Don’t Stop

Today’s reflection question is a tough one.

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

I’m stretching a little, but my youngest first cousin on my mom’s side got married this year.  It was the first marriage in the family in many years.  His wedding affected us by pulling us together for a joyful experience, creating a bonding moment.

My members of my mom’s family actually sees each other pretty frequently, at least compared to a lot of families whose members live in different towns and states.  As my sister and I were growing up, my mom and her six sisters all lived within 40 miles of my grandparents.  Every Sunday was spent at my grandparents’ house, and most of my aunts and their children came each Sunday.  When my grandfather passed away, he asked my mom to help ensure that “the family” still got together frequently, and my mom and my step-dad have opened their home on a regular basis to us.

Thus, the wedding wasn’t the first time in a long time that we all had seen each other — we just got together at Easter.  But it was the first time in a long time that we celebrated each other, celebrated our family, and celebrated how much we love each other.  (Also, a celebration of cupcakes and Journey songs.)

Happy Birthday to My Mother

Today is my mom’s birthday.  I called her tonight to wish her “Happy Birthday” and she was getting ready to have dinner with some friends.

Growing up, my sister, cousins and I used to have the best birthdays.  They weren’t huge parties and they didn’t involve huge cakes or mounds of presents, they just included small parties at my Mamaw and Papaw’s house.

Wendi, Matt, Birthday Girl JJ, Cristy & Ashleigh

On the Sunday closest to the birthday, after all the lunch dishes were washed and the kitchen table was cleared, the birthday cake was brought out and placed before the guest of honor.  The rest of us gathered around and sang “Happy Birthday”, while our aunts and Mamaw looked on, then we got down to eating cake and opening presents.

Ashleigh, Birthday Girl Cristy and Matt
Aunt Baby, gamely wearing her headdress

I don’t remember any of us having big parties where lots of people were invited, where school friends came, where venues were rented out to entertain all the attendees.  Instead, I remember these simple Sundays at Mamaw’s with just my family.

One birthday that stands out was either my cousin Matt’s or my cousin Wendi’s.  I know it was one of them because the mother of the birthday girl or boy was responsible for bringing the cake and on this birthday, the cake had had an accident.  My Aunt Mary June (Wendi & Matt’s mom) had put the cake on the roof of the car while packing the car, unlocking the door (back in the day of inserting a key into a door lock), etc. and she forgot it was on the roof.  She drove off and the cake fell off.

The damage was minimal.  We only had to pick a little bit of gravel out of the icing before we cut into the cake.  We kids thought that was hilarious.

Front:  Birthday Girl, JJ, and Cristy
Back:  Mamaw, Aunt Margo, Mom and Aunt Baby
(One of my FAVORITE pictures–love my Mamaw in a birthday hat)
Birthday Girl, Ashleigh

If it wasn’t our birthday, we didn’t expect to get any gifts.  Only the birthday boy or girl had presents to open, and the rest of us were okay with that.  But, the birthday guest of honor usually let the others play with his / her presents.

I hear about the parties that parents throw their kids these days and I’m a little astounded.  They seem like very complicated and expensive.  But I don’t have children, so this is a current mystery that I just cannot answer.

But I can say with complete confidence that these birthdays of my youth were wonderful days, full of laughter, happy expectations, and feelings of being special for the day.

I hope that my mom is having as wonderful day today as she provided for me all those many birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Mama!


In 1771, British essayist Joseph Addison wrote “Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” I have to respectfully disagree with J-Add. At this point in my life, Sunday is not one of my favorite days. I am afraid that I spend too much time fretting about Monday, the week to come, and the weekend past to “clear the rust” from the past week. Logically, I can admit that it is a waste to chew over the last 6 days while also worrying about the next 6, but I can’t seem to help myself. It’s an illness.
I haven’t always felt this way about Sundays. When I was younger, Sundays were great days. They followed a certain pattern, changed only by the weather, holidays or birthdays. My mom, sister and I went to church each Sunday morning, after which we headed to my grandparents house. The memories made at my grandparents’ home are some of the strongest ones of my childhood.
Sundays at Mamaw’s and Papaw’s meant many things: good food, playing with my cousins, listening to my aunt’s talk about how much we were all growing, visiting with my grandparents’ brothers and sisters, and hearing stories about the “good ‘ole days.” Mamaw was such a good cook — beans and biscuits, cabbage and corn, pintos and potatoes and all other kinds of good food. The table would be full of bowls of food, and yet it seemed that she just threw it all together, kinda nonchalantly.
Even though I saw most of my aunts every Sunday, my sister and I and my cousins went through a weekly “interrogation” — school, boyfriends / girlfriends, extracurricular activities. The older we got, the more intrusive some of the questions could become (i.e. “Are you kissing any boys? With tongue?”) And my aunts (and my mom with my cousins) were especially interested in how we girls were growing / developing, i.e. were we getting boobs? I don’t know if this interest was born of the fact that most of them were not well-endowed or what, but I’ve told people before that the first time that anyone ever “felt me up” was in my Mamaw’s kitchen when one of my aunts was checking to see how big my boobs were getting. To us, this behavior was normal (and I don’t think any of us have been scarred by it).
But the best part of Sundays was playing with my cousins. If it was warm outside, we would play in the yard, playing Red Rover, or climbing trees, or running as fast as we could. When my cousins, Wendi and JJ, and I became cheerleaders, we spent a lot of time cheering in the front yard. Sometimes we would just swing on the porch, telling each other secrets and stories.

If it were cold (which it often was in the mountains), we would sit in the living room, looking at old photo albums. Sometimes we would go into one of the back bedrooms and whisper and talk. Sometimes we would even cheer in the living room. Papaw would sit in his chair, reading his Bible or doing his crossword puzzle, and never say a word about how loud we were.

Sundays when I was a kid were days to create memories. I can remember like it was yesterday the sound of Mamaw and Papaw’s front door opening and closing. I can remember the sound of Papaw’s voice as he said the blessing before each Sunday lunch. I can remember the smell and the sounds and the events. And in this remembrance of the Sundays past I have finally been able to clear away my rust.