07 April 2013

Happy Birthday, Nano

On what would have been her 95th birthday, I'm happily recalling fond memories of my grandmother, Thelma.

My first thought of her this morning was remembering that she gave us a wake-up call every day for many years so we wouldn't miss the school bus, largely because I would ignore my alarm clock and fall back to sleep. Being the eldest, I was expected to motivate my sisters and brother for the walk (or run) down the street to the bus stop at Becky's driveway where we would wait for (or chase after) bus #307. Unfortunately for her, the chore usually ended up on the shoulders of my more responsible, younger sister, Lisa.

Thinking of those phone calls helped me remember many a weekend spent behind the white picket fence at 1311 East Breckenridge, and how I often wish we could relive those days with her.

Once, when she was standing at the sink shaking a can of V-8 we told her that she was "shaking more than the can". She didn't find any humor in that remark and she made sure we knew it. I'm not positive, but at that moment we may have seen her weapon of choice for dispensing discipline and keeping order: the flyswatter.

Often, after having experienced that rare display of frustration with us, we'd hide behind her black sofa, the kind from the early sixties with silver threads woven into the fabric, to pout or perhaps "make her miss us." One of the long, hipster sofas with a slanted back, it provided a perfect "cave" between it and the wall for three little brats to find refuge.

Because we could be a hard-headed, determined lot, she'd usually come to the living room in order to coerce us out of our isolation, and ask, "Would you like an ice cream and a Pepsi?"

What child wouldn't want a sugar buzz? We'd follow her to her kitchen, where for as long as I remember a bird cage hung from just inside the kitchen door, with a little yellow inhabitant that wouldn't sing songs like Nano had hoped. Oh, it would chirp and make noises in the mornings, but for all of the "practice" with the 45 RPM Hartz Mountain canary records she played, Sunny never produced a song. None of the canaries named Sunny did.

Gathering our "rewards" from her white Coldspot, she'd position us around the kitchen table where we could sit and drink our Pepsi-Colas and eat our swirly chocolate or strawberry ice-cream -- the kind sold ten to a bag at A&P or Kroger in little plastic cups with cardboard lids and wooden "spoons" -- leaving space for her to start preparing dinner in anticipation of Papaw returning from his day at Pillsbury. And, more likely, where she could keep an eye on us.

To begin, she'd pull the snap-bead chain of the flourescent fixture on the ceiling. As it flickered to life, she'd fetch a paper grocery sack out of her pantry, carefully tearing it open so it would lie flat on the kitchen table. It was always fascinating to me, watching how she could peel a tomato, an apple, a potato or just about anything with that Old Hickory butcher knife, (one Papaw sharpened so many times that the blade, blackened with years and years of service, had become concave), skillfully leaving a long, unbroken ribbon of skin in a rumpled pile. Watching her with that same knife and a whole chicken was another experience altogether.

"How do you do that, Nannie?" She would just smile and wink.

Once the peeling was done, she'd set in motion the other tasks to put food on the table. And typically, boredom would send us kids back to the console television to watch afternoon cartoons in the living room. In a while, we could smell the fruits of her labor, often accompanied with the rhythmic hiss of the the Mirro-Matic on top of the stove.

After Papaw came home, they'd drink a couple of Blatz beers, no doubt purchased from Jesse Schook's Beer Depot on Kentucky Street near Barret Avenue -- with the foul-mouthed Mynah bird -- and Charms Blow-pops. He'd drink his from the bottle, but she'd pour hers into a glass and sprinkle it with salt from one of those orange and green "Indian" shaker sets.

It seems like I asked her why she salted her beer, and if I remember right, it was to get rid of the "suds." Truth be known, though, she salted a lot of things I would've considered "no-salt" foods until I tried them her way, like watermelon.

I haven't salted my watermelon in decades. I rarely eat watermelon for that matter, but I'd love the chance to do it with her one more time. Happy 95th birthday, Nano.

01 April 2013

Oh, For God's Sake

I'm constantly in awe of the ridiculous, ignorant claims made by folks who oppose marriage equality for whatever reason, which are becoming more frequent with last week's Supreme Court hearings regarding the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8.

Like this one from Georgia's GOP Chair, Sue Everhart, as reported by TalkingPointsMemo via Marietta Daily Journal:
“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
Sue "My Easter bonnet was an asshat" Everhart.

She continued:

“Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married. If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”

Of course, we have a plethora of nonsensical tidbits like this about which we can mock and ridicule. But, at this moment I'd rather mention one of the most sensible comments I've heard on the whole debate, which aired on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, as shared by The Raw Story:
Abyssinian Baptist Church Pastor Calvin Butts on Sunday called on the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same sex marriage because it was part of “the freedom God has given you.”
“It’s something that we don’t believe in, in terms of what we have learned from the Bible,” Butts told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. “But in terms of men and women having their rights as citizens and human beings, we certainly affirm that.”

“You should have every right as a citizen of this nation and every right as a human being to enjoy the freedom that God has given you. The choice is yours. And I should not stand in the way of you making that choice.”

Butts added that even though his religion did not teach that “marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is God’s divine imperative,” it would be wrong for him to oppose marriage equality for all Americans.

“And I think that the Supreme Court should not stand in the way of that,” the pastor explained. “I have to support that in a civil society because, otherwise, I would not be a good citizen of our great nation and a participant of this great experiment in democracy.”
“However, I choose to believe the book upon which I build my life.”
If you follow the link to The Raw Story, there is a video of the conversation at the bottom of the article. It's worth a click.

In my final analysis, I don't expect the church to change its views. In fact, I could care less about what they believe as long as it doesn't influence law and interfere with my life.

Separation of Church and State. It's a pretty simple concept.

Which brings me to the whole "we're being oppressed" bleating I'm hearing from the likes of Family Research Council.

I've got news for them. We know what they're doing and it's wrong. We must vociferously expose their claims as heresy. This article from Jay Michaelson in The Advocate sums it up very well. Click the link and read the whole article, but here's an excerpt:
"But according to a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign, actually the gays are oppressing conservative Christians, you see, because we’re not letting them discriminate against us. And according to a comprehensive new study published last week by Political Research Associates, and prepared by this writer, the campaign is working. Its rhetoric has been adopted not just by the usual fundamentalist loons but by mainstream politicians and academics. It has successfully obtained religious exemptions to non-discrimination and same-sex marriage laws. And it has turned the cherished value of religious liberty from a shield into a sword."
And, just for fun (or clarification for those who may believe they're being oppressed), there's a nifty little quiz, brought to us by The Huffington Post, and Reverend Emily C. Heath of the United Church of Christ that will put fears to rest. A sampling:
Quick Questions." Just pick "A" or "B" for each question.
1. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

She concludes:
"In closing, no matter what soundbites you hear this election year, remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less."
Seems simple, really.