Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Memory of Warren Starke (1939-1992)

The Vine

Spring, 1993

After the service, back at the house, 
someone asked about the vine 
on the front fence.

You remember, the one 
I always nagged you 
to dig up and out and gone 
because the thick dead trails 
of thin gray string made such a mess 
after the blooms stopped
and I was tired of cleaning the fence. 
You always refused, 
saying--approval in your voice-- 
the vine paid its way in blossom time.

Disinterested, I regarded 
the small flowers 
in the mass of crawling vine and 
tried to give it a name. 
I couldn't.
Later, someone exclaimed, 
"Look!  A hummingbird vine!" 
and moved to get a closer look. 
In the afterfuneral smalltalk, two visitors 
recalled childhood memories 
richly flavored with such a vine. 
To a chorus of startmesome, I promised.

Today, for the second year 
I've known the name, 
I pulled the gray tendrils off the fence 
and I thought of you.

And, with pleasure, I thought of 
the perfect, five-pointed blossoms
unpretentious scarlet stars
soon to appear
summer's bright red dots
punctuating the delicate, dark green traceries 
cascading, looping from post to post 
hiding the ugly wire fence. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

National Siblings Day Post – A Day Late

Cousins and grandmother
It’s appropriate that this post is a day late because I don’t have any siblings! But I am lucky to have had ten wonderful cousins: four on my mother’s side in one Alabama family, and six on my father’s, three in Alabama and three in South Carolina.  My maternal grandmother lived in my second home across the street from my four Oneonta cousins so the five of us grew up together, and I thought of them as mine before I ever heard the word siblings and realized I didn't have any. During my growing-up years, I spent nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day with them, plus weeks in the summer.

This picture was taken on Mother’s Day.  Although I don’t know the year because there is no notation on the back (Oh, Mama, why didn’t you? Maybe the same reason I didn’t either?) I know it was Mother’s Day. I look at the flowers and remember our annual ritual of cutting white and red roses in Grandmother’s garden, making a white corsage for her, and pinning red roses on each other.

When I was about ten, the five of us stood in a circle, held hands, and solemnly promised each other that we would never, under any circumstances, become teachers.  Why was such a commitment necessary? We were supersaturated with school things.  Both of my parents and my aunt were teachers.  My grandmother was the principal of the elementary school, and my grandfather was the superintendent of education for Blount County.  Of the five of us, three became teachers!

Although I was greatly influenced by my cousins, we departed ways when it came to college loyalty. As the child of an Auburn staff member, I of course yelled War Eagle, while the others screamed Roll Tide. (The youngest cousin, however, wound up at Georgia Tech with a PhD in something way out there, like nuclear physics.)

I look at this picture with sadness because these four cousins are all gone now but also with happiness because I still enjoy the great memories of our time together.