My Love Affair….with the Piano….

I’ve written a lot about my musical background, including my shady days as a bar-fly, but music still is my heart’s desire, even at my age. I grew up with piano music in my house, and as a small child, I think I just assumed everyone’s mother played the piano like mine did. I must have thought every house had a piano, just like a sofa or dining table. I didn’t know that not everyone heard the music of Chopin, Beethoven or Rachmaninoff being played in their own living room. What wonders these kids missed out on, for sure!

So, of course, I think the piano is the best musical instrument ever invented by mankind. The piano, under the right touch, can produce any style of music, from classical to ragtime to country to pop. Nothing against guitarists, because I do know some really awesome players, but I feel the piano outshines them all. My mother, who is a mere 18 years older than me, has such a lyrical, melodic style that I have tried to emulate for 50+ years, without success. She was classically trained and it shines through in whatever she plays. Someone once described my style as “Broadway”, but I think it’s Broadway meets country meets Southern Baptist……it just depends on where and what I’m playing.

My talent is just a shade past its prime these days, as arthritis has made my hands slow and my fingers clumsy; and my style has become simpler, less adorned….playing safer means fewer mistakes. It breaks my heart at times, because I love to sit down and play; and now I get a little frustrated because of the limitations. Ah, well….such is life, though. I’m still blessed to be able to play and I’m thankful that my mother shared her knowledge with me at an early age and instilled in my heart my love of good music.

Summertime Ice Cream Socials

These days everything is “social network” this and “social network” that. Hmmph. I love my computer and technology as much as the next geek, but when I think of the word “social”, I think back to the many ice cream socials from my childhood.

Yes, I am a person of that age….that old lady who remembers and talks about “the good old days” when life was simple and we enjoyed it. I grew up in church as a 3rd generation Nazarene, both sets of grandparents went to our church in my hometown. My grandfather on my mom’s side was the big ice cream fiend, which rubbed off on mom…and me…so I have fond memories of “helping” him make the ice cream.

I stayed out of my granny’s kitchen as a kid, but I knew there was mixing, measuring and cooking done beforehand. My big thrill was after the mixture had been poured into the can, the paddle in place and the top securely fastened. My papa would use his ice pick to chip the ice (never in a bag from the store, we froze our own ice in wax milk cartons!) layer it around the can, adding the rock salt as he went. Then, several layers of newspapers were placed on top, followed by a towel…..and all the cousins clamored to see who would get to sit on top while the cranking was done by papa! It was so much fun to sit on top of the freezer and feel the chill from the ice below, while the hot summer wind blew across our faces, underneath the shade tree.

My cousins, left to right…Britt, Gwen, Tami….and me on the right 1961

Of course, everyone brought a freezer of ice cream to these socials, so there were many flavors to try. Peach ice cream made with fresh picked peaches, chocolate, strawberry…but my favorite was always vanilla. Call me a purist, I just love plain homemade vanilla ice cream.

I can still see it in my mind, lawn chairs around the yard, bowls and spoons clattering, brain freezes because we ate the ice cream so fast! Women chatting together in groups, men engaged in whatever men talk about…..and kids running around barefoot without a care in the world. I wish I was an artist so I could draw or paint the picture that’s in my mind.

I’ve owned several electric ice cream freezers over the past 30 years, but somehow it’s just not the same to plug it in while it sits in the sink and churns. I’m pretty sure the ice cream doesn’t taste as good either as it did in the 1950s…..

I suppose that’s why us “oldsters” like to relive our fondest memories…..sometimes the memories are better than what’s surrounding us now.

Thanks for reading and reminiscing with me….I feel a trip to Braum’s in my future 🙂

When I Was a Teenager

Just a few observations about teenagers and misconceptions about life. I became a teenager in 1966, got married in 1970 and dropped out of high school. Just the facts there.

 

 

When I was a teenager:

We weren’t allowed to wear jeans to school. Only “coordinating pant suits”.

We weren’t allowed to wear PANTS to school until I reached high school.

 

We didn’t have air conditioning in classrooms until high school, and then only the “new” wing had a/c.

At our house we had “swamp coolers” which don’t work well in high humidity. Finally got a window a/c unit to cool the living room and kitchen. Not the bedrooms.

 

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16. Curious how I ended up married at 17, huh?

On dates, I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies, or to dances. Still curious how I ended up married at 17?

 

I learned to drive in a portable building full of simulators. Kinda like a gigantic video game.

Video games had not been invented yet, so driver’s ed in the simulator, was just … driver’s ed.

 

The only phones we had were wired into the wall in a very open place of the house. Conversations were never private.

The word “cell” was rarely heard outside of science class or the county jail. The word “Text” was the first half of “textbook”….

 

Dragging Main Street was great entertainment on the weekends if you were lucky enough to have a car.

Gasoline was about 22 cents a gallon then.

 

LBJ was not a freeway in Dallas. Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States.

Yes, he really was a crook after all.

 

On Saturdays we washed our hair, rolled it on brush rollers, sat under a hood dryer until our ears burned bright red.

For really special occasions, we would  go to the beauty shop for a fancy “up-do”. I have pictures to prove this. 🙂

 

Just normal everyday people, had gun racks in their truck’s rear window, with real guns hanging on them.

No special gun license was needed. Most people had common sense. Most. I am from Texas, after all.

 

I thought people over 30 were ancient and didn’t know anything about my life.

I was wrong. Everyone has been a teenager.

 

 

 

These are just a few things that come to mind, some of the differences between then and now. I work with a lot of teenagers and I hear a lot of the same complaints I made way back then in the prehistoric age. Please share your thoughts with me!

My fabulous, elegant beauty shop up-do for a wedding! I was 15 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to my Mother

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we drove up to visit my parents like we usually do. We enjoyed a nice, quiet lunch at Cotton Patch…..okay, just kidding, that place is so noisy, you have to yell to carry on a conversation. Afterward, we visited more at the house, and my nephew, his wife and their adorable 3 year daughter came by to visit.

I had asked mom for some letters that she had kept from the time my kids were small, so yesterday, she handed me a large envelope full of letters and some photos. YAY…..more treasures! Oh, but wait….maybe not. The first letter I opened was from El Paso in 1986, after I had moved there with my boyfriend. It was quite sobering, even though I was sober to begin with. How my life has changed since then. For the better, of course.

The rest of the letters were far more entertaining, written in the early 1980s when we had moved to the country and were living in a ramshackle farm-house that we were renovating. Renovating is really an exaggeration. Trying to keep it from falling in on our heads, is more accurate. Most of the time that we lived in Forney, Texas, we didn’t have a home phone, so I wrote letters to keep my parents informed of our general progress on the house and the kid’s activities. Just an aside…..the postage stamps ranged from 20 to 22 cents on these letters.

The farmhouse….we paid $2,500 cash for the house and had it moved around the corner to our 2 acres.

The house did look better about a year later, and was still standing in spite of the wood-burning stove in the living room. Luckily the house did not burn down the winter that everything froze up for more than a week. We endured cold winters, and very hot summers in that house….and lots of dust, dirt and construction. Whew.

 

The best thing in the envelope was a hand written poem, that was once set to music, that I wrote for my mom for Mother’s Day 1979. I actually don’t remember writing this down and decorating it like this, but I did.

And she kept it.

All these years.

And people say *I* am a hoarder!!!

This is quite fragile as it’s written on construction paper, and I even made an envelope from the paper also. Who knew I was so thoughtful and resourceful?

 

So, the most funny thing was a handwritten list, I must have been as young as 13-14…..titled “My Real Life Problems”….

I particularly love #15 and #18……my little brother was quite a brat back then. You can see I had a very low self-esteem, and I outgrew that for the most part. It does sneak in every once in a while to try to bring me down. I’m not sure about #14 as I never had trouble with my complexion, I was blessed with good genes in that department! Still, pretty funny to read now and see how insecure I was then. (this proves that I have always been a really good speller!)

 

When I began writing this today, I had intended to scan some of the actual hand written letters and include them; however, after re-reading them, they seem intensely personal to me, so I changed my mind. Some things are better left un-shared, I think. But, these letters reinforce my belief that my life has gone through a great many changes in the last 30-40 years, and I have come out on the other side a better person. The once painfully shy first grader who wouldn’t speak a word for six weeks, somehow morphed into a musician who loved to entertain on stage, and then became a force to be reckoned with in the retail world.

So, thanks mom, for keeping these for me. I am sorry for the many times I’ve let you down, and I’m thankful that you always forgave me, and you never gave up on me.

 

 

Funny Family Fotos

People often reminisce about  the “good old days”……and I’ve done it also, however….some of these photos make me appreciate the “here and now” for sure!

All of these photos came from my grandmother’s photo albums, which I acquired a few years ago, because my dad knew I’d take good care of them. These photos are his family and ancestors, and most had no information written on the back. I’ve had to post these on Facebook so my assorted cousins across the US could help me identify them. There were but a few that we had no clue at all, they are a mystery.

Let’s have a picnic…deep in the woods….let’s take the kids…..grab your coats, axes and washtubs!

We were all "stumped" about this one for a while!

The subjects in the photo above were eventually identified as my grandmother (tall woman holding baby) my dad (in hat) at her left elbow, my two aunts Bea and Geraldine, and some neighbors. We narrowed down the year to 1938…..

“ROAD TRIP”! (apparently my ancestors loved to leave home for adventures?)

This is my dad, age 3 months 17 days, according to my granny's handwriting on the back.

 

 

 

Oh, just put the babies down anywhere, they’ll be fine!

I know the baby on the left must be my dad, because it looks just like ME......

 

“Hi, I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl”

My great-grandfather and his sons who never married and never left home.

I think this little boy may be my dad, or his cousin Sonny-boy…..they looked about the same in every picture I’ve found.

Once again....."let's sit the baby out in the road or middle of no where and take his picture"!

 

They must have been trying to “capture the light”……..

My daddy....
This is the little suit my dad was wearing in the photo above....
This is the suit and hat along with the original tiny photo; I have put them into a memory keepsake box, hanging on the wall in my bedroom. So sweet....

Retail therapy????

The first yard sale ever?

 

Playing “let’s pretend”……

“Let’s pretend like we’re not really poor”……

on the back "to Beatrice Wilson, this is Mildred and her little friend in their play house" .... printed on the back "Finished by Nichols Studio Jacksonville, Texas"

Forget taking the kid to the woodshed……

CPS.....where are you? After very close scrutinizing, we have determined this to be one of my dad's cousins, and there is someone behind her, holding her up on the woodpile!

“Life on the farm….PETA would love this, right?”

I guess they couldn't afford to have a dog for a pet....???

Anyone up for some fried catfish???

We have studied this one and can only hazard a guess that *maybe* this was a scene on the Red River long before the Denison Dam was built to create Lake Texoma. I don't think I'd want to eat the fish that came out of that water, though!

And last, but not least…….no wonder they were so destitute, the “lucky” horseshoe was upside down…all the luck was running out!

This one is my favorite! We believe this is my great-grandfather Charlie Wilson and one of his sisters, or daughters....

Now, I know all these photos are in black and white and are very old, but I sense there wasn’t much green grass around at the time. It looks very desolate….no wonder my grandmother loved plants and flowers so much, she needed color in her life!

Thanks for the memories, Granny K....

Dreamin’ Jeannie

The story of Dreamin’ Jeannie is a simple one. It’s my life. My middle name is Jeanne, easy enough to turn that into Jeannie….then use the play on words from the old Stephen Foster song “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”….Because, it seemed I was always day-dreaming about things that I could never have, or could never be…I dreamed of being a musician, not necessarily being famous, but of being known for my music. I was a *stay-at-home-mom* long before that became a popular catch-phrase; what it really meant was, I had never worked, had no education or job skills, and a controlling husband. My (ex) husband didn’t like it when I would get lost in music, probably because he wasn’t musical, and he just didn’t understand. He did buy me a lovely piano once, but didn’t like for me to play when he was in the house; only if we had company would he say “play something”…..most of all he was jealous of my love of music because it took me away from him. It was my escape. I escaped a lot.

I wrote this song in 1979…I was sure that it could have been a big hit if the right artist would record it…..(I’m still dreamin’ about that)…..I had all of my original songs from that era copyrighted in the early 1980s thinking I would someday do something with them. So far, all I’ve done is sing them over and over to myself, and record a few for my satisfaction.

Below is the video slide show I set to the song a few years ago……filled with photos of the house we lived in once, my kids, and my days in the clubs….and the last frame is my daughter Kelly and me, performing together on a local talent show.

Dreamin’ Jeannie

Breakfast dishes sittin’ on the table till noon,

dirty clothes piled up in the hall so soon,

the kids are outside playin’, she knows her mama’s prayin’,

that someday she’ll grow up and stop dreamin’ all the time;

Her husband’s workin’ hard and extra hours these days,

to try to pay the bills and get ahead some way,

he loves her all he can, but he just don’t understand,

only hopes that someday she’ll stop dreamin’ all the time.

But Jeannie can’t stop dreamin’ when the music’s in her head,

cause if the music ever stops, she might as well be dead;

Well, someday they’ll remember how they teased her years ago,

when they hear her music playin’, on the radio…………………

She’s livin’ in a fantasy, well that’s what they all think,

just cause she’s not worried ‘bout dishes in the sink,

the telephone is ringin’, but Jeannie keeps on singin’,

and hopes she won’t ever stop dreamin’ all the time;

She knows the house is dusty, and the beds have not been made,

and the ironing’s where she left it, sometime yesterday,

so she gives a little smile, when he says he’ll be gone awhile,

and he knows she’ll never stop dreamin’ all the time..

chorus

second chorus:

They’ll say “Jeannie keep on dreamin’ makin’ music all day long”

someday the world will recognize, Dreamin’ Jeannie’s songs,

and her friends will say “oh yes, I knew Jeannie way back when,

wonder if she thinks about us every now and then”?

I can say that I have accomplished one goal, because most people who have known me for more than a short time, know my love for music; they know I love to sing, to play piano, to record, and to write songs. New people I meet are always surprised, no, shocked to learn that I once played in a country band, in bars and honky-tonks. I sure don’t look the part now. I just laugh and tell them “I wasn’t always this old”!

Copies of my labor of love, my very first hand printed lead sheet for Dreamin’ Jeannie…I’m still impressed that I was able to do that without knowing “how”…..

I’m still waiting for someone to discover my music ……..the dream has never died.

Jeannie is still dreamin’…..

A Merry Fractured Christmas

I have always loved to roller skate, from way back in the day when the skates clamped onto your shoes and you used a key to adjust the length. I skated up and down the sidewalks on Redbud Road where we lived, and on Heron Street, where my grandparents lived……both houses had inclined driveways, so…..I fell a lot! However, when you are 7, 8, 9 years old and weigh 50/60 pounds, falling really doesn’t hurt much!

Me, on skates, with my Granny Fletcher and my little brother Philip.

In my early teen years, I graduated to the indoor roller rink, with the nice smooth hardwood floor and great music to skate to…..and some less than upstanding hoodlums as my new-found friends. For Christmas in 1969, all I wanted was my very own “professional” skates…..and I got them! There was one large box under the tree and I insisted it had my skates inside, even though my parents kept saying, no….but….I could SMELL the leather through the wrapping! I was so excited……yay! I was going to look so cool now at the rink, with my very own skates, and I had already started collecting the required pom poms to make me look even cooler!

My new rink skates!

Fast forward to 1979, I was married, had 2 kids, Kelly, 7 and Brian, 2…….and we all loved to skate. Brian was just learning, but Kelly was quite a good little skater. Kelly and I were even taking some lessons together at the rink in Mesquite, Texas where we lived at the time.

Kelly skating...

One Sunday evening, December 16, to be exact, we were at the rink, skating, having a wonderful time……Kelly and I had been practicing some of the things we were learning, and I was working on a particular jump that was easy for her. This jump consisted of skating backward, taking your left foot, putting your toe-stop down behind you, twisting left and turning mid-air and landing on your right foot gliding forward. Easy, right?

Insert maniacal laughter here: Hahahahaha…….my left foot went down, my body twisted left, but my left foot stayed firmly planted on the floor. My left leg twisted, broke my tibia and fibula in a spiral angulated fracture.  Over the music and general noise of the rink, I heard my leg snap. I screamed a blood curdling scream, so loud that my husband heard me from across the building. Several people rushed to my rescue and tried to tell me, that my leg wasn’t broken, but it was swelling so badly, my laces had to be cut so my skate would come off. Oh yes, it was ever so broken!

I spent the next 5 days in the hospital following the surgery on Monday to set my leg. Luckily, I had already finished my Christmas shopping for the kids.  The day I went home from the hospital, on crutches that I could barely navigate, my parents drove down and picked up my kids to keep until Christmas. This was highly unusual, because my parents had never kept my kids, never ever!

Back at the skating rink with the kids....

What made my broken leg even more special, was the fact that my cousin Gwen, had broken her leg 5 weeks before me, same leg, same type of fracture, except she fell in her garage. We were quite a sight for the next few weeks together with matching casts and crutches. And then every year for the next several years, we had our picture made together and called it our “annual leg show”…..

Debi and Gwen 12/31/1980

After my leg healed (10 weeks on crutches followed by 2 weeks in a walking cast), I did go skating again, but just a couple of times, and then I hung up my skates for good. Some things are just not meant to be, and I was not meant to be the Dorothy Hamill of the roller rink.

Every December 16, I recall the events of  1979…..and I wonder….what the heck was I thinking?

Merry Fractured Christmas!