Mama…..at 90

Calvin Coolidge was our nation’s president. Indoor plumbing was a luxury and electric lights were not widely used yet in the small Georgia town where she was born. A real Southern Belle, my mother has witnessed an incredible slice of the history of mankind in the 90 years she has been living on planet earth.Mama and Billy146
When I look into her beautiful brown eyes, I sometimes imagine what those eyes have seen over a 90 year lifetime. I also see the love, compassion and humility of a good and spiritual woman. The kitchen table where she served so many delicious and heartwarming meals served as the inspiration for my blog. I came to realize that it was my mother who stirred in me the passion to write and share a story. I wrote a story for her a few years ago to honor her birthday. I will share it again below.
I realize that my family and I have been blessed to have our mother as long as we have. I have many friends whose mothers and fathers have gone on to heaven. It is my hope that this story and celebration of my mother will help my readers re-live some of those cherished memories of their mother’s and father’s. The human creature is a divine creation. We cleave to a sense of family and belonging to those we love. My mother taught me this and showed me by example. Witnessing my mother over a lifetime, I came to think of an analogy that I think illustrates her character.
I have sometimes imagined my mother as a proud Eagle standing watch over her nest of hatchlings. Paying meticulous care over her brood, she nurtures and watches over them with fierce loyalty and love. I have counted myself as fortunate to be a part of her nest. When the good Lord sees fit to take her home, her nest will be empty, but her example and her memory will continue to soar with all of the other Eagles she has touched in her lifetime.
Here is my tribute to my hero, my mama.

Happy Birthday Mama,
Thank You

My Mother’s birthday is coming up on September 28th and I would like to honor her in a special way this year. I want to share her life story and what she has meant to me.
She has been called by many names. She has been called Mary, Edna, Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Daniel, “Miss Edna” and “Teetnin”. It has been my good fortune to call her Mama.
She grew up in “Pepperton”, a small mill village east of Jackson during the Depression. Their bank accounts were not large, but their hearts and souls were full of love. She saw the advent of the indoor bathroom and can remember drinking a “3 cent’er” soft drink. She used to enjoy going to her Grandmother’s home and playing in the country and savoring the offerings from the fruit trees. She enjoyed playing with dolls as a little girl and swimming at the pool at Indian Springs. When she was a young teenager, she and three of her friends pooled their money and bought an old convertible “Model A” or “Model T”, I cannot remember exactly which one. Mama had the distinct privilege of being the driver because she was the only one who knew how at the time.Mama on the town149
Very soon, she would catch the eye of a handsome young man, Carl Kelly. In the course of their courtship, they fell in love and married. They began a new life together. He, as a soldier and she, an Army wife.
Life on army posts in those days could be challenging. I can remember mama telling me of having to go out in the snow and chopping wood for their stove and drawing water from a well pump.
Mama would soon be stricken with rheumatic fever. She would be restricted to bed rest. It was at that time that she came home to Jackson so my grandmother “Bon Bon” could help care for her. Their young sons would stay at Ft. Lewis with their father where he was helped out with the boys by some army wives. Then fate would strike again. The Korean War started up and Carl was to be called overseas.
He brought the boys back to Jackson. He then bid a tearful farewell to mama and boarded a train back to Ft. Lewis. This would be the last time that she would ever see him. Carl was killed in Korea and regaled as a war hero, as was so eloquently detailed in an article in this paper some time ago. Highway 16 running east out of Jackson was named in his honor.
A new phase of life would begin for mama and her three boys. Thru the pain and the grieving, she found an inner strength and courage to forge on with life. She had come full circle, having left Jackson as a young teenage girl, living the life of a soldier’s wife at different points on the compass, and now returning to Jackson as a young woman, a mother and a widow.
She and her boys took up residence in the Deraney apartments. She also worked for her Uncle Ralph, who had a store there in town. She also forged some lifelong friendships while living in the apartments, friendships still strong to this day. This was a period of transition. Mama would begin dating again and would meet a man from Griffin, Ed Daniel, my father. They would be married in the National Guard armory in Jackson. Right across the street would be their new home, etched out of a field where an old farm once stood. Mama had bore three sons and would soon give life to another two, me and my little brother Joe.

Mama is one of the wisest people I have known. As a young child, she taught me about manners and courtesy. I still have memorized the little phrase she repeated over and over, “Yes m’am, No m’am, Thank you m’am, Please.” It is these little memories that make mama, that make all of our mothers, so special.
I was in the second grade when tragedy would once again visit my mother. My older brother Timmy was killed in a traffic accident in California. This was my first real life lesson about grief and loss. Many years later, my brother Pat was also killed in a traffic accident. Yet, my mother displayed profound courage in working thru her grief and anguish. By watching her example, I came to understand that one could rebound and engage life again with a positive attitude and a strong relationship with God. As I continued to grow, I would learn other lessons on life from mama’s example about dignity, character, compassion, courage, courtesy, respect and a reverence of God and love.

One of the most enjoyable benefits of living under Miss Edna’s roof was her cooking. Whether having a wholesome breakfast of eggs, bacon and biscuits for breakfast before school, or having mama’s oven BBQ chicken with mashed potatoes on a cool fall evening, it was all good. But it was also comforting, both physiologically and emotionally. A good meal shared by family imparts a sense of home and belonging. Some of my fondest childhood memories are sitting down to the dinner table enjoying one of mama’s meals.
When I’m feeling low or down about something, I look to my mother’s example to boost my morale and pick myself up. She is my hero and she will be forever. My soul is enriched every time I speak to her and hear her voice. Many times I wish I lived in Jackson once again so I could see her every day.
Those of us of faith no doubt wonder what it will be like when we are finally called to heaven. For me, in my own dreams, I do not see pearly gates and lands of milk and honey. My vision of heaven is that of a little boy of about 10, clad in blue jeans and T-shirt running across a field of grass in the bright sunshine. I’m running towards my house. Standing on the back porch is my mama. I reach my mama and fall into her arms with an embrace. When I realize that dream, I will know that I have made it to heaven.
I thank God daily for blessing me and my brothers with our mother.
Thank You and Happy Birthday Mama.
I Love You,
Chip
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Paradise….not so elusive after all

It has been over a month since my last entry on my blog. My writing has not been idle, I have some works that are in the making. However, a recent business trip gave me a gift inside my heart that speaks to the essence of what is important in life, at least to me, and I am sure to most, if not all, who will read this story.
This particular business trip was not to some metropolitan city, but to Puerto Rico, “the island of enchantment”. Old Chris Columbus had happened upon this jewel of the Caribbean in 1493. The Spanish took hold of her and didn’t let go until some 400 years later when the United States whipped the Spaniards in the Spanish-American War. Since then, she has been a U.S. Territory.
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I’m sure those Spanish sailors that first set foot on her beaches and looked up at the palm trees swaying in the tropical breezes thought they had found paradise. The Spanish put so much strategic importance in Puerto Rico that they began to build one of the most impressive arrays of fortifications of the time situated around the main city of San Juan. The forts of El Morro and San Cristobal were amazing feats of engineering for the 1500’s. The Spanish would continue to improve upon the fortifications and build onto them for hundreds of years. They would even repel an assault in the 1700’s by the British, who were ultimately unsuccessful in their bid to capture this gem of the Caribbean for the British Empire.
Today, as a United States Territory, her forts are maintained by the U.S. Park Service. It was certainly a treat for an old soldier like me to tour her parapets and stand in the same outposts where so many Spanish soldiers held vigil as they looked out over the sea.
PR Sentry Post
Part of the city, “Old San Juan”, is now a tourist mecca lined with restaurants, clubs and shops to entertain the traveler. Cruise ships frequently make port here so their passengers can spend the day and take in the sites. For travelers on vacation, this can be an escape to an island paradise. For the business traveler, one can still revel in the beauty and excite your palate on the local offerings, but even paradise for the business traveler can leave an empty feeling in your heart when you are not sharing it with the ones you love.
After a day of work, one can relax his soul in the evening by standing on the edge of the ocean and listening to the waves splash against the rocks below. The sea breezes sway the palm trees and blow across your face and take you into a different consciousness as you gaze across a moonlit sea.
PR Palm Trees
Even in this moment of peace, my thoughts are drawn to my wife and daughter back home. My wish at that moment would be to have them standing with me sharing that moment of peace together. Each morning, I get ready to go to work and I stare out my hotel window at the beautiful blue sea that greets me, I thank God for giving me this opportunity to see the grandeur of his creation. I then think of my wife and daughter and I am thankful that I am one day closer to being back home.
My time at work comes to a close. Early on a Saturday morning, vacationers are poised to spend the day at the beach or sit around the pool and spend a day in paradise. I am pulling my luggage along to the check out area with equal anticipation in my heart. But my excitement does not reside at the beach or pool, my excitement resides with the sight of my home and loved ones as I pull into the driveway.
PR Waves
I finally make it on board the plane and look out over the blue Caribbean for the last time. In a few hours, I touch down in Atlanta. Before long, my truck is southbound on I-85 and I am heading for home. When I pull into the driveway, the lawn that needs mowing looks priceless to me and the sight of my front door gives me a lump in my throat.
I walk inside to the smiles and hugs from my wife and daughter. My daughter has baked me a cake shaped like a heart and my wife has an impressive spread of hors d’oeuvres for me on the table.
The look in their eyes is more breath-taking than the paradise I had just left. Their hugs bring more comfort than any evening tropical sea breeze. Some would say that I left paradise and came home. I, indeed had a great privilege of seeing the masterful hand of God’s creation in the Caribbean Sea. But I didn’t leave paradise, I came home to it. Paradise is where we make it and where we see it. I see paradise everyday I get to look into the eyes of my family. Paradise….yeah, it’s not so elusive, it’s found in love. And I am thankful for my paradise.Robin and Molly