Archive for November, 2018


The ragged caravan of velocipedes moved down Erie Avenue headed for MEAC (Madisonville Education and Assistance Center) loaded with 195 boxes of great-bird fixin’s.  It was a unique experience showing up right-on-the-dot at the advertised 9:30 AM to join that lively crew of 17.  They were already locked and loaded, ready to go.  I was the first to volunteer and the last to show up—not late, not early, exactly on time— my signature approach to getting there.  But these Episcopalians were already grooving.  There were only a pathetic few cardboard containers left to fill my Highlander.  They were promptly stowed, and after a prayerful blessing we were off in a cloud of love-thy-neighbor dust.


I didn’t know where I was going, a common problem for me, new to the state, but I’ve learned that in Ohio you are just supposed to know these things.  I took off, roughly toward where I thought MEAC must surely be.  It worked.  In no time at all what had been a rough aggregate of disparate vehicles converged on the center of Madisonville, a merry clot of good will.


Everybody grabbed a stack of loaded cardboard from any vehicle and filed into the quiet grey building.  In no time at all, vans were empty and an impressive stack of heaving containers strained a long row of sturdy tables, creaking, sagging, wanting just to give of their bounty.  And give they did.  The first donation was to the assorted Redeemer parishioners who volunteered for this project, asked by a frantic Liz Coley to lend a hand and a vehicle to the annual event.  I had hesitated to offer my car with its peeling clear-coat to a group of surely better ones.  But—why not?  The rest is history, or moving in that direction.  Getting to show up and be a part of this loving roundup is the best Thanksgiving gift a person could receive.  What fun to imagine the grateful happy faces soon to be arrayed about our stack of plain unwrapped boxes.


I’ll never forget this, my first experience of benevolent Episcopalians in action.  They came—they gave—they conquered.  And they didn’t have a whole lot to say about it.  They just made it happen.  The lady representing our Presbyterian counterparts rounded us up for a photo-op, and everybody agreed on a group grin.  There wasn’t even a flash as her iPhone swallowed the cheerful scene.  Everybody waved and headed out to wherever.  Our job was done—this time.


But, there’ll be a next time.  Next time I’ll know that it’s a good thing to offer, even what is not much.  I couldn’t even think of lifting those boxes with my old tricky shoulders, but others could.  I can do some small part of what is needed, so I’ll be there.  The rest is up to God.

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Old Wood

The truth is I am an aggregation of lovely bones cunningly festooned with living meat intent on staying motile to some glorious end.  I could make a finale to this puzzle of being me, but think what I would miss.  There are so many books to read, so many writing prompts to coax into luxuriant bloom.  How could I just stop?  My grandmother Minnie Mae used to moan, “I wish I had ever-thin’ done.”  She said this, rubbing her old hurting hands, like a blessing or maybe a curse on all the things she intended to do, wanted to do, must surely do before this day’s sun set over the calf pasture.  Then she would heave herself up from her wobbly wired-together rocker and head out to the woodpile for some kindling.  Mornings were for serious chopping, splitting the craggy oak logs into pieces that stood a chance of fitting into her wood-stove.  Men, once here, now gone, men with hard muscle that could man either end of a crosscut, had cut logs into stove length rounds, stacked to wait for splitting, then stacked to wait for carrying to hearth and stove.  As day followed day, the logs, rounds, splits, and even kindling disappeared, ferried into the house to cook and to comfort.  Minnie Mae could never declare ever-thin’ done as long as there was still wood waiting for her.  Her wood.  The coin of her existence.


I only knew Minnie Mae Reynolds Martin as a grouchy old woman who was glad to see me arrive and probably glad to see me go, though she cried every time, saying that she would surely not live to see me another summer.  It had never occurred to my child mind that she had once been young like me, much less being a beauty.  Daddies sister, my Aunt Margaret disabused me of that silly notion one day.  She pulled a book off her shelf, flipped it open to a hidden for safekeeping photogravure, a tiny image of Minnie Mae in her glory.  I didn’t believe her.  Couldn’t.  How could that alluring visage be my old wrinkled, sun-bonneted, feed sack adorned, foot-skuffing, slouching along Grandma?  Margaret explained that Grandpa, Harry Allen Densmore Martin, was besotted with her, adored her, always called her “the best,”


There was a kernel of wisdom lurking among her words that I didn’t want to see.  If Grandma was once young and beautiful, then I too might someday become old and grisly.  But time was on my side.  Aeons would pass before such a thing could happen.  I need only nestle into being my supple lush-braided dozen-year-old self and forget about the remote possibility of ever becoming old.


But old is time relative.  Now I’m eighty.  After these many years of trying to not be like Grandma, it’s time to get busy reading and writing—even playing.  I still have some good years left.  Grandma didn’t kick the proverbial bucket until she was eighty-nine.  That morning she had chopped the morning’s stove wood, baked buttermilk biscuits from scratch, made ham and eggs with red-eye gravy, and only then lay down for a rest before starting lunch.  When the ischemic attack kicked her in the chest, she reached for Margaret, who was sitting beside her watching the newfangled television box.  She could only jerk a bit of Margaret’s hair, so great was the pain in her arm and chest.  Margaret, zoned into the new wonder, ignored her, but gave her a good pinch to settle her down.


Since I haven’t ever touched red-eye gravy and am adhering to the paleo diet, I will surely have another nine years to read and write and learn.  But lacking a woodpile out back to keep me mean and fit, who knows?

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