Monday, August 29, 2011


Friends were going to the movie theater on Saturday and asked me to join them. I heard myself say "yes." This made my third trip to the movie theater - in a year!

Off I went - feeling safe and confident. I had seen a television preview of this movie. My sister and several friends had read the book. So, feeling brave in spite of foggy vision and unsteady gait, off to the movies I went.

Over the past five decades, going to the movies has NOT been my pleasure. You see, there was a fire all those many years ago. I was young, brave and invulnerable when I was challenged by fire in a movie theater. Everyone, including my brother and I did get out alive though reeking of smoke and a bit singed; certainly, one more thing to be grateful for in my lifetime.

I think we smelled something burning. When we turned around we saw the flames. My brother leaped toward the Exit door and hit it with force. It wouldn't open. To escape, we had to go through the entranceway where flaming embers were falling from the projection room where the fire roared. In the minute lost trying to escape through the exit, we realized the entrance was the only way out. By now everything below the projection room was aflame. It appeared almost like a circus ring of fire that performers and animals jump through - as entertainment.

We became the circus performers. Pulling my shirt over my head and nose, I leaped with giant steps through the ring of fire. Once through, my brother grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from the building.

From that day forward I take note of the location of exit doors wherever I go: work, stores, pulic buildings, malls, and of course meeting rooms or theaters. To this day I am constantly alert to fire dangers, overly crowded rooms, elevators, flimsy structures, doors opening in instead of out as well as the location of exit doors.

A few years after the fire incident, now married with children, I realized maternally the danger and oconsequences of fire. I had four preschool children and just two hands, so we began to practice fire escape exercises. My children thought it was just more rules like 'don't step into the street,' 'no running with scissors,' or 'strange dogs bite."

Most buildings, businesses and meeting rooms follow fire ordinances but I still see violations. I can choose to stay or leave. That is probably why I felt comfortable attending a movie - for the third time in one year. I had checked out this multi-theater complex twice before. I actually went to see one of the movies alone - making sure it would pass my safety inspection. It did. The movie was Julie-Julia. Then I saw The King's Speech and, recently with my lady friends, The Help. I have a comforting confidence in seeing movies at this theater and won't hesitate to say 'yes' to another opportunity.

One doesn't forget being trapped by fire. I have found a way to deal with my concern, one that not only satisfies my expectation of safety, but allows me freedom to choose to say yes or no.

Have you enjoyed a good movie lately?
If not... What's your excuse for not going to the theater?
Tell me. I'd like to know.

Friday, August 26, 2011


As the sun peeks up over the horizon each morning, I give thanks for the day and wish the best of life to everything and everyone with whom I will share this day. The world continues on its predictable patterns and so do I. In spite of dramatic weather forecasts of heat, drought and Hurricane Irene for other parts of the country, Ozark Americans are waking to sunshine, blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures - and I am grateful!

This is the last Friday of August. The sun began to light my world two hours ago. Morning rays are low over the horizon - slanting through the still-green trees and resting on my front porch. The newly padded wicker chairs are like theater seats where I am the audience waiting for the performers to arrive. And here they come now....

Four beautiful fawn-colored deer step daintily out from the protection of old oak trees - two mamas and two babies. One youngster is a bit larger than the littlest, cream-colored fawn. The bigger reddish-brown mama appears to be the matriarch. They are heart-warming to see as they stand, like fragile statues, in the sun's rays.

Ignoring my presence, they lower their heads to munch the dewy grasses. Their movements are slow and graceful. Only the little ones bobble from foot to foot, bouncing heads up or twisting about as they graze. All move together as if in unison, within a comfortable distance from one another. Then, what's this? All four snap their heads erect and freeze in place. They become statues as though posed for some photographer or sculptor. They hold their positions a full minute before the big mama turns to survey the area before lowering her head to munch grass once again. All return to their breakfast, still facing the area that concerned them moments earlier, their sweet little faces coming up occasionally to survey their surroundings.

Both mamas again came to attention. They stare toward a path worn into the woods, then, as all stand motionless, the big mama begins to lift a hoof high, like a prancing horse, before stomping it to the ground. Step - stomp - pause. Step - stomp - pause. Every movement is beautiful. Her pose is regal with her head held high, one hoof raised and poised, then stomping with a stance of power and emphasis. How I wish my camera was within reach!

Certainly Mama saw something I could not see. She appeared to be warning off some intruder. If it were a more dangerous threat, she would have given an alert and all four would have disappeared into the woods in one graceful leap - as they often do. I presume this danger is not big enough to frighten her little family away, but of concern enough to display her strength of presence.

Sure enough, there was a flash of movement on the path. Mama deer took one more stomp in that direction when Carol's cat, Galaxy Star Chaser, came sprinting off the path, across the lawn and scrambling onto the porch at full speed - with Mama deer pursuing close behind. The matriarch stopped in the middle of the lawn to watched as I opened the door for Galaxy, that big, bad scaredy cat, to run inside. After a moment, the deer family went back to leisurely grazing.

I'm so grateful to have been here to greet this sunny morning, to let the cat out, make a pot of coffee and to sit on the porch while I observed nature's show. But, I must learn to keep my camera within reach. A mental image of this morning may stay with me for awhile but a photograph of dawn and deer would be so much nicer to keep - and to share with you!

I hope you have special memories preserved in photographs.
Are there memories you wish you had captured on film?
Tell me. I'd like to know.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


If I said "Togetherness" and asked you to tell me what that meant to you, how would you answer?

'Togetherness' was the August writing topic at one of my writers' groups. AND, togetherness is the focus of my Thatcher Family Reunion held the first weekend of August in Buffalo, Missouri.

2011 being our 29th family reunion, same time - same place, each reunion may seem similar, yet each has been uniquely different from year to year. The core of our family is siblings: one younger sister and four older brothers - with our spouses and children. Our toddler children and grandchildren attending the first reunion in 1983 are now grown, married and have children of their own.

Certainly we have added family with marriages and grandchildren. We have also lost family members to death and divorce. As my siblings live in several states, their children scattered even farther afield, our annual reunion has been the one reliable occasion for cousins to meet face-to-face, to show off new spouses or babies, to review family history and to share their life's dreams and accomplishments. People, non-family acquaintances are often surprised to learn that there has never been an argument or problem between attendees at any of our reunions. We, on the other hand, would be surprised and stunned by that type of behavior - We don't have time for such foolishness. Mostly, we hug, eat, play music, eat, swim, sing, talk, hug and eat some more. Members who do woodworking and crafts bring gifts of their talents, those who cook or bake bring their specialties, my brother-in-law edited and published a family magazine each year while those with musical talents, especially Roy and Roy, provide the beat for singing and dancing. There are horses to ride and goats admire, chicken eggs to gather and rabbits to pet; there is kite flying and fishing. there is a Jelly Bean train for children to ride in and a potato gun for adult-aged boys to shoot. We tried hay bailing and bottle-feeding calves; we donned straw hats or opened colorful umbrellas for hayless hay rides. One exciting year, a tornado swept through the farm upon our arrival. Everybody was scared but nobody was hurt so we became a laughing, cheerful clean-up crew of the downed trees and fences. One year the rain kept everyone under cover in the garage or the house, so we ran between the raindrops from one to the other. It is always hot in August. How hot is it? We sent our teenagers into town to purchase blocks of ice to float in the swimming pool. Reunions - Now that's Togetherness!

Yes, my writer's group met in August and a few members read their 'togetherness' story. I remember just two beside my own; one humorously described a family's first experiences camping while traveling across America and the other was a beautiful and romantic letter to a spouse. Mine was a sweeping essay of acknowledgement from the simple (Jack & Jill) to the cerebral (quantum theory) - or so I thought. But, I had to vote for the camping experience because it was the most impressive example of togetherness.

Everyone has at least one story on 'togetherness.'
What's yours? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


It was Sunday, July 31st when a neighbor called. "Do you like watermelon," she asked. "Bob bought one and it is too much melon for the two of us."

Yes, I do enjoy watermelon and Bob arrived a few minutes later with two beautiful, fragrant slices. Seeing the bright red center with flat, black seeds embedded, encircled by white rind and emerald green skin brought old watermelon memories popping into my head.

My dad was a melon-eater. Arkansas watermelon was his favorite. His first taste happened one August afternoon, the year he moved to Arkansas. We stopped to visit a neighbor and while sitting on his porch steps, Emmit cut several green watermelon globes in half, handing them to each of us - with a fork stuck in the middle. Then he passed the salt shaker. Now we had never eaten watermelon with salt before. I'm not sure whether my dad salted his melon that day, but pleasure lit up his face with that first taste of sweet, cold, red Arkansas-grown watermelon.

I think that's when he came to believe Arkansas had the best watermelon and the best of the Arkansas watermelon arrived with August. Dad raised animals - not crops, so he and my mother shopped the county Farmers' Market with the city folks. I'm sure he began asking how the watermelon was faring from the first pickings of garden crops - certainly, long before melons came to market. One entire section of my mother's deep freezer was reserved for canisters filled with watermelon balls -just for my dad. They were jawbreakers but Dad chose them over fresh berry pie or ice cream every time.

My own special relationship with watermelon was in the contests - the seed spitting contests. I won at least three: First, at a "Street Party" when we lived in a little Illinois town. Next, at a health care professionals' conference and, finally, at a Thatcher Family Reunion in Buffalo, Missouri. I do know how to spit!

Watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, the seeds arriving in America with slaves. There seems to be a culture and symbolism of black people's special fondness for it. Watermelon was also cultivated in China in the 10th century, although I've never seen it used as a symbol of China. And, there's my sister who can turn wedges of chopped wood into decorative watermelon wedges - is there something cultural or symbolic about that? Hmmmmm.

Each of my family members has a special fondness for watermelon. In addition to eating it, salt or no salt, fork or no fork, by the wedge, a slice or frozen balls, my family has favorite watermelon recipes from smoothies and granita to (sweet) pickled watermelon rind. Mmm-mm-mm, watermelon in August is Sooo good!