HERITAGE, HATE AND THE LIBERTY PLACE OBELISK

I’m not sure where I stand on the removal of monuments celebrating the “Lost Cause” mentality of the War for Southern Independence…well I guess I am sure. People have pontificated about the removal of monuments as being paramount to removing history itself. I doubt it. Jefferson Davis is still going to be the only president, ever, of the former Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, it’s most noted general and P. G. T. Beauregard, the commander of Confederate forces who first fired upon Fort Sumter, regardless of what monuments are removed. Southern history will remain, including Southern history contained within the pesky primary documents written prior to 1866. I view the dismantling of later memorials as removing the CELEBRATION of certain histories not removing the history itself. I view the Liberty Place obelisk, recently dismantled and removed from Iberville Street in New Orleans, as one of those monuments which should be hidden from sight…except for those who WISH to see it in a museum somewhere…and yes it should be treated with the respect it deserves.

We Southerners WILL continue to wage war defending our heritage, but the monument celebrating “The Battle of Liberty Place” had LITTLE to do with our late great, great grands attempting to stem the tide of a Federal invasion in 1861. Rather, the obelisk had everything to do with the memorialization of white supremacist attempting to disenfranchise one group and re-establish a government run by and for whites just before the end of Reconstruction. The original inscription, added by the City of New Orleans in 1932, leaves little confusion as to why the 1874 battle was fought. An all-white militia, made up of members of the Crescent City White League, fought a pitched battle against racially diverse metropolitan police for control of the city of New Orleans. The inscription stated, before being covered later, the battle was fought for the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” No confusion at all.

With the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction ended and Federal troops marched out of Southern states leaving the Redeemers to usher in constitutional changes reflecting their beliefs; disenfranchisement, Jim Crow and placing whites back on the top of the pyramidal pecking order. It was not only true in Louisiana but true in most, if not all, Southern states after President Hayes ended Reconstruction as part of a backroom political deal even modern Americans should be familiar with. This is a part of OUR Southern heritage and it too should not be erased…or ignored.

MY DIFFICULTY with monuments which praise of our Confederate forefathers, including the Battle Flag, has much to do with the other side of the coin. If we embrace our heritage, do we not have to recognize the other side of the argument? I read posts from many ardent supporters of Southern heritage espousing the “need for some people to just move on.” Isn’t “moving some people along”, while wrapping ourselves in the Confederate Battle Flag and lamenting the removal of memorials such as the obelisk, a bit hypocritical? Shouldn’t we just come out and say, “Our glorious heritage is MUCH more important than the pain YOUR forefathers experienced?” If we are going to own one side of the coin, do we not own the other?

For more of Don Miller’s writings please visit https://goo.gl/pL9bpP on Amazon.

BAD TEACHER

There was a time I didn’t worry so much. Chalk it up to being young and stupid…yeah, old and stupid too. I’ve taken a part-time, long-term teaching position as a favor for a friend. I must have her buffaloed. This is the second time she has asked as she plays momma on maternity leave . She really thinks I’m a good teacher. I wonder. Maybe she shouldn’t have any more babies. Her classes are good classes for the most part. Just a few little “Johnnies” and they aren’t too bad…yet.

I’ve begun to recycle faces. There is the little girl in third block. She reminds me of another little girl, a forty years ago little girl. She asked me where spaghetti came from. Just as seriously as she could, “Coach Miller, I’ve always wondered, where does spaghetti come from?” Just as seriously I answered, “It’s grown on farms in very long thin rows, sown very close together to keep them from spreading out too wide.” It simply popped out of my mouth. Usually when I was pulling someone’s leg I let them off the hook quickly. This young lady was so, so serious…I wonder if she still thinks spaghetti is grown on farms or worse, thinks what a jerk her physical science teacher was. I really wish I had told her the truth. Well pasta is made from wheat….

Most of my worries occur because of my mouth…the mouth that tends to speak before the brain tells it what to say. Most of the time it’s not purposeful, just my mouth tripping over words and the pause afterwards as I contemplate, “Did I really say it was a ‘single celled orgasm’ or the octopus had ‘eighty-foot-long testicles?’” The first one wasn’t too bad, they missed it…a young class, they probably had never heard the word before. The second one I made the mistake of trying to correct myself. “TENTICALES, TENTICALES!”

Oh no, the angry young lady I instructed to “SIT RIGHT THERE!” I just put an h in the word sit. She wasn’t angry very long but I don’t really suggest this as a method to diffuse tense situations. I admit it is hard to be tense with everyone laughing.

Sometimes I did things with malice and forethought. Sometimes, they had unintended consequences, especially during my physical science days. The lab assistants who blew up all the sink traps dropping sodium metal into a lab sink because they saw me demonstrate it. Yep, if a BB sized piece of sodium will do that in a sink full of water, think what a golf ball sized one will do when flushed down the drain. Thankfully no one “lost an eye” and sodium is no longer allowed in high school labs.

Potato guns are fun especially if you get to make one in Coach Miller’s class. Gee, what useful information. “YOU DID WHAT?” With eyes very wide and in a whisper, “The potato went through a window and through a wall?” “YOU TOLD THE POLICE WHATTTTTTTTTT?” My principal in a very authoritarian voice, “MR. MILLER! Could I see you in my office? There are two gentlemen here who would like to interview you about an incident that occurred yesterday.” Great, Sam Cooke is singing “Chain Gang” in my head.

Well thankfully no one tried to recreate my lit pickle demonstration. That might have been “electrifying.” We did bomb the parents in the car line with water rockets after a wind shift.

My biggest worry? That teachers don’t get to do the fun stuff anymore…no not tripping over their words! The other fun stuff, like blowing up hydrogen filled balloons and making dill pickles light up. Oh well…testing begins next week. A real reason to worry.

Don Miller writes “memories.” Some may even be yours. Grab a copy or download today at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP.

BEAUTIFUL BLIND PUPPIES

Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue just celebrated their twelfth birthdays. They’re not really puppies but will always be OUR PUPPIES. They’re sisters, from a litter holding fourteen little gray and black mottled, squirmy, thieves. That’s right thieves, right down to the “permanent” bandit mask across Maddie’s face. Every day, they continue to steal a little bit of my heart.

It’s early morning and I am watching the eastern sky lighten…I’m also watching Tilly navigate the yard. Tilly doesn’t have a bandit mask but she steals my heart anyway. She comes and sits with me in the early morning as I try to put thoughts and words together on this electronic version of paper. I find it comforting to see her or her sister laying in the recliner next to me, sleeping so very non-canine like, on their backs, feet stuck up in the air. Sometimes they scare me, so deeply asleep I must wake them just to make sure….

Tilly is awake and moving, nose to the ground. Every morning, I watch…just in case. She pauses and then circles around a large clump of periwinkle. She has picked up the scent of the bunny living there. After searching, she continues her voyage of exploration, circumnavigating the yard. At the wood pile, she stops to greet the ground squirrel living behind it. Maddie is upstairs with her mommy but will eventually make the same trip. I’ll watch, just in case.

It’s been over two years since Tilly began to go blind. It was rapid, something about dog years. Her sister followed a year later and they are both now sightless. A genetic defect will claim every one of their litter mates. I wonder if they see when they dream? The question makes me hurt and tear up. They seem to have taken their blindness much better than their mommy and daddy.

They make me smile…knowing they remember. Barking at the squirrel, no longer in the hemlock tree or sitting near the persimmon tree waiting for the possum that is somewhere else to come down. Tilly recently brought me a mole, so proud she wanted to share. While I feel sorry for the mole I’m glad it’s not the possum she used to bring me and yet happy she can still find something to bring.

They make me sad…knowing they can’t see. Maddie reminds me daily when she comes over to the recliner I’m not sitting in to get her belly rubbed. She will paw even though I’m not there. I miss them trying to herd squirrels, birds and each other.

It’s taken some adjustment. Old feed bags filled with newspaper used as buffers against hard and sharp objects. Special care not to block learned pathways. New commands like, “Watch your nose, watch your nose” or “Step, step, steps” have been learned, and yet I am amazed to see Tilly scale a rock wall, just like she did when she could see, and then later come down the same wall.

They still play their blue heeler games. Games only they understand. They are playing now, nose to nose, nipping at each other’s muzzles…somehow knowing where the other one is and able to pull up just short. Friendly growls to remind them it’s just a game…and to remind us about the better things in life.

Those in the know told us we shouldn’t get litter mates. They were incorrect. Despite the recent trials and tribulations, it has been worth it. Maddie and Tilly are happy and in much better health than much younger dogs. Mommy has seen to that. No doubt I’m happier and in much better health because of her too…and my beautiful blind puppies.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

Natty Old Tees

How many tee shirts are too many? I dare say I have collected enough to wear a different tee daily for a year without repeating once. Since I have retired, tee shirts and jeans seem to be the attire of choice, unless it’s summer and then it’s tees and shorts…except on Sunday. I do wear dress shirts to church…with dress jeans of course. My father is rolling in his grave.

While I no longer exercise in cotton tees, the new technical fabrics are lighter and wick perspiration better, I do love the feel of freshly laundered cotton against my skin. It reminds me of freshly laundered and blued linens, line dried in the fresh air and sunshine…memories having nothing to do with tee shirts.

I’m attempting to sort through my collection of tee shirts and make some decisions. Good ones to wear out on the town in one pile, not so good ones, frayed or forever soiled with chicken grease or pizza sauce, banished to the work tee shirt pile. Worn out tees exiled or repurposed to be used as cleaning rags or to tie up tomatoes on their stakes. I hesitate to throw them away because of the memories surrounding some of them.

Forty years ago, Champion made the best athletic tees, heavy and meant to last. I know this to be a fact. I still have a now yellowed one with the orange lettering, “I Believe.” Worn to death, it is much too fragile to wear now, it turned forty this past fall. A friend and mentor, now gone almost as long as the tee shirt is old, presented it to me and some fifty other coaches and players before the first game of a memorable season. No, I need to put it back right where I found it, tucked away with all its memories from one sparkling season.

Another specimen is a plain, royal blue with more holes than fabric and needs to be thrown away but I can’t. I wore it during a state championship campaign after giving up my number twenty-three jersey to a younger player so he could dress with the team. I keep hoping the tee has a little bit of good luck left in it. After losing a fight with my chainsaw three decades ago, I wear it whenever I am using rotating equipment in hopes it will keep me from losing a body part. So far it has.

A light blue tee with “North-South All-stars” screen printed on the front is displayed in a fading picture made during the after-game celebration. Tim Bright, Anthony Fairchild and Chris Bates are smiling with me and reminding me of better days, “Brighter” days. The actual tee has been worn little since the picture was made and will be stored away with its bitter-sweet memories.

Off-white by design rather than age, I have a heavy-weight tee with a New Zealand logo. I found it on my desk at the close of school one year, a parting gift from New Zealander and exchange student, “Hobby” Hobson. I never got the chance to thank him and wonder often what he might be up to in one of those “lands down under.” How, in the name of all things holy, did it get a hole in the back? No matter, it will stay in the “memorable” pile and be worn with pride, hole and all.

Soiled and stained there is the technical tee from the first 5K run after my heart attack, another from my first half marathon, and an unused one from the last half I didn’t get to run due to an injury. I couldn’t really repurpose those, could I? Maybe the one I didn’t get to run.

There are so many others. A blue Jocassee Bait Shop tee, a gift from a favorite player. The much too small white one covered in pink flamingoes. A gift from a teaching friend who shares my love for the odd looking, yet beautiful birds. My prized Buffett concert tee featuring colorful parrots drinking from margarita glasses along with mermaids swimming about. What to do, what to do? Nothing I guess…simply wear them and remember their meanings for as long as I can see and feel them.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bp or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY…TO ME

I used to get excited…not so much anymore. The road “past” is much longer than the road “future” and when dealing with my own life, I try to stay “in the now.” At my unstated age, I find it more comfortable remembering the past rather than pondering the future. People much brighter than me have suggested that “you can’t live in the past.” I agree but would suggest, “I can remember the past and wonder”…just don’t live there…too much. Which brings me to today, the day before the anniversary of my birth.

It was an Easter Sunday with all the jokes about the Easter Bunny delivering me to my parents rather than the traditional stork. Bright blue skies and crisp I was told. My father had revolted at the idea of rising early for the traditional Sunrise Service. I understand he was forced to get up even earlier than he would have wished.

A colorized picture of a one year old. A tow-headed child gazing sweetly into a camera makes me wonder why the blond hair turned brown before turning gray. Unfortunately, it has also turned loose. At some point I wonder if my sink will have more hair in it than my head has on it…or already does. I also wonder what kind of cake was smeared all over my smooth baby face, a face I no longer recognize in the mirror…with or without cake.

Somewhere in the past, a fourteen-year-old with darker blond hair, got excited about his birthday until he was presented with a brand new red Toro lawnmower instead of the red Mustang convertible he was wishing for. My dad, always the practical one…but then I was only fourteen. The mower wasn’t even a rider or self-propelled. I didn’t get the Mustang at age sixteen or eighteen either. I did get a green Mustang for my beloved when I was forty-six…I don’t even like green and it wasn’t for me…or my birthday.

I remember a “sweet sixteen” birthday party, painstakingly planned by my mother and held at the fire house just down the road from our house. All my friends and classmates were there dancing to forty-fives, eating cake and drinking punch. I never told her how embarrassed I was for all the commotion…and for the fact I was “sweet sixteen and had never been kissed” before the party…or for a while after it.

For some reason, there are no outstanding birthday memories from sixteen to fifty…or I need something to trigger the memory I’m not having. A gathering at a local restaurant on my fiftieth netted me a four-disc boxed set of Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits, from a friend I daily worry about. Because my six-disc changer is loaded with all four of my Buffet disc’s, there is a great chance I’m going to be reminded of my friend anytime I get into my car. I am also reminded of the battle I fear he is losing to his addiction. I think I’m going to call him on my birthday and remind him of the joy he brought me.

On my fifty-sixth we gathered with family at the same restaurant as my fiftieth, this time after church on a bright and warm Sunday afternoon. I had a great time but felt physically ill as I drove the winding road home. Queasy, I contributed it to the garlicy pasta I had consumed along with the copious amounts of birthday cheer in the form of birthday cake. It wasn’t until I got home that I considered a heart attack. The elephant suddenly sitting on my chest fueled my suspicion.

The attack may have been the greatest gift I could have ever received…even better than a red Mustang convertible. I survived and became a better steward of the health my creator granted me. Eleven more years with my beloved, seeing my daughter graduate from college, marry and start a family of her own…beginning her THIRD vocation while seven month’s pregnant. Miller Kate and Nolan the grandbabies. An epic Sixtieth in Atlanta with “too good” a friends attending a James Taylor concert. Front row seats within touching distance and a limo ride to and from. Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue, two Australian blue heelers who have made us their own, worming their way into my heart for the past twelve years.

Just to be clear, Linda Gail has already stated, “We are not going to celebrate your birthday on this Sunday.” Superstitious or just not willing to tempt fate? I had not thought about it…guess she does love me just a little. Well…Happy Birthday to me.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bp or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

LITTLE GIRL LOST

She sat to my right…toward the back of the small room we occupied that first year. Usually I don’t remember with that much clarity but they were different. She was different. We were all beginning a new chapter in our lives, me as their new teacher, her new teacher, and they as new charter school students. Some had come from home schools, others from church schools. A few even came from traditional public schools. They were all special, this first group…she was special. A light shone in her much larger than her size.

She was a small girl, all blond and bubbly…not. Tiny and blond but quiet and slow to smile, something she should have done more often but seemed to guard in my presence. Mostly she blushed in my presence until later, after she got to understand me better. I would catch her smiling, out in our small hallway as we changed classes, talking to her friends. Smiling in the makeshift lunchroom. Her smile was controlled…until it wasn’t and then it enveloped her whole face. I thought she was a happy child.

During class, she was mostly ALL business. Completing her assignments ahead of time and then mentoring her classmates. Speaking with the authority of preparedness when completing the projects from hell we assigned…rising to the occasion…like the island she created for one of those projects. Mostly all business, there were moments when we all laughed, usually at our own ineptness.

She played basketball as a tiny little ball handler, a point guard. She had more desire than she had ability. They all had more desire than ability the first year of basketball…the year we moved from the church to the portables. Still she had the world at her feet…or so I thought.

I lost contact with her after the second year until I saw her not long ago. A hostess at a restaurant, she was still small but all grown up. I tried to catch up but she seemed to want to bolt. She seemed uncomfortable with us…like a worm on hot pavement uncomfortable. I thought she was busy. Now I wonder.

I don’t have to wonder what she was thinking in those last seconds this past weekend. I have been there…looking down the barrel of a small twenty-two. A decision between pain and the unknown. I chose my own pain over the pain I might have inflicted on others. She chose the unknown but I don’t begrudge her the pain she is causing. It’s the sickness not the person…there is no answer to the question “Why?”

The sickness is depression and it won out this past weekend. It wins often…too often. Often it wins because many, like me, fear telling anyone, having anyone think we might be crazy. It wins because family and friends don’t seem to understand…even if they do. They don’t understand “Why?” even if they do. It wins out because we are all alone…even when we are not.

I don’t know why depression won this weekend I just know it did…and it will win next weekend and every day in between and beyond…until we can all understand.

Before you make your choice call 1-800-273-8255. National Suicide Hotline

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

Southern Bias

“The past is never dead, in fact, it’s not even past.” One of the South’s greatest Nobel Prize laureates. William Faulkner

A blog follower of mine paid me a superb compliment…I think…I hope. Her comment was, “I love reading your musings. You confound my biases about Southern attitudes.” No, she ain’t from around here but sometimes I wonder if I should be. I guess I need to ask the clarifying question, “What biases?” I haven’t heard back yet and since our power went off due to a thunderstorm, I guess I shall attempt to saunter on alone.

I don’t believe she meant, “As one Forbes pundit overstated several years ago, ‘the common media view of the South is as a regressive region, full of overweight, prejudiced, exploited, and undereducated numbskulls.’” I wrote a previous post about our own contributions to those biases , “Sot in Our Ways,” but will not re-till this field since I don’t believe it fits her bias. The reason I believe this? She writes from her Michigan farm about chickens, goats and puppy dogs. She even has a story about possums. Sorta sounds like a female, Yankee version of me…except she’s probably a better writer than I am…no, not probably.

I realize the South is full of paradoxes and I know our paradoxes create biases. Sweetening our tea before adding lemon to make it a bit sour. Revering the past while seemingly revering little of the present. My great Grand Daddy preaching on the evils of alcohol while being drunker than “old Cooter Brown.” My guess was he was railing about the evils of “sto’ bought” rather than homemade. Going to family reunions to find our mates…that was a joke although I did date a very distant cousin once upon a time. I lived in a sparsely populated area and female company was at a premium.

I guess another perceived reason for bias is our murder of the “King’s English.” Droppin’ our gees, talkin’ slower than molasses running in the wintertime and usin’ the word y’all all of the time. I was once told the difference between Southern girls and Northern girls was that if you asked for a kiss, Northern girls might answer “You can!”, Southern gals might answer “Y’all can!” Remember, y’all can mean one…maybe. Well, y’all can is singular, y’all ALL can would be plural…kinda like “Youse guys.”

I know many Northerners who have biases about our food. No one I know actually eats Moon Pies while drinking a “dope” and I have never in my life eaten pickled pig’s feet…and won’t ever unless starving. Some folks above the Mason Dixon Line wouldn’t be caught dead sucking a crawfish head after eating a crawfish tail or eating grits even though polenta is nothing more than grits with a Latin name and probably a heftier price tag. Grits should be viewed as a “blank canvas.” Plain until you start adding color…say…mixed with cream cheese and covered with grilled or blackened shrimp “runnin’” in a brown roux featuring Tasso ham or andouille sausage and chives. Now that’s colorful. I will not discuss Cream of Wheat.

I have my own bias or at least an issue with the way certain folks use the verb barbeque interchangeably with the verb grill. Barbequin’ ain’t grillin’. Grillin’ is charring burgers, hot dogs, chicken or fish. Doing so is fine, I love a good chargrilled burger or chicken done right…with a beer can up its butt. BBQ, however, requires low, low temperatures, hard wood coals and large animal parts although we will sneak a chicken or five in for good measure. Most importantly it requires time…hours of time…sometimes a night of time…with lies and brown liquor to help you pass the time or pass out. Rome was not built in a day and good BBQ requires at least that long.

There is a true earned bias. Many Southerners believe if Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, their favorite college football coach sits to the left…regardless of how much he cusses. For sure, Southern college football is a religious experience of sorts. Even our most hated rivals brag about how they always fill their “House of Worship” no matter how many games they lose. Yes, that was a “hell fire and brimstone” missile aimed right at their little garnet and black hearts.

Okay, maybe I am the exception proving the bias or just the rule and no William Faulkner’s quote had little to do with this essay…except it might exemplify one of our greatest paradoxes and I just like it.

“Musings of a Mad Southerner” Stories from my Southern heart. New nonfiction from Don Miller at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss

If you are interested in reading posts from my Yankee, female doppelganger, use the following link to touch base with Nancy and her Bluestem Farm. https://bluestempond.wordpress.com/

MUSINGS OF A MAD SOUTHERNER

With the GENTLE insistence of a former student, now a writer, now a mentor, and forever a friend, Lynn Cooper, I decided to test the blogging waters in 2015. Lynn had insisted I was a natural blogger and I decided to take her word for it. I am sure there are people who might disagree with Lynn after my nearly two years of blogging history but it has allowed me to empty my head of all the content which “bothers me so.”

When I began to blog I was mad, as in angry. Dylan Roof had turned our state on its head, murdering nine church worshippers who didn’t look like him in the name of white supremacy. Our governor and legislative assembly promptly lit a firestorm over the needed removal of the Confederate Flag from our state house grounds. I was angry because of what I believed to be misplaced divisiveness over our Southern heritage as opposed to our racial hate. Neither side of the argument seemed willing to concede the other might have a point. Consequently, I decided on “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” as the title for my blog.

No matter. The flag is now gone, if not forgotten, and not a moment too soon to my way of thinking. Dylan Roof has been sentenced to die and I’m no longer angry about the divisiveness over the flag because divisiveness has been replaced by a nationwide derisiveness over our new president.

As you are aware, mad can be defined as anger but also as mental illness or craziness or having enthusiasm for someone or something as in “I am mad about my wife Linda Gail or a big ole plate of shrimp and grits.” My madness and enthusiasm has taken over my anger and I have written about my wife, childhood memories and family now gone, Southern paradoxes and perceptions, food, friends, perceived enemies, battles with my depression and again, “things that bother me so,” such as my colonoscopy. I have blogged in anger over politics, bigotry and racism but will attempt to keep them to a minimum. I decided to include many of my posts in a collection of short non-fictional stories entitled “Musings of a Mad Southerner.” Unlike my blog, I will attempt to group them with rhyme and reason but can’t really guarantee I will be successful. Sometimes random rules my day and my madness. Yeah…random it is.

New Release from Don Miller. Purchase or download today on Amazon at https://goo.gl/Cedc7B

Old Hardwood Floors

I never know what will trigger a memory. My memories seem to be attached to certain senses. A scent of perfume or the aroma of food. The clink of a stone against the iron blade of a hoe. Something silky to the touch…. Yesterday it was a splash of dropped coffee on our pecan floors. As I knelt to clean my mess I was transported to other hardwood floors and déjà vu moments.

When I first walked into to the original school building at Tamassee-Salem I had a déjà vu moment. The long hallway, with its darkly yellowed hardwood floor, led me back to my old home school circa 1961 or ‘62 when I transitioned to Indian Land Junior High School. It was an easy physical transition, just walk up a short flight of stairs from the elementary school. Both, along with the high school, were all contained in the same building.

I remember long, darkly yellowed hardwood floors and the tap, tap, tap sound my shoes made. The floor shined “tritely” with the gloss of the often-mentioned “fresh penny.” I might have shaken with the fear and apprehension I felt on the first day, both as a student and later as a teacher. There was an excitement and anticipation to go with the fear.

It was a beautiful hardwood floor…before receiving thousands of scuffs and marks from hundreds of children traveling to and fro, reminding me of me in 1962, new and not yet beaten down from memorizing multiplication tables, diagraming sentences and writing out research papers, or an older me in 2001 with a metaphorical new coat of lacquer to hide the scuff marks of my life as I began a new chapter.

There is something beautiful about old hardwood floors, especially the ones in my memory. My mother was almost anally paranoid about her floors, especially those in her small living room and dining room. “Make sure you take your shoes off and do not run in here!” I found out why you didn’t run on waxed hardwood floors, especially in a shoeless, socked feet state. There was a wild collision with a small table, feet, legs and arms flailing wildly as I attempted to avoid a fate worse than death. Time slowed as I watched the globe lamp displaced by my wild slide, teeter back and forth before laying over on its side. A valiant dive to catch the globe ended inches short, or a foot, again due to the inability of socked feet to gain purchase. I watched in slow motion horror as the beautifully painted globe exploded into hundreds of glass shards.

I learned several life lessons on this day, the greatest being you don’t get praised for valiant efforts, you get your behind “tanned”…especially since I was doing what I had been instructed not to do. “Son this is going to hurt me more than you.” Right. It hurt me badly but not as badly as the sorrow in my mother’s eyes as she cleaned up my mess.

The seasonal waxing, even though very few people had ventured into the living room since the last seasonal waxing, became my duty. At a certain, now forgotten age, my mother decided “idle hands (were) the devil’s workshop” and my hands were forced to apply Johnson’s Floor Wax and buff it out, all done by the sweat of my brow. Later I would have visions of a younger me on hands and knees as Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid” was instructed, “Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off.” Thank you Mr. Miyagi.

The smells of freshly lacquered floors are still prominent in the memory portion of my brain. There was a bitter, acrid smell to the oily sawdust used to dry mop the school floor. I can conger the sharp scent from the memories held in my mind. It’s not a bad odor, just the biting aroma of a time gone by.

None of the hardwood floors of my past exist any longer other than my memory. Carted off to some landfill to make room for progress. Replaced by bland, off-white tile with no scuffs or gouges to help tell their story or, as my Mother’s floors, replaced by a retirement village along with the building which surrounded them.

Happily, they exist every time I hear the tap, tap, tap of footfalls in the hallways of my mind.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

MY BROTHER…ON HIS BIRTHDAY

My life was great…until sixty-two years ago. I don’t have the minutes and seconds but know I was four years, eleven months and six days’ old, the center of everyone’s attention and the universe, when my mother brought home a curly, red-headed, not that little, bouncing baby pain in the a$$. My brother. I don’t know when I was told I was going to have a little brother but until our adult years, had I known then…I probably would have sat outside on my doorstep waiting for the stork to show up and blown him out of the sky before the dirty bird dropped his bundle. BOOM! Just so we all know, he has grown up to be a bouncing adult pain in the a$$…not really…maybe.

He WAS SOOOOOOOO FREAKING CUTE. Born with long ringlets of dark red hair, the ringlets did nothing but get longer until there was an open argument over, “The kid needs a haircut.” This argument was not settled until a well-meaning woman expressed, “Oh what a cute little girl.” Snip, snip, buzz, buzz. My mother cried! I wonder what she would think now?

Some nine months into his life, Little Stevie began to irritate the LIFE out of me, first putting himself to sleep by rocking his crib across the floor, creating a sound like boxcars on a railroad track…KA-THUMP, KA-THUMP, KA-THUMP. Once he learned to stand he would shake the slats of his crib or playpen while yelling in baby-ese, “Let me out!” Stevie has always been about making noise. I didn’t let him out but instead, punched him in the nose. It didn’t shut him up but instead added to the den as I made squealing noises from my grandmother switched my legs.

Later Stevie would continue to get me in trouble, this time with his “Cro-Magnon” forehead. Having said something to incur my wrath, he ran for his life CAUSING ME to peg him in the middle of the forehead with a piece of driveway gravel as he looked back over his shoulder singing, “Na, Na, Na, Na, Na.” “Dad, no, no, it was an accident. I threw right at him, there is no way I should have hit him.” Those of you who have taken batting practice from me KNOW my statement is truth! A huge, bloody, red mark became a huge “puff” knot of Biblical proportions, a knot he richly deserved for running into that poor rock like he did.

Stevie continued to put his face into harm’s way, whether it was the line drive I hit off his nose during a pick-up baseball game or the glancing blow a player hit off his sizeable eyebrow during the first batting practice of a season when he helped me coach. Both shots may have been the best delivered by me or our player and a broken nose bridge and multiple stiches wreaked havoc on his dashing good looks. After the second, damage inflicting blast, the emergency room doctor informed me “The X-ray of his head showed nothing.” I pointed out he had wasted his time, I already knew that would be the case. “There’s nothing in his head to see.”

Now let’s understand, my little brother was not incapable of defending himself. My ribcage still aches during cold weather due to a sneak attack involving Stevie’s rocking chair hammering into my back as I bent over to retrieve a toy from our closet.

Showing economic savvy beyond his years, I cannot tally the number of quarters I gave him to get him to leave me alone while I attempted to spark with my girlfriend. To make things worse he told our next-door cousins and I had to pay them too. That little bit of “sugar” sure was expensive.

During my high school years, I mostly ignored my little brother but after our parent’s deaths we did grow closer, even rooming together on a couple of occasions. Our time together on the corner of Towns Street and Orange is remembered with the fondness associated with both the area and the people who resided…or at least lurked there. There was a problem with a girl who swore I was Steve. She had called several times and was sure Steve was trying to avoid her…pretending to be me. He was attempting to avoid her, but it didn’t stop her from showing up at my front door before realizing I was not him. One of many interesting evenings involving the “Orange Street Mashers Association.”

A decade ago, on my fifty-sixth birthday, Steve gave me a card with the grim reaper visible from a rearview mirror of a car. Its caption read, “Beware, objects may be closer than they appear.” That afternoon I had a heart attack…
”GOTCHA!” I received the same card the following year. “GOT ME!”

We are both officially in the autumn of our years now…late summer? I feel the need to apologize for not being the brother I should have been…probably needed to be…especially during his formative years. But then I was an immature young man myself and might have just made things worse. Steve has turned out quite well without my input…which he rarely listened to anyway. A business owner and pillar of the human race despite his disdain for social convention, a man who walks the walk even with an unbridled and sarcastic tongue, a solid husband to a lovely woman who must have been a masochist to marry him.

Provided we stay away from politics, and we are closer in belief than either of us wishes to admit, along North Carolina athletics, we generally find common ground. So, I congratulate your on surviving this long, especially with your sarcastic tongue and propensity for running into hard objects travelling at high velocities. There were times I really had my doubts. HAPPY BIRTHDAY
BRO! I LOVE YOU!

For unique life stories by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf