I didn’t care, and I knew for sure that influenza had rescued me from an adolescence of hearing “Fatty, fatty, two by four!” and lots of misery. I’ve never forgotten those pre-flu days, and I’ve never let myself get back to being called “Fatso.”

Check out the middle photo and the bathing beauty!


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

H is for HUNHH?

“What do you want for breakfast?”


“I said, ‘What do you want for breakfast?'" This time, a little louder.

“Oh . . . cereal’s fine.”

This is the kind of conversation that’s been going on in my life for as long as I can remember. My mother always said that I heard what I wanted to hear, and maybe she wasn’t wrong in every respect; however, my hearing has always been bad, and “Hunhh” has been my staple word every time I needed something repeated. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to say “Pardon?” or “I didn’t hear you” or “Excuse me?” But I’m not always successful. Here’s a little history of my hearing loss.

The first time I had to go to an ear doctor (otolaryngologist is the proper word, but that’s a bit pretentious, I think, for everyday conversation) was when I was about eight years old. My mother must have thought I had an ear infection, but she soon found out that I had what was diagnosed as a perforated eardrum. She checked me out of school two or three times a week to go downtown in New Orleans to a doctor in one of those hugely tall old business buildings just off Canal Street. These doctor’s visits lasted until we moved to Pensacola, when I was thirteen.

Almost the first thing we had to do after we settled in was to find a new ear doctor. I don’t know whether or not Dr. Earl Wolf was recommended to us by the doctor in New Orleans or whether Mother just did eeny-meeny-miney-mo and found Dr. Wolf. In any event, when he took one look at my poor right ear, he announced that I had an infection on the mastoid bone and that nothing would cure it except a radical mastoidectomy. So, in the summer of 1954, I had the first of seven surgeries, each one taking a little more of my eardrum, thus taking a little of my hearing.

I had two or three surgeries while I was in high school, a couple while I was in college, and two after I married. After Dr. Wolf retired, I started going to the doctor who bought his practice, Dr. Pallin. Oh, my . . . he was a good doctor, but he had absolutely no bedside manner. Very curt, to the point, no nonsense. I was used to a little TLC during my visits. Several years after I became Dr. Pallin’s patient, he announced that I needed another surgery, that he felt sure that I’d regain some hearing, but that the surgery was rather dangerous in that he’d be going right up against the facial nerve. He implied that I might have facial paralysis if he got too close. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no raving beauty, and I know it, but I surely didn’t want facial paralysis! Every time I’d go for a check up before the surgery, I’d ask a gazillion questions, trying to get him to reassure me that I’d get through the surgery fine with no side effects.

Finally, in desperation, one day he said, “Tell you what. I’m going to send you to Dr. Michael Glascock in Nashville. He’s the best in the Southeast, maybe even in the profession. I think you’ll be more satisfied with him.” Whew! I was so relieved to get away from Dr. Doom and Gloom. And I absolutely loved Dr. Glascock, who wound up doing two surgeries and making my ear wondrously free of problems . . . except that I still can’t hear worth a flip. But that’s okay. I’m used to it now.

But there’s more to the story. I continued to go to Dr. Pallin in Pensacola for yearly check-ups, but he eventually retired. So . . . what was Sandy to do? Well, I called for an appointment the next year, and the conversation went something like this:

“ENT, may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Sandy Young, and I need to make an appointment with an ear doctor . . . one who has some personality. I know Dr. Pallin has retired.” Chuckles from both the receptionist and me!

“I think you’ll like the doctor who bought his practice. His name is Dr. Derek Jones.”

“Hmmm . . . How do you spell his first name?”


“Do make an appointment for me with Dr. Derek Jones!” I smiled as I hung up.

I could hardly wait for my appointment. I sat there in the chair smiling as the doctor flung back the folding door and stood there with his hand on his hip.

“I knew it was you!” he said.

“And I knew it was you!” I replied. You see, Dr. Derek Jones was one of my favorite students from years before, and we had a mutual admiration society even back then. We were elated to find each other, and I have been going to him at least once a year for probably fifteen years. Even though Frank and I have moved to New Mexico, I still go to him . . . in Pensacola. Not even searching for an ear doctor in NM assures me of a trip to my glorious Southland once a year. He always takes way too much time with me when I have an appointment, but we have to catch up on his classmates, his other teachers, and of course, on his sweet wife, Julie, and their four children.

But there’s still more that I want . . . no, NEED . . . to say in this post. Through the years, I have lost virtually all of the hearing in my “bad” ear, as we always call it. Sadly, though, through the years, I have also lost much of the hearing in my “good” ear. I now wear a hearing aid in that one, so you see, I really do have a problem. I’m sad to say that folks who have good hearing aren’t always very conscious of what it’s like not to hear well. Many times I have to ask people to repeat what they’ve just said, but I try not to say, “Hunhh?” I see the eyes rolling when they have to say things over and over again. I’m not blind, just deaf. I’ve told Frank several times that I wish he could  go for just one day with my ears to know what it’s like to be very hard of hearing. I wouldn’t wish my ears on anyone for a long time, but I think if people could hear what I hear (or don't hear), they might understand better.

You may remember that Dr. Pallin said I might get hearing back in my right ear with that surgery, but I really didn’t want that. Just one of the reasons that Frank, my hero, and I have gotten along so well during our fifty-one plus years of married life is that I’m so hard of hearing. You see, he’s a real snorer! I just roll over on my good ear, and everything’s just fine. I think the Lord had this in mind when He put us together.

So . . . as much as I wish I could hear better just to avoid the embarrassment of having to ask folks to repeat what they’ve just said, I won’t be getting one of those new-fangled hearing aids that you can wear twenty-fours a day. I don’t see how those of you who have hearing in both ears sleep at night. I wouldn’t be able to, I’m sure.


Monday, April 08, 2013


I’ve been thinking about my cousins, especially my GIRL COUSINS, for several days . . . I guess because of our reunion in June. We seven girl cousins had only three boy cousins, and they were a lot older than we were. The first time I remember them was when they were in the military in World War II, far away from us little Southern cousins in Louisiana. All of our boy cousins have passed away, so now we girls are left to tell stories. I’m so sorry that I don’t know many about the boys.

I never lived close to my girl cousins when I was a child, but we always got together in the summer, when my mother and I visited her parents in Logansport, Louisiana, not far south of Shreveport. Let me introduce you to Marilyn, Linda, Gail, JoAnn, Leah,  and Sheila.

Marilyn was older than the rest of us, though not by many years, maybe three or four. Before I was born, she was like my parents' little girl. Mother and Daddy were married for nine years before I was born and thought they never would have children. They really spoiled Marilyn, so it’s a wonder that she wasn’t jealous of me. I don’t think she was, though, because we were good cousin-friends right up until the day she died. When we were all together in the summer, she bossed us around a good bit, and we complained, but I don’t think her bossiness hurt any of us. When her parents died within three months of each other, our home became her home. What I mean by that is that whenever she went “home” from college, she came to our house. There was a really good reason for that, but I’ll cover the reason a little later. When all of us got older and had our own families, we referred to Marilyn as the matriarch of our family.

The next girl cousin was Linda. We never saw much of her, but I loved being with her whenever we could get together. The main memory that I have of her is being at her house on the Fourth of July when I was about eight or nine. I was such a “fraidy cat” that I ran in the house when all the other kids were lighting sparklers. I missed out on a lot of fun when I was a child!

The one after Linda was Gail. Gail and I are the closest in age and had lots of fun when we were together, playing movie stars mainly. I remember that she always wanted to be Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t remember who I was, but I thought Liz was perfect for her because Gail had hair and beautiful eyes like the star. We also played paper dolls and walked downtown by ourselves to the movie when I visited her. At one time, her mother had some health problems that needed treatment in New Orleans, where my mother, daddy, and I lived. Gail and her mother lived with us for about six weeks. She attended my school during that time, and she was so smart. I had to study for my good grades, but everything came naturally to her. Sometimes we’d get in arguments, and our mothers would punish us by putting us in closets. I’d be relegated to my mother’s, and Gail would be put in mine, where the toys were. She’s scream and cry the whole time. Never could understand that because she had everything to play with. I had fun dressing up in Mother’s clothes.  Gail and I have so much fun reminiscing about those days.

I came after Gail, but I’m not my cousin, so I’ll pass on me.

JoAnn was next. She was Marilyn’s little sister, and they lived in Shreveport, the closest cousin to our grandparents. As a result, she went to Logansport much more than the rest of us did and knew our grandparents better. I don’t think I ever went to Logansport when Jo wasn’t there. As soon as I arrived, we started playing house or dolls. What fun we had! We woke our babies up in the morning, fed them during the day, bathed and dressed them, and put them to bed right on time in the evening. We also read movie star magazines and went to the movie downtown almost every evening because everybody’s favorite uncle, Bud, would give each of us a quarter, pile us in his truck, deposit us at the theater, and pick us up when the show was over. Sometimes we’d see the same movie two or three times during the week. Jo, Gail, and I also wrote letters to each other when we were at home. They always began, “Dear Jo (or Gail), How are you? I am fine.” That’s all I remember, though. When Jo and Marilyn’s parents died, the younger sister was in seventh grade. Jo spent the summer of 1954, after her parents were gone, with us in Pensacola and was supposed to live with our aunt and uncle in Texas, who had no children and were so happy about having her become their little girl. But she wasn’t happy, and nothing would do but she had to go back to live with Auntie, Uncle Arlie, and Sandra (that’s what everyone called me back then, but now the only person in the world who calls me that is JoAnn). So, in August 1954, I got a little sister . . . but she wasn’t a baby; she was thirteen, just a little shy of a year younger than I was. Both of us were happy! Today, she is still a sister to me!

After Jo came Leah and Sheila, two sisters, and the only ones who didn’t live in Louisiana. They lived way out in West Texas. They, too, were in Logansport lots of times when my mother and I were there. The thing that I remember most about them when we were children is putting on shows for our grandparents in the evenings. We’d practice all day and then perform for them. They loved our performances, encouraging us with smiles and laughter and applause. The only show that I really remember was the one in which Leah and Sheila would sing and dance to “Ballin’ the Jack.” In case you’ve never heard the song or in case you’ve forgotten, here are the words:

Now, first you put your two knees
Close up tight.
Then you swing ‘em to the left
Then you swing ‘em to the right.
Step around the floor kind of nice and light
Then you twist around and twist around
With all of your might.
Stretch your lovin' arms straight out in space
Then you do the eagle rock with style and grace.
Swing your foot way round and bring it back
Now that's what I call ballin' the jack!

They were so cute, swinging their skinny little arms and legs around. The three of us are still very close! (I just googled this song to get the lyrics and found that part of it is very risque, but I'm not telling which part. We surely didn't know that, and we didn't know it when we performed it as old folks at our first cousins' reunion four years ago!)

We have two more girl cousins, but they’re a lot younger than the rest of us. Kay is Gail’s little sister. I believe that Gail was about thirteen when Kay was born. I don’t have any childhood memories of her, but we’re great friends as adults. She’s such a sweet lady, whose heart is all wrapped up in three children and several grandchildren.

Becky is even younger than Kay. She is the only child of that favorite uncle of ours, Bud. When we had our first Kolb Cousins’ Reunion four years ago, she could hardly wait to get together with us old folks so that she could learn wonderful things about her dad, who died when Becky was only about five years old. We filled her ears! Lots of tears during our daughter’s slide show because we had collected lots of photos of Bud.

We have had two reunions now and are planning the third for this summer. When we Kolb cousins get together, I’ll assure you there’s no dead air. So many good cousin memories!


Kolb Cousins at Our First Reunion
(Leah, Sheila, Sandy, Becky, Gail)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

F is for "Please Help Me, I'm FALLING"

No. I’m not falling in love with anyone. I fell in love with my hero, Frank, fifty-two years ago, and I’m still in love with him. Not planning on falling in love again.

In fact, I never plan to fall at all, but that doesn’t keep me from tripping or slipping or stumbling and going splat down on my knees or my fanny . . . or my arm or ankle.

All my life I’ve been plagued with falls. Pictures of me when I was a little girl often show knees with bandages, so I must have been falling even back then.

The first bad fall that I remember was in our neighborhood in a post-World War II housing project in New Orleans. I was in sixth grade, so I guess I was about eleven years old. Every afternoon, we kids would grab our skates as soon as we got home and head for the sidewalk next to our apartment, strap on our skates, tighten them with our keys, and begin to skate dance all up and down the sidewalk, singing “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,” “Singing in the Rain,” “My Blue Heaven,” and other jazzy tunes. On one of those afternoons, I stumbled, fell, and broke my left arm. That was the first broken bone.

Many falls later, in 1962, when I was in college, I took another major fall. My roommate and I had been to lunch and were returning to our dorm room. For some silly reason, we started playing as we went up the stairs. I’d give Alice a little push, and she’d run up a few steps; then she’d give me a push, and I’d run up. When we got a few steps from the landing on the second floor, she gave me my push, and I stumbled. Clumsy girl! Down I went, landing on my ankle. The pain was excruciating. We both knew that I was hurt badly, so Alice took me to the infirmary, where the school nurse gave me her cure-all for every ailment—hot Jell-O. Go figure on that one! When the hot Jell-O didn’t heal my ankle, Alice took me to the hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where my ankle—broken, of course—was put in a cast.

I never thought that my clumsiness on a Wednesday afternoon in February 1961, would change my life forever, but it did.

I stayed out of class for several days; however, soon our house mother insisted that I go back to class. Almost all of my classes were on the second floor of Nelson Hall, so I was in a quandary. But Alice had the solution. You see, Alice had been in love with the new man on campus, Frank Young, since he came to Mississippi College in August 1960. It was really just a crush that she had, but you’d surely think she was in love . . . in love from afar, that is. Her solution? She’d get Frank to carry me up the stairs, and she could flirt with him while he performed his chore.

That decision was the beginning of a lifetime love affair, not for my sweet roommate, but for Frank and me. Oh, believe me, there were some tears before our courtship settled in. The night that I went back to our dorm room after Frank called me and asked me for a date was anything but pleasant. When I told Alice what I was doing, she burst into tears and accused me of taking her boyfriend. What? They weren’t even dating. She announced that she’d just go home that weekend, and I thought that was a good idea. When she came back to our room on Sunday evening, she was just fine. She knew that even if he didn’t date me, it certainly didn’t mean he’d date her. Alice and I remained best friends; we roomed together until Frank became my “roommate”; she was in our wedding; and we’re still good friends . . . fifty-two years later. A very fortuitous fall, don’t you think?

I continued to fall through the years . . . in our home, at church, on the campus where I taught, in Mexico, in Ukraine, everywhere we went. Sometimes I’d get scratches, sometimes bruises, always aches and pains afterwards. If you’re not from the South, you may not understand our expression for those aches and pains. We say we’re “stove up.” Please don’t ask for an explanation! Even worse than scratches, bruises, aches and pains is the embarrassment which accompanies public falls. My pride is always hurt the most!

Fast forward to March 2004. Frank and I had relocated from the South to Cerrillos, New Mexico, to be close to our daughter, Wendy, and her family. We needed to go back to Pensacola to pack up the final load of odds and ends that we’d left there. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and while he was loading heavy stuff, I was to do some light packing upstairs. I finished my easy job and headed down to put a box in the truck. I don’t think I was meant to navigate stairs because just about three steps from the bottom, I slipped. Once you’ve broken an ankle, you never forget the pain. It was back. I knew for sure that I’d broken the other ankle.

Poor Frank! That evening, after we’d been to the emergency room and had gotten a temporary cast put on, he had to carry me up the stairs again. You can believe for sure that this time it wasn’t nearly so romantic!

Friday, April 05, 2013


Yes . . . egg custard pie. There’s a story here, and eventually, I’ll get to it.

Frank, my husband (my hero) and I met in February 1961, had our first date on March 10, and married on December 17 of that same year. At that time, he had two parents, three brothers, and one sister. His older brother and his sister came down for our wedding in Pensacola, Florida.

In August 1962, we struck out for the Great Northwest—I had never been farther west than Crain, Texas, back in the ‘40s—so that I could see our country and meet my in-laws. What an adventure for a Southern girl who really had been practically nowhere in her twenty-two years!

I loved traveling across this beautiful land of ours, but as we drew closer and closer to Fall City, Washington, I became more and more nervous. What would my new parents and Frank’s siblings and families think of his new wife (not that he had an old one, you understand)? Would they think he’d made a big mistake? After all, he hadn’t known her for even a year when he had married her. Poor Sandy! She has no imagination for writing stories, but her imagination was hugely active that afternoon as they turned off the highway and neared her husband’s old home.

All of my worries disappeared as I was welcomed into the loving family. I immediately felt right at home and at one with new parents and siblings. Back in Pensacola, I had two wonderful parents, but I had no brothers or sisters either there or anywhere else. I was in Heaven with this readymade family way up in the foreign land of Washington State.

So . . . you’re wondering where the egg custard pie comes in. Have patience, dear reader.

Every day, as I hung around the kitchen keeping my mother-in-law company and hoping to learn culinary skills from this lady, I watched Grandma (she already had a gaggle of grandchildren, so we all called her Grandma) make delicious meals. She could take a little bit of this and a little bit of that from her amazing pantry and turn those little bits into meals that could feed the proverbial army!

One afternoon, she announced that she was making custard pie, Frank’s favorite, for dinner. Frank’s favorite? I didn’t know that! The ensuing conversation went something like this:

“I didn’t know custard pie was his favorite. Can you teach me how to make it?”

“Oh, I don’t think you could learn. It’s really tricky. If you have even one little hole or tear in the crust, you’ll have a burned mess in the pie pan, and the pie will be awful!”

Well, I’m not really a competitive person, but if you don’t want me to do something, don’t tell me that I can’t. Especially, don’t imply that I’m not smart enough.

Almost as soon as we arrived back home in Clinton, Mississippi, where we were students at Mississippi College, I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book. There, on page 149, was a recipe for Easy Custard Pie—just what I needed for my experiment to prove Grandma wrong!

The very first time I tried baking Frank’s favorite pie, complete with homemade crust with no holes, I was successful. Was I a proud young wife? You betcha! I must admit, though that if Grandma hadn’t “challenged” me, not even aware that she was “throwing down the gauntlet,” and if she hadn’t mentioned what holes in the crust would do, I might never have even tried making custard pie, and I’m almost sure that I would have had some small holes or tears in the crust. Hey . . . wait a minute! Maybe she knew that her “challenge” would inspire me rather than deter me. My mother-in-law was a really smart lady, so I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that she felt pretty sure that her son would have his favorite pie way down there in the Southland. Thank you, Grandma!

Oh, but I must add something else in order to keep myself honest. Fast forward about fourteen years . . .

It’s Christmas morning, and I want to do something really nice for my neighbors who help me almost every day by always being aware of our children as they play with theirs in the afternoon before I get home from teaching. Right after we open our gifts, I head for the kitchen to make custard pies for my friends. I keep two at home to serve family and guests and deliver three more around the neighborhood.

That afternoon, the Fitzgeralds, our across-the-street neighbors, come over for coffee and dessert. As Peggy, Tom, and Frank sit at the table and chat, I cut big pieces of my always-good custard pie and pile each piece high with Cool Whip. Yum! Yum! The plates are in front of all of us, and I take the first bite.

BLEAAAHHHH! I gag and almost spit it out right there in front of our company. Instead, I hold the tasteless pie in my mouth, grab all four plates, and run to the kitchen as two amazed visitors and one stumped husband watch. YUK! I forgot the sugar! We all have a good laugh, and I cut pieces from the second pie. Just like the king’s taster, I take the first bite. Ah! Creamy and delicious as almost always.

I never heard anything but thanks from the recipients of my gifts—including Peggy and Tom. I’ve always wondered, though, if I had made my faux pas more than once that Christmas morning.

And so, Grandma, maybe you were right about at least one pie but not because of a leaky crust!

Just in case you need a good custard pie recipe, here’s the one that I’ve been making for more than fifty years. I’ve never failed with it since the sugarless one, and even that one LOOKED good.


4 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups scalded milk – heat till it has bubbles around the side.
1 9-inch pie crust

Heat oven to 450º. Cover edge of pastry with 1 ½’-wide strip of aluminum foil. (I don’t usually bother with this, but it’s a good idea to do it.) Thoroughly mix eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Slowly stir in hot milk; pour immediately into unbaked pie shell. (To avoid spills, pull out oven rack, put pie pan on it, and then pour. If you get any filling on the edge of the crust, it WILL burn.) Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Be generous. Bake about 20 minutes, or until silver knife inserted 1” from side of filling comes out clean. The center may still look a bit soft, but will set later. Serve slightly warm or chilled. Top with Cool Whip.

It's pretty much obvious that I've used page 149 lots of times in more than fifty years!

Thursday, April 04, 2013


I know my mother meant well when she enrolled me in dance classes. The first ones met on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in a small studio on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the late ‘40s. I was eight or nine years old, but the memories—no nightmares—associated with those lessons remain vivid.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mother took me to tap lessons. If you’ve never seen a too-tall-for-her age, very round girl shuffling strapped-on, long, skinny shoes with big taps on the toes, you’ve really missed something. It was a sight to behold, but I’m sure not one you’d want to remember. One shuffle, two shuffle, three shuffle, slide. One shuffle, two shuffle, three shuffle, slide. Over and over again. My mind was always somewhere else, so I made more mistakes than those slim little girls with the cutesy feet. The class lasted only an hour or so, but it seemed an eternity to me.

On Thursday afternoon, my mother, who was determined that I’d learn to be graceful by taking dance classes, took me to ballet. Same place, same eternity, same clumsy girl. This time, though, the sight was different. There I was at the ballet barre, holding on tightly while my long, log-like legs went up and down and up and down in the most un-graceful way imaginable, my mother sitting to the side, just rolling her eyes. When we put on toe shoes, I’m sure all she could picture was broken ankles; however, I never broke an ankle, but I surely did turn both of them. I never could get up on pointe and stay there.

Those afternoons were never pleasant as we rode the streetcar home to our apartment in post-World War II housing. And then came Saturday morning. Back to the studio we’d go so that I could take acrobat. Oh, my, but that was an experience for all! As I tried to do somersaults, I’d roll off the mat. As other girls threw their shapely legs straight up in cartwheels, landing gracefully on the mat on both feet, I’d look warily at the mat, sling my legs maybe a foot off the floor, and usually land right on my fanny. But the worst thing of all was flips. I was so much overweight and so uncoordinated that I had to have help. The teacher had assistants who would put a belt around my waist, hook on straps, and literally throw me over in a flip. So, so embarrassing and so, so uncomfortable. I never landed correctly even with help.

I failed to mention earlier that my teacher, Miss Beryl (in my mind, she was  Miss Barrel!), weighed about 300 pounds and couldn’t do even one thing to model for us. Her assistants, older prize students, taught us what they knew with coaching from the sidelines from the teacher. I think my mother realized that the lessons were futile after a year or so and withdrew me from lessons. But, never fear, my mother was determined!

When I was in seventh grade, she enrolled me in Saturday night ballroom dancing. Would she never give up on making me graceful and ladylike? I guess not. Those lessons were fun because I was with other kids who probably didn’t want to be there any more than I did. They were equally as embarrassing as the other dance lessons, though, because I was at least a head taller than any of the boys in the class, and of course, boys and girls danced together. We learned the foxtrot, the tango, the waltz, and the Charleston . . . but not the jitterbug. I don’t know why that one didn’t enter in to our repertoire. The son of one of my daddy’s bosses was in the class, a little shrimp of a fellow but a sweet boy with a sense of humor. He called me Giant Economy Size, and I called him Sample Size. We danced together as much as possible and had fun in a situation that could have been a disaster for both of us!

My mother never gave up on making a lady out of me, and today I’m grateful. She always meant well, and actually none of those dance classes did any harm. Today, I see only good from them if only for a laugh.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


“Who’s sleeping on the cooling board?

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Well, somebody is! I think it’s Gail and Sandy’s turn. So let’s get it ready.”

And so went the conversation every evening at my grandmother’s house when we girl cousins were all about eight or nine years old. Truth be told, Sandy (that’s me!) probably never slept on it with one of her cousins. I was such a mama’s baby that I wouldn’t sleep with anyone except my mother. So I imagine she slept with me on the cooling board, and Gail slept somewhere else; or maybe Gail and JoAnn slept on the cooling board, and my mother and I slept in the big double bed right outside the bathroom. Even though the bed was just two feet from the potty, we still had to have a slop jar beside the bed. My grandmother was a firm believer in having the slop jar (called in polite society a chamber pot, but we Kolbs in Logansport, Louisiana, weren’t polite society) handy in case of an emergency. I don’t recall ever using it.

So someone slept on the cooling board, a couch (sofa, divan, davenport) that made down into a bed, albeit a very uncomfortable bed. Now, don’t get the idea of a futon or a trundle bed or some other fancy contraption from the late twentieth century. You had to lift up the seat and back parts until they clicked against each other, then push the back of the couch back flat and pull the front down flat. Since both the back and the front were pillowy, there was a great chasm between the two when they were down. How to remedy that? Fold a blanket long ways, and stuff it down to try to make a somewhat flat bed. Then the sheets were put on as best they could be, then a blanket if all of us cousins were there in the winter. Most of the time, we visited our grandparents in the summer, though, so only a top sheet was needed in the muggy South. Not a very comfortable bed . . . but someone had to sleep there!

So why was it called a cooling board? Beats me! As I began to write this post, I thought I’d see if Google had ever heard of one. Of course, “she” had! It seems that in the old days, back in my childhood, a cooling board was what dead people were laid out on. Why in the world my mother and her family would refer to the fold-down bed as a cooling board is beyond me.

My family is a bit strange in some ways, I must admit, and this designation is just one example of their strangeness. I’ve asked my cousins if they remember the cooling board, but none of them do. Hmmmm . . . maybe it’s Sandy who is strange. Do you think I dreamed this? I don’t think so. There are lots of things from my childhood that I wish I had clarified with my mother while she was alive. She and I will have lots to talk about when we meet again! Surely do hope the Good Lord will let me have a computer so that I can get our stories really right.

Slop jars -- Ours were the speckledy blue kind.

A real cooling board for dead people

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

B is for My BOY

I have a special place in my heart for all sorts of boys, but my favorites are between the ages of twenty-four and forty-five. I refer to these boys that I love so much as “my boys.” I know that political correctness dictates that we not refer to males as “boys,” probably as a carry-over from times when it really was a derogatory term. To me, though, it’s a term of endearment. I call a young man “my boy” when he is respectful, loving, funny, affectionate, energetic, smart, and it certainly doesn’t hurt if he’s talented. My boys have been named Jimmy and Mike and Eric and Keith and Todd, plus many more. But my favorite boy and the one who first wore the badge was my boy . . . my son . . . Jay Young.

I have written enough about Jay in the past almost twenty-one years to fill a book; however, I never pass up an opportunity to write one more thing about him. So here’s a little bit about my boy, Jay.

Even though we always joked a lot in our home and even though I could hardly ever keep a straight face when disciplining Jay and our daughter Wendy, he knew that I was the mother and he was the child. He respected me. Even after he was an adult, he respected me. One night, in a bar, his respect really shone through. His band, Velvet Melon, was playing that night, and evidently, as one of his friends told me later, the crowd had gotten rather raucous, something not unusual for a room full of twenty-somethings. Jay must have checked his watch and immediately quieted his friends.

“Okay, guys, in about five minutes, my mom and dad will walk through that door. Let’s calm down.” And they did.

Jay loved people. I never heard him finish a phone conversation with a friend without saying, “Love ya, man!” And he always told us that he loved us. What a great memory! On one of the tapes that we have of Velvet Melon, he leaned very close to the microphone and said, “I love you, Mom” for no apparent reason . . . just because he loved me.

My boy was also funny. Oh, he could tell a joke and have everyone in the room laughing, but that’s not the kind of funny I remember. The funny about Jay is wrapped up in things he did. He’d come up behind me in the kitchen and say in a very sweet voice, “It’s time, Mom.”

“No, Jay . . . I’m busy. I don’t have time right now.”

“Sorry, Mom,  but it’s time . . . time to put your head in the fan!”

Then he’d pick me up and walk toward the ceiling fan . . . ostensibly to do just what he said he’d do. I’d kick and squeal and laugh all the way to the dining room, where he’d lift me up to about four inches from the twirling fan. Of course, he didn’t really put my head in the fan, and I knew he wouldn’t, but we both acted as though he would. Some mothers wouldn’t have thought this funny, but I surely did, and I’m so glad I did because it’s a great memory!

My boy was also affectionate. He never left the house without giving me a hug  . . . and he hugged all his friends, both girls and boys. He had lots of girlfriends, and I’m sure he was very much affectionate with them, but that’s not a mother’s business with her adult son, is it?

And oh, my goodness, was my boy energetic! He was never still on the stage and seldom still off it. Almost every song that Velvet Melon played ended with Jay about three or four feet in the air. He bungee jumped; he sky dived; he was athletic in his own way . . . just for himself.

I’m an avid reader, but even though my boy was very much like me in some respects, he claimed that Charlotte’s Web was the only book that he ever finished. Don’t get me wrong. He read . . . just not books that I’d choose. He read every magazine he could get his hands on if it pertained to music, musicians, any instruments. He was smart, but he wasn’t what anyone  would call a student in anything except music.  But that was okay if he wasn’t a student in “book learning”: he was a gifted musician.

Talent? It oozed from Jay’s every pore. He played piano, xylophone, drums, guitar, bass, saxophone and all of them “to the max.” You’d have to hear him to believe his talent. But you can’t because, as you’ve probably already determined from my use of past tense, my boy died. He left us very suddenly on July 2, 1992, at the age of twenty-four. He’d have been forty-five two months ago. Thus my reason for the ages of my boys. When I’m with these “boys” of mine, I always think of my boy and wonder what he’d have been like had he lived.

Do I miss him? Do I think of him every day? Of course, I do. But I know I’ll see him again. When I get to Heaven and hear music in the distance, I know I’ll find him playing bass at the front of God’s Grand Band, right where he should be, no longer performing in bars.