Got “Cabin Fever?” Ease Your Mind With Our Secret Newell Lodge Remedy

Got “Cabin Fever?”

Ease Your Mind With Our Secret Newell Lodge Remedy

We exhibit all the symptoms.  Restlessness. Irritability. Loneliness. Quarantined at home. Southerners are falling prey to a tiresome malaise that is now increasingly common. My diagnosis? Cabin fever.  

The pandemic has stopped us in our tracks, and the negative effects of cabin fever are felt all over. We do the best we can with email, social media, and phones, but the reality of social isolation is sinking in.

 “I’m about to go stir-crazy!” according to one phone friend.

 Folks from the South are social creatures with warm, sweet personalities, who need to hug, shake hands, hug again…and again and again.  

“ I can’t stay cooped up in this house another minute,” a frantic mother scribed on Facebook. 

The vital family and social connections, which we cherish, are now on hold-until further notice.  

“I’m going plumb crazy,” a recent text message claimed.

Thing is, social distancing and sheltering in place run contrary to the very testament of our Southern hospitality.  As a result, we experience loneliness and an undefined restlessness.  Worse, our sense of self has been interrupted, leading to irritability.  

Take, for example, supper. We hesitate to invite friends and families for supper.  We haven’t been to Wal Mart in a month of Sundays.  We don’t stop our buggies in the center aisle at the Piggly Wiggly to hear the latest gossip.  

By chance, if we recognize our next-door neighbor, it is a miracle. Especially if she is wearing a surgical mask with gold sequins glued across the top and a pair of 70’s sunglasses that would make Elton John proud. Then, it’s nearly impossible to carry on a decent conversation from a sizable distance with your mouth and nose covered. Not to mention what it does to your lipstick!  

Good gosh, what do we sacrifice next- our manners?

Or perhaps you have a doctor’s appointment?  Be prepared.  The receptionist sits behind a plexi-glass barrier, wearing a plain Jane surgical mask.  She pulls your chart and instructs you to return to your vehicle and wait.  

“Do you prefer a call or text when the doctor is available?”

Oh, my. How in the world are we supposed to find out who else is sick, sympathize, and bless their hearts while sitting in the parking lot in 100 degree weather with the a/c running?  

Besides, the waiting room at the doctor’s office is a fountain of information on a variety of subjects. Waiting patients are a diverse group.  Their conversations are a fount of relevant engaging local news, ranging from local politics to who was pulled over for speeding by the police last night.  

Southerners are simply not equipped for staring at four walls in complete isolation from the world around them.

Whether we agree or disagree, it is crucial to the overall health and safety of the general public that we comply with COVID health and safety guidelines. We must continue to integrate Pandemic prevention into our lives for the foreseeable future. We find ourselves in need of a remedy for cabin fever? 

Our Secret Family Remedy for “Cabin Fever”

Our secret family cure is quite simple: return to nature. The great outdoors is a great healer for all sorts of malaise.

What is this healing power of nature?  Studies have shown that spending just 30 minutes a day outdoors will improve our mental and physical health and wellbeing.  What we do while we’re outside is not as important as being there.  You don’t have to walk briskly, practice yoga, or run a mile with earbuds jamming your favorite music.   You simply have to be. 

You don’t have to look far to find nature.  It’s right here in our backyards, a city park, the coast or a wooded area. You’ll find it’s possible to experience a sense of timelessness and a renewal of self, even while maintaining social distancing and sheltering in place. 

Here, in the Okefenokee region, you will find the tradition of cabin dwellings innate to the early swamp settlers. Cabins speak to us of family, self-sufficiency, and safe dwellings. Of course, here at Newell Lodge, you’ll feel all that, but we include all the modern conveniences that make a cabin feel like home. 

Five Ways To Overcome “Cabin Fever”

In south Georgia, a cabin in a grove of trees offers an opportunity to watch that wiry, little squirrel scamper from tree to tree looking for something he never seems to find. Here are some of the ways a bit of time in a rustic cabin can improve your outlook on life. You can:  

  1. Let the world unfold around you like a patchwork quilt.
    Wild Black-Eyed Susies grow along the fence line.  Appreciate their beauty by picking a bouquet to place on your table. With a little water, they’ll last for days.
  2. Sit in the front porch rocker and watch the sunrise while horses graze silently in the pasture.
    Gentle rocking and a nice hot cup of coffee brings soothing relief to frazzled thoughts. Listen to the quietness.  Feel the stillness.  The morning dew glistens on the grass as though it had been sprinkled with transparent glitter for your enjoyment.
  3. Spend time at the barn with the horses.
    Our equine friends understand our emotional state.  They make no judgments and listen without interrupting. They have no advice to give-only love and acceptance.  Who could ask for a better friend?
  4. Feed the chickens.
    The bucket is in the feed room, along with the scratch feed.  They’ll hear you coming and rush to the chicken coop door. It’s a great feeling to be appreciated, even by the chickens. It’s a simple task with great rewards.
  5. Just breathe.
    Take a leisurely stroll beneath the sprawling oak trees. Sit in the swing for a spell. Think of nothing but breathing the crisp morning air filled with nature’s sweetness.

Time spent in the great outdoors will strengthen our resolve and resilience, preparing us for what is to come.   This small dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered, and the stresses of the pandemic are held at bay. That cabin fever? Maybe it can be a good thing after all.


Chasing Ole Rattler: the True Story of a Racepond Boy and His Dog

To most folks, Rattler appeared to be a run-of-the-mill dog. But to a six-year-old Harvin, Rattler was anything but ordinary. 

“There was nothing Ole Rattler wouldn’t chase, except a bear,” Harvin recalls. 

“ He would run a deer, tree a coon, even catch a wild hog or an armadillo – anything, but a bear.”

Thinking of Rattler always brings a smile to Harvin’s face as he reminisces.  

“Zeke Layton’s red tick hound had a large litter of puppies. One Saturday afternoon, Zeke stopped by the house and offered a puppy to me-if I wanted him.”

Did he ever! 

“In just a few minutes, Daddy and I were in the truck on our way to Zeke’s house.” 

Pretty soon, they pulled up out front, then got out to take a look. 

“The mama dog and the puppies were in a make-shift bed under the old wooden porch of the house,” he recalls. 

There were about six or seven squirming little puppies left in the litter. 

“I had to crawl in a little ways and quickly spotted the one I wanted.”

 He was the runt. 

Daddy said, ‘Son, you’ve picked the ugliest dog in the litter, but if that’s the one you want, get him.’  From then on, it was me and Ole Rattler.” 

One look at Rattler confirmed that, in fact, he was ugly.  The short hard coat of white hair, speckled with red, and long legs accompanied the sad, soulful look on his freckled face.  As he grew, Rattler’s muscular frame, long tapered tail, and his low hanging ears did nothing to improve his looks.  

Fortunately, love sees beyond the physical appearance and captures the essence of the heart and soul.  When you’re six, it is quite simple. The boy loved the dog and the dog loved the boy.  

Theirs was a friendship that lasted for more than 12 human years, or 84 years in dog years.   

Every afternoon, without fail, Rattler was standing at the roadside, waiting for the school bus to make its appointed stop.  As Harvin stepped from the bus, Rattler was there barking and jumping in excitement that he was home at last. 

“It was always such a good feeling that Rattler was so happy to see me.”

Red Ticks are known to be loving and loyal pets.  While Rattler was gentle, he also had a good nose for danger and was extremely protective.  Rattler never hesitated to jump from the back of the truck or bound from his resting place beneath the oak tree,  barking and growling, if anyone dared approach Harvin.

Young Harvin, the namesake of his uncle, Harvin Cason, grew up in Racepond, on the edge of the Little Okefenokee Swamp. Harvin was the youngest of eight children and was the center of his father’s world.   

The dark, ominous backdrop of the Little Okefenokee was created by plentiful overhanging trees growing in and around the marshy, brackish-like waters of slow running creeks  and thick woodlands. This slice of wilderness  provided excellent hunting for Racepond locals, including Harvin and his father.  In those days hunting clubs were non-existent, much less their possessive, posted claims of TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.    

It was here, in the Little Okefenokee, that Harvin and his father, Allen Carter spent countless days, walking the woodlands with Ole Rattler in tow.  Rattler loved to roam, exploring and tracking the scent of other animals. Rattler was rugged and he was fast. Harvin enjoyed watching his exploits more than the hunting. 

Under the guise of hunting, their ramblings became more about the treasured times that Harvin, his dad and Rattler spent together.  More often than not, a shot was never fired. Instead they would spend an entire day tromping through the thick woods, dead leaves cracking under the weight of each footstep.      

Sometimes,  Ole Rattler’s tracking led him deeper into the woods than Harvin or his dad dared to venture. It wasn’t unusual for them to head back to the house without Rattler, knowing he would find the way back home.  

Other days, the trio would make the short trip to their favorite fishing spot in Gum Slough, an area just north of Racepond near Fort Mudge.  

Excited, they would “get up before daylight, get our fishing poles and bait together, and pack a lunch of whatever was left over from supper,” Harvin remembers. “Then, as we would head towards Gum Slough, daylight would break. There was nothing any prettier than the morning sunrise.”

There was always the momentary thrill with the fishing line would bob in the water, signaling there would be fried fish for supper that evening.   

“I guess we were naturalists, when we didn’t even know the meaning of the word.”  

 The solitude, the stillness and essence of nature strengthened the bond between a loving father, his younger son, and a homely dog. 

In later years, Harvin did more than his fair share of fishing.   Those times paled in comparison to the fishing days of his youth. Nothing could be better than Gum Slough with his father, an old cane pole and a box of freshly dug worms, with Rattler sleeping at his side, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. 

 “I’ve always tried to find another dog like Ole’ Rattler.  But I never have.”   

Like Ole Rattler, some things can never be replaced.  Poor Rattler survived  snake bites, multiple injuries when hit by a car, and encounters with wild animals, except a bear.  His sole purpose in life was to bring happiness to a young boy in Racepond, Georgia. Rattler’s job was done when he died of old age of 12. 

Like Ole Rattler, in your heart you know where home lies. 

Whether it’s the bond between a boy and his dog or the cherished memories of walking through the woods with your father, returning home as the sun is setting. Or it’s the aroma of  fatback in a cast iron skillet, grits with stewed tomatoes, and the scent of biscuits cooking that reaches you as the back door opens. In that place, you hear the muffled voice of your mother coming from the kitchen, realizing that in that brief moment you are loved.  

The sweet memories of home will always linger within the heart.  Just like Ole Rattler and his boy.


The Sandy Path Home: Ecology, Tourism and Newell Lodge after COVID-19

What if the natural world we love so much no longer existed? What if there were no blue skies overhead? No live oak trees or sandy beaches? What if the seasons never changed? I can’t imagine what that world would be. But the recent devastation wrought by COVID-19 have left many of us shaken and questioning the path forward.

Like you, I feel fortunate to live in a region filled with a wealth of nature and a diverse cultural history. In my capacity as a regional tourism leader, both in my Charlton County home and at Newell Lodge and Resort, I have learned that the sandy path to home is also the one that leads to a better future.

The question of “How do share our unique resources with others?” is one that has become more important than ever as each of us in the region, in the nation, deals with the effects of COVID-19 on our local economies.

The answer is simple and one which we embrace at Newell Lodge - tourism.  

Ecotourism is the heart of Newell Lodge. The lodge is a favored Southern hospitality destination for multigenerational horse and nature enthusiasts who want a memorable Okefenokee experience. As soon as it’s safe, we’ll re-open our cottages and bistro and fill every room with laughter and gratitude.

Nature is a great healer. When people finally begin to leave their homes and rejoin family and friends to celebrate life and to grieve what has come to pass, they will necessarily turn to the wonders of nature.

How do we encourage regional economic growth without destroying the natural environment which makes us who we are?

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”  

At Newell Lodge, this type of responsible travel translates into a direct experience of a gently built environment which conserves the 300 year old oak grove at the heart of the property. We work tirelessly to protect Buffalo Creek, which winds through our campgrounds, and to offer visitors a window into the history, culture and families which are intrinsic to live in the Okefenokee region.

Ecotourism is not only necessary but critical to the tourism industry in the U.S. and our state.  This is especially true for South Georgia and our Coastal communities. It is so much more than just traveling and sightseeing.   

It’s also about growth of resources for our neighbors. People who work at the lodge are local, and the money guests and diners at SwampFire Backwoods Bistro spend goes back into the local or regional economy. 

We invest in eco-tourism because we’re committed to consciously creating sustainable relationships between people and places we love.

In the days ahead, as businesses reacclimate to a new normal, we must encourage people to explore the coastal area’s ecologies and microclimates in ways that positively impact both the environment, through preservation and restoration, and our communities, through positive growth. 

You’ll see more of this sense of exploration in our horseback riding offerings, including family oriented events and trail rides, as well as yoga with horses.

Environmental education and conservation create economic opportunity. Now and for the future, we can work together to create a positive and exceptional experience for everyone through ecotourism. 

According to an article by written by Richard Louv, 

“People are wired to love and need exposure to the natural world.  Researchers have found that regardless of culture, people will gravitate towards nature.”

It is this concept of sharing our love for the places we call home that propels us forward as we embrace ecotourism. Our marketing strategies must invite people into our communities who share these interests, rather than being bound by geography or the limitations of the past. 

Value-based sharing of our region’s ecology and lifestyles is likely our best opportunity for sustainable growth as we recover from the impact of COVID-19.

 Researchers at the University of Rochester report that “exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous with money.”

Shouldn’t we nurture the human connection we all value, build our communities, and encourage generosity in all that we do?

Shouldn’t we consciously create the future we want for our children?

Several years ago, rich deposits of the mineral zircon were located on Newell Lodge property.  Great news, right?  The Carter family, my family, thought so at first.  Unfortunately, the trees would be removed for mining.  Our family passed on the opportunity. Had we chosen otherwise, would Newell Lodge be here today? Probably not.

Today, Newell Lodge guests can continue to embrace nature-based activities surrounded by a unique 300-year-old natural oak grove, surrounded by the beauty of our native scrub forests while picnicking, fishing, or bird watching. Through these and other experiences, guests increase their appreciation and understanding of the natural and cultural values found in the Okefenokee corridor of the coastal region.    

Visitors here are actively encouraged to explore the local ecosystem and history, whether at Newell or by a visit to the Okefenokee.  Similarly, guests are encouraged to visit to the region’s historical and natural attractions of our coastal partners. Through one-of-a-kind experiences, we elevate the heritage and culture of the region and increase appreciation of the relaxed lifestyle available to us in South Georgia: one of rejuvenation, meaningful connection, and deep natural beauty.

Charlton County is my home. I have lived in appreciation of the natural beauty of our region my entire life, as has my mother and her mother, as well. My grandmother spent her childhood years in the Newell community, just across the railroad tracks on the right.  During those days Newell supported a thriving turpentine industry. My Grandmama’s stories of those long-ago days are rich with our local culture and a sense of family. 

One story that I remember is that she and her sister, Mildred, loved to walk along the dirt roads, picking wildflowers for their mother, my great-grandmother. She recalled the beauty of the flowers they chose, the sweet coolness of spring afternoons, and the simple pleasures she shared with her family. Her story reminds me of a simple truth, one that is at the heart of who we are. Everything we need to make Folkston and Charlton County grow is already here, right at our fingertips. We have but to choose the sandy path back home.

We have a story to tell. The story is found deep in our culture, our small-town atmosphere, our southern hospitality, and an ecological system that compares to no other.  In the days ahead of COVID-19, it is my mission to promote Newell Lodge and my home of Charlton County as an ecological vacation destination. 

Together, we can share our beautiful Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, rich colonial Wiregrass and Swamper heritage, our industrial era legacy of timber and trains, exceptional southern cooking, exclusive lodging accommodations. We can enjoy simple things: horseback riding, exploring nature trails, and investigating the wonders of our natural environment.

We can improve our lives and those of others through this generosity of spirit.

Our stories are those of Indians and outlaws, of steel magnolia women and hard-working men who faced and overcame adversity and fell in love with prairies and pine forests, wrestled alligators, charmed bees, and found beauty in the everyday, all around them.

In the days ahead, as life returns to “normal,” we invite you to become a part of our story, even now, as you rebuild and renew cherished relationships. Together, let’s experience the sweetness our lives in Folkston and Charlton County have to offer.

You have my commitment and belief. In the proactive support of ecotourism, we redefine what Charlton County and the Okefenokee Swamp means to Coastal Georgia tourism. 

We can redefine the future.

Albert Einstein said, “"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."  

How great is that?   


Ashley Carter-Gowen is  the event coordinator and dedicated equine expert at Newell Lodge, LLC, where she is a partner in her family’s business.  She received her degree in Diversified Agriculture from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and currently serves as executive director of the Charlton County Development Authority.             

Ashley believes that our future can be found in the simple things: horseback riding, exploring nature, and investigating the wonders of our natural environment.  Her mission is to promote Newell Lodge and her home of Charlton County as an ecological vacation destination. 

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Mama’s Easter Parade: Reflections on Love, Faith and Shiny Shoes

On Saturday, the week before Easter we made our annual trip to Waycross to Schreiber’s Bootery to buy shoes.  Mama preferred that Mr. Schreiber himself wait on us because, “he won’t sell you a pair of shoes that don’t fit.”  

Shoes were important to my mother, but not because she loved shoes.  Growing up in the depression, she wore shoes that were simply too small.  

“I promised myself that my children would always have shoes that fit them.”  

The promise was one she kept. Shoes for all five girls were purchased there because “Mr. Schreiber knows shoes.”

The brand-new black patent leather shoes were so shiny that I could see my reflection.  

“Can I wear them home?”   

“No. These are your Sunday shoes.  We have to save them, so they’ll look good for church.” 

Our next stop, down the street from Scriber’s, was Penney’s.   There, we purchased lacy, white socks and white cotton gloves to complete our Easter ensembles.  

Afterward, we would dart into Kress', so Mama could buy cashews and maple nut goodies for my Daddy.  We then waited in the car while she went into the Amspacher's bakery for crème horns, a bonus to go with the cashews.

On the ride home, I took my black patent shoes out of the box. For a minute, I inhaled the new shoes smell, felt the smoothness of the patent leather, and wondered if I would have a new Easter dress this year.  

At Easter, the winter chill turns into the slight coolness of April.  The azaleas were in full bloom, perhaps a little too early, but still vibrant.  Like clockwork, Aunt Gussie would arrive with newly sewn dresses for my sisters and me.  

As she clicked the gold latches on the worn tan suitcase, I anxiously watched as she pulled out the newly sewn clothes.  

First, everyone received a set of shorty pajamas.  

“Where are the dresses?” I wondered as I leaned over the heads of my younger sisters, trying to get a better look.  One year, Aunt Gussie made stylish black velvet dresses with rounded white collars for my sister, Sue, and me, which pleased us both.

On Easter morning, we would each find our pretty new dresses perfectly pressed and hanging in our closet.  Our shiny shoes, lacey socks, and prim white gloves were lined up on top of the deep freezer in the kitchen. 

Getting to church for a family of seven was quite an ordeal, and Easter was no exception.  The five of us would hurriedly dress in our new outfits with scratchy crinolines, eat our breakfasts and arrive our usual 5 minutes late for Sunday school. 

For the next 45 minutes, we listened to the reassuring story of Christ’s great love for us and His victory over death. Even now, some 58 years later, it’s this message, this memory, which helps to renew my hope each Easter day, a cornerstone of our family’s faith.

As we leave our Sunday school classes and head to sanctuary with Mama and Daddy in the lead, Mrs. Madeline Lott, stopped to remark to my mother.

“Gladys, I don’t know how you do it.  All five of these girls look like they just stepped off the band wagon.”  

When I heard her kind words, I was so proud - not only of my beautiful Easter outfit and the compliment - but proud of my mother who managed to pull off her own personal Easter parade with her five beautiful, beloved daughters, year after year.

Despite all the world’s uncertainty, may Easter bring the timeless promise of joy, hope and faith to you this year. 

Kay


Hey, Mama, I’m Keeping Your Junk (What I Found While Stuck at Home Cleaning Closets)

Dear Mama,

No one is any more surprised than I.  Neither of us ever imagined the day when I would hesitate to throw anything in the garbage.  This is your junk. It’s tangible. I touch it. I see it. A little burst of happiness explodes with laughter.  Remember the arguments you and I had about keeping things vs. throwing them away?  

“Mama do you have any carbon paper from 30 years ago before you could “Xerox, a copy.”

 “As a matter of fact, I do.  Look in that filing cabinet under “C”.  

 “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not.  Just get what you need and leave the rest. Don’t take the whole pack.  Somebody else might need some other time.

“Good, gosh! What don’t you have in this filing cabinet?” 

“I’ll save everything while your throw yours away.   You can keep your cabinet tops and closets clean and when you need something, come get mine.”  

My tone was laced with sarcasm.

 “Okay, there’s no sense in us both having cluttered houses.”  

Same tone. Right back at me.

Coming to grips with your death has been difficult for me.  I often wonder if I told you enough how much I loved you. Our lives were so intertwined. 

All that “stuff” we argued about? It’s piled up in the shed just off my carport.  You said many times, “nobody wants this worn out stuff of mine.”  

You were right, because it is still sitting there.  

Like so many others, I’m at home avoiding the first global pandemic in a century. Many people on this Earth will be coming to grips with the deaths of their own loved ones. I pray we make it through.

To keep my hands busy and thoughts occupied, I’m cleaning out closets today.  A few things of yours remain, and those I will store, for a while longer,

 But, Mama, I still wonder, ‘why did you keep all this stuff?’  I don’t have an answer and guess I never will.  So, I’ll keep it for now. 

 If it’s still here when I leave this earth, Wendy & Ashley can decide what to do with it. They will probably keep it, too.

Love,

Kay 


Today’s Corona-19 and the Lessons of Y2K: Better Safe Than Sorry

At the precise close of the 20th century, the nation experienced its first big scare of the new millenium: the Y2K phenomenon.  Many people believed that all computers would shut down at midnight on December 31, 1999. 

The public was told that banks, power plants, tech companies, and other critical businesses, would be affected worldwide. Millions of dollars were spent in an attempt to avoid the risks associated with computers not recognizing the year 2000.   In response to this perceived threat, the general public began stocking up on food and other supplies in readiness. Naysayers said Y2K was a hoax.

When my mother passed away in 2013, we found boxes stored in her house marked Y2K. Each was filled with canned goods, sugar, salt, paper products (sorry, there is no toilet paper left), and other daily necessities. 

She was prepared.  She could have provided for herself, her family, and distant relatives.  That was the plan.  

Fortunately, nothing happened.  Why? Because of public readiness.

According to Paul Saffo, a professor at Stanford University, “The Y2K crisis didn’t happen precisely because people started preparing for it over a decade in advance.”  

The fact that nothing happened gave way to skepticism of an actual threat.  The inherent nature of early warnings is that they often appear unnecessary when precautions are followed.  

We teased my mother many times about her over-zealousness in being prepared for Y2K.  Our opinions did not faze her, in the least. Instead, she was thankful that nothing catastrophic happened and secure in the knowledge she was ready if it had.  

Unfortunately, COVID-19 did not allow us the luxury of advance preparation. In the midst of these unprecedented times, most are simply trying to get a sense of direction.  We are anxious, uncertain, and yes, afraid. So, what do we do now?  

  1. We pray instead of worry.  Worry leads to panic; Prayer leads to Peace.
  2. Understand the role we play. Our choices will have an impact on the safety and well-being of others and our economy.    Simply following the guidelines of our state and national leaders, we will avoid putting others at risk.  This will slow the spread of this highly contagious virus and reduce the number of people infected. What a fantastic contribution.
  3. Find courage.  Mark Twain wrote that, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear-not absence of fear.”   Even though we’re afraid in the midst of this deadly global pandemic, we must move forward with hope and love.
  4. Make practical preparations.  The basics.  Food, medicine, and cleaning supplies.  Resist the urge to stockpile or hoard. The CDC states that people should have sufficient quantities of household items and groceries for a “period of time.”  Homeland Security recommends two weeks’ worth of supplies. In other words, we should not find boxes labeled “COVID-19” in the back of your closet in 2034. 

An Invitation to Personal Preparedness

I invite you to join me in another type of preparedness in choosing to remain at home with family. While sheltering, make a special effort to show kindness to others. Take care of your health. Rely on your faith. Use your phone and the internet to spread hope.  

When this pandemic has passed, and our loved ones are safe, we will know our efforts have not been a waste of time. 

 


 

Mud Pies: A Recipe for Home

As the days lengthen, we are reminded of the importance of simple things: the fine art of creative play and the enduring nature of family.  Twilight arrives too soon in this sweet, skip-time recollection of a south Georgia childhood. 

Memories like these sustain us as we collectively shelter with our loved ones to reduce the spread of Coronavirus-19.  For children, the boredom can be as difficult as the threat.

Gratefully, early morning  or late afternoon walks along our beautiful white sandy roads lined with wildflowers - with plenty of space for children to roam - remains open to us all. 

Mud Pies,

Frog Houses,

Lighting Bugs,

Barbie Dolls.

 

Imaginations play all day

Sadness at twilight

“Time to come in for supper.”

Mark our place. Finish tomorrow.

 

Tomatoes and Rice.

Biscuits in the oven

Table set-smells so good

Whose turn to say the blessing?

 

I am Home

  I belong

I am secure

  I’m happy.

 

Poem “Mudpies: A Recipe for Home” is © 2019 by M. Kay Carter. All Rights Reserved.

May you feel secure, healthy and happy in these days spent at home.


Daddy’s Truck and Simple Times: Who Could Ask For More?

Daddy drove an old, white pickup truck with a running board.

The neighbor on the corner used to joke with Daddy, that he could set his watch by the sound of that old truck coming down the street every day at six o’clock.

My sisters and I could, too. We would be excitedly waiting to hear or see Daddy’s truck headed to the house. The first one to spot him would scream, “There he is!”

With those three words, the four of us took off in a dead run to the end of the street, where we impatiently waited on the corner. As he approached at 5 mph and rolled to a stop, Daddy’s smile was the first thing we saw.

Sue and I step up on the running board, holding tightly onto Daddy’s strong, tanned arm through the opened window. Grace and Kathy are instructed to “sit down” in the bed of the truck where they can barely see over the edges.

We girls ride the short distance back to the house, scarcely moving and grinning from ear to ear.

Other days, Daddy would stop, lower the tailgate, lift us up, and we would ride there, dragging long, spindly sticks on the dirt road.

Without fail, someone always dropped their stick on the slow ride home. Later we walked barefoot down the dusty road to retrieve the treasured stick.

On Fridays, a brown paper sack filled with candy rested on the front seat of that old truck. As soon as we jumped down from the tailgate, we rushed to the truck door as Daddy handed out the bag of candy. Tootsie roll pops, Bazooka bubble gum, Mary Janes, Bit-o-Honeys, Lemon Heads, and a full-size candy bar for each of us.

Even today, when I take that first bite of a Baby Ruth, for a moment I am seven years old, standing next to that old white truck. My reflections of those Friday evenings are much sweeter than the chocolate bar.

That old truck wasn’t only for dragging sticks from the tailgate or riding on the running board. During the hot summers the entire family would ride to Aunt Effie’s house at Riverside in neighboring Brantley County.

We girls rode in the back of the truck, sitting with our backs against the cab, hair blowing, singing as loud as we could over the roar of the truck and the wind.

While the adults visited, we played outside until Mama called us to help pick grapes from the loaded vine in the backyard. For every grape that went into the bucket, we ate two.

Mama cautioned us.

“Don’t swallow the seeds, you’ll get appendicitis.”

Having no idea what appendicitis was, I was careful not to swallow any grape seeds and worried if I did.

Aunt Effie’s supper table was pretty simple. Sitting on the wooden benches around the crowded table, we devoured rice and tomatoes, fried bacon, homemade biscuits and honest to goodness homemade cane syrup.

Goodbyes were said as we climbed into the back of the truck and headed home, continuing to wave at Aunt Effie and Uncle Riley as we travelled down the lane to the hard road.

The sweet aroma from the buckets of grapes and vegetables sitting safely in the corner of the truck bed filled the night air, as my sisters and I huddled together for the 20-minute trip home.

Darkness was falling as we climbed down from the back of the truck, ponytails no longer tightly bound in rubber bands, faces still cool from the night air, and voices hoarse from singing.

Simple times filled with love, laughter, and joy. Who could ask for more?


This Valentine’s Day, Remember Your First True Love

Time has a way of diminishing some things, but memories of your first love lie just beneath the surface of your heart, waiting for the cue to take center stage, once again.

First love has the power to pull us back to who we used to be; to another place in time. In my experience, it’s the one relationship that never stays completely in the past.

The object of my affections was a handsome football player, who thought I was the most beautiful girl in our high school.

We shared classes during the day, talked on the telephone for hours at night, had standing dates on Friday night after the football game and then again on Saturday. If he was able to borrow his mother’s car, we spent Sunday afternoons together. For two and half years, we were inseparable.

The two optimistic teenagers that we were mapped out their futures, oblivious that their dreams were just that-dreams. Such is the hope of true love and the innocence of youth.

The tale we told ourselves went something like this.

We would attend the same college. Of course, we would be married by then. Study hard, graduate, and find the perfect jobs. He would become a great writer. I would teach high school literature to students who would be mesmerized by every word that I uttered.

That was the plan. In that order. Unflawed.

How would we finance two college educations? How would we pay for rent, food, transportation, and electricity ? I don’t recall those pesky little details ever entering our conversations. They seemed so insignificant at the time.

As high school graduation approached, things began to change. We chose different colleges. My family and I were moving over 100 miles away. Our relationship became a mixture of teenage drama, immaturity, and self-doubt.

When would we see each other? How would a long-distance relationship work? Finally, I broke his heart. The goodbyes that followed were sad and painful.

“If something happens and we never get back together, I will find you when we are both 65,” he said.

“I want to know how things turned out for you. I know you will be that same beautiful girl that I love.”

We went our separate ways, though I thought of him throughout the years.

“Was he happy?” I wondered. “ Had he achieved his goals?” In my mind he was still the serious-minded boy I that I loved with my whole adolescent heart so many years ago.

Fate, as it will, intervened with the answer to my questions.

Two months before my 65th birthday, I was working at my desk. Out of the blue, he walked into my office. Just like that.

I recognized him immediately, despite the smile lines around his eyes and a touch of thinning hair. He glanced at me, without the slightest recognition. (Ouch, that stung.)

When I introduced myself, there was a moment of hesitation and then the awkwardness melted away. We gave each other hugs. Catching up, we talked about children, grandchildren, and careers.

He had returned to his hometown, where we had attended high school. He remembered the promise to find me at age 65. Much to my surprise, he was living across the street from my old house.

“What were the chances of that?” I asked.

With a smile, he responded, “ I know. I see you every day.”

It was true love, or, so I thought. And, now? Yes.

First love withstands time. First love is always present, always true, filling your heart with warm memories. Those once in a lifetime magical moments are yours to keep.

So, this Valentine’s Day take a moment to remember your first true love. I hope your memories are as lovely as mine.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Thanksgiving Blessings of Times Past Remain to This Day

The bang of the door, the scent of home, and the love and laughter that comes from being surrounded by our kinfolk never grows old

Thanksgiving dinners were always held at our house on Georgia Street. Situated at the center of the block, it also held center stage for our larger-than-life family. Kinfolk gathered around 10 o’clock in the morning and the festivities ended well after dark had settled on the day.

Coming in from the outside cold, your senses were assaulted with scents of home as soon as you opened the back door. The kitchen was filled with whiffs of cakes baking in the oven, the sweet potatoes still warm, and the steam from the turkey giblets simmered on the stove-top. The turkey sat patiently on the counter next to the stove, waiting its turn to roast.

At the heart of the activity was Mama, standing at the kitchen table mixing up the cornbread dressing: one pan with oysters and one without.

Soon, the top of the deep freezer, now covered with a white tablecloth, as well as the kitchen counters, would be filled with enough food to feed an army. The buffet in the dining room was already laden with Japanese fruit cake, four pumpkin pies, four lemon meringue pies, two pecan pies (pecans were expensive) and Mama’s famous lemon-cheese cake.

More delicacies would arrive with the family. Next to their strong and unwavering sense of family, the Clarks loved food.

Carloads of relatives arrived and unloaded, and the yard and house soon filled to overflowing.

Uncle L.G., Uncle Noah Lee, and my mother, Gladys, each had families of five children. Uncle Laverne, Aunt Mildred, and Uncle Elbert had a combined total of 5 children.

Even though the children were instructed to stay in the yard, it was only a matter of minutes before the whole lot of us were off and running toward the barn, our favorite place for adventure. Slipping under the fence, we carefully made our way across the pasture. Walking as fast as we dared, no one made a sound for fear of alerting the horse or the cows, but especially the bull. The bull had never attacked anyone, but being kids we assumed the worst.

The mob reached the barn with one objective in mind. Climb it.

Reaching the top of the slanted tin roof required a special technique. After stepping on the lone cross tie, where the old hand pump stood on a pole, you would wedge your foot (shoes were recommended, although being barefoot was always an option) in between the smooth wooden slats of the lean-to. Then, begin slowly inching yourself upward by grabbing the end post, by which you pulled yourself up to the first level. This surface comprised the only flat portion of the roof. After the first kid was up, it was customary to give the city cousins a hand, as barn climbing was primarily a holiday experience for them.

After levering yourself upward another foot, you were now on the rooftop. Balance and caution were required, as the ground was approximately 20 feet below. The situation was better if everyone sat down, but when you were double-dog-dared to walk the length of the roof and back, no South Georgia kid worth his salt would refuse to take the dare.

Cobs of corn and hay string were passed out to everyone, with the instructions to securely tie the hay string around the corn cob, because there were no extras and once you were up, you didn’t go back down. After the corn was tied tightly to the cob, you would walk as far as you dared towards the edge and lie down on your stomach, meticulously dropping your string. Then, you’d wait. Pretty soon, one of the cows or the horse noticed the dangling piece of corn and came to investigate. In hushed, excited whispers we gave the warning.

“Be quiet. Here they come.”

The endeavor was kind of like fishing, except the unshelled corn was the bait, and we were trying to catch a cow instead of a fish. The first tug of the string as the cow took a bite was exciting, but a little scary. More often than not, the string was dropped in lieu of being pulled over the edge as the cow grappled with the corn.

Soon, we could hear the adults calling us to Thanksgiving dinner.

“Y’all come on in. It’s time to eat.”

Dropping our makeshift poles and lines, we clambered down, the older kids helping the younger ones. No child was left behind. The horse and the cows were occupied, busily eating the discarded corn. They paid no attention as we ran past them in a herd, headed back to the house.

Soon, 20 little angels said the blessing.

The men stood outside talking while the young’uns were served. Granny sat at the head of the dining table, smiling and enjoying every minute of the festivities, while Aunt Nita fixed her a plate.

As always, the boisterous and booming laughter and loud voices which accompanied the meal rang through the house. Kids ran in circles around the living room, playing with Uncle Noah Lee. Mama darted from the kitchen to the dining room in fast motion. Daddy removed to the den, trying in vain to hear the TV.

After dinner, we children drew names for Christmas, the day when we do the whole thing over again. Around dusk-dark, leftovers were served for supper before everyone headed home. Those who didn’t stay for supper filled a box, taking it with them to enjoy later.

As the last car departed, quietness settled over the house. Thanksgiving was over. But, the blessings of those days remain with me to this day.


Watch Out for Those Yucky Pumpkins! A Cautionary Tale

Before making your pie, make sure you know your yucky pumpkins.   

Three years ago, my youngest grandson, Logan received a diagnosis of ASD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  While the finding does not define him, autism is a part of who he is and for that reason, we embrace it.  

He sees this world differently.  It is no easy task for any of us, but especially for him.  

The happiness and laughter outweigh our sadness, as we live with this delightfully intelligent child.  He has a unique way of making sense of things, with a language and an operating system all his own. 

Occasionally, he is downright refreshing.   Oftentimes, he is entertainingly funny.

Last fall, his class assignment was to draw his favorite part of the book, The Ugly Pumpkin, and write a sentence describing the book.  He drew and colored four orange pumpkins, three with happy faces and one with a sad face.  

The sentence read, “The pumpkin was happy.” 

 Aunt Wendy was bragging on his pumpkin picture.  

“Oh, Logan,” she said.  

“These are beautiful pumpkins and they’re so happy. But, why is this last little pumpkin so sad?” she asked in a pitiful voice.  

Without hesitation, Logan replied, “He’s a YUCKY pumpkin.”  

“Oh.” Wendy responded. 

“If I was a yucky pumpkin, I would be sad, too.” 

Logan stopped.  

Without missing a beat, he looked at Wendy.

“You was a pumpkin?” he asked.

The moral of the story? 

As you whip up that pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, please make certain it’s not your favorite Aunt Wendy! 

This year, as you carve your family jack-o-lantern, will it be a happy or yucky pumpkins? Logan and his Aunt Wendy would love it if you would post a favorite pic of your family pumpkin to the wall on our Facebook page.

Post your pumpkin here.