September 19, 2007

This Land Is Our Land

I talked to my Aunt Polly on the phone today. She is one of my few remaining relatives, and that is by marriage. She is in her seventies, and has been diagnosed with a very serious kind of cancer, and is undergoing chemo. I'm not sure that it is going to be successful, but I pray that it will be. I call her all the time, just to tell her that I love her, and to talk, and to just allow her to talk. She and my uncle had seven children, and she has lost three of them, tragically, over the years, and sometimes that is what she wants to talk about.

Today, we somehow got on the subject of the different places she's lived--the different houses, and the times that I visited her, and spent weeks with her, while I was growing up, and afterwards. She misses her old house--she is now living with a son and daughter-in-law. She said that she wishes that she hadn't had to sell her old house, but that she knew she couldn't stay there anymore, the way things were. She was not talking about her cancer--she was speaking of what her old neighborhood has become.

She has lived her whole life there, in that town in Georgia that I've mentioned in my other stories on here. Her parents lived in a little house in the mill village, from the time that Aunt Polly was a little girl, and long years afterwards, too. During the latter years, while her mother was ailing, and until she died, Aunt Polly and Uncle Bo lived there with her in that same house. After my uncle died, she remained there, until about four years ago. She had always felt safe there, never locking her doors--not even at night.

But something happened to that little mill village. Gradually, over the past few years, every single dwelling there has been purchased by Hispanics. It is no longer the quiet, peaceful little community it once was where you could sit out on the porch-swing, any hour of the day or night, and feel safe. Now, at any hour there are cars racing up and down the street, loud shouting, crowds of people walking up and down the sidewalk, music blaring out of the passing cars, and adjoining houses. Once, while I was spending some time with her, there was a drive-by shooting, very close to her house. Only a few of the yards are still well-kept--most of them now have large stalks of corn, or something else, growing up the sides of the houses. The last time that I was there, a year ago, we drove by Aunt Polly's old place, and driving up the street, and around the neighborhood, I was reminded of the times, years ago, that I visited Tiajuana, Mexico.

All up and down the streets, going into town, the stores' windows are filled with signs in Spanish, and when you go into some of them, it is all Hispanic, and you hear only Spanish being spoken. It is almost surreal, making you feel like you took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in another country. And the icing on the cake to this whole thing, is that her daughter-in-law who had worked for several years at a convenience store, was "let go" a few months ago. The new owners are Hispanic, and they hired only other Hispanics, and I'm sure, members of their own family. And it isn't only that store--it is happening all over the place , including many towns in the adjoining state of Alabama. Like it or not, that's the way it is now and we are expected to just accept it.

After all, we mustn't offend anyone. Not even if they are trying to change everything that was once dear, and familiar, to us all.

From A Kid's Perspective

Kids just have the most unique way of expressing themselves. They view things from an entirely different perspective, and are most candid in their observations. Below are the answers of second graders, to questions asked by their teacher.

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of ?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you Your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related!
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between Moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but Moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?

1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


I had a few funny moments with my own sons, too.

Mike, who was in kindergarten at the time, was lying on the floor, pencil in hand, toiling away at his "homework."

"Mama, how do you make an elamento?"


"How do you make an elamento?"

"A what?"

"An elamento. You know, a b c d e f g...h i j k...elamento p."

It still makes me laugh!