Monday, December 30, 2019

Dahlonega with Jessica and Mom and Dad

Today we took Elyse to Granny and Pa's house so Anna and Jessica and I could go on a one-day trip to Dahlonega to walk around and see the town while it was still in its Christmas finery.

This is where we had lunch (and, later, ice cream):

Waiting for our lunch to be delivered:

Jessica doing one of the things she does best, taking pictures:

In one of the stores Jessica found this top hat, which she loved so much we bought it for her for her birthday (which is still more than three weeks away):

Jessica and Curious George (at least that might be who this is supposed to represent) in that cool toy store:

Back home several hours later, Jessica put on her top hat and made a pretend phone call:

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Journey to Bethlehem

Tonight Elyse and I went to the Journey to Bethlehem at Snellville UMC. Here are a few pictures I took during the two hour wait before we started on the journey:

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Wynne-Russell House Holiday Open House and Bake Sale

Today Jessica and I went to the Wynne-Russell house in Lilburn for their annual Holiday Open House and Bake Sale, one of the few days during the year when the house is open to the public so you can go in and walk around and see the stuff that normally you can only see by peering in the windows, and the only day during the year when you can also buy cookies and lemon bars there. Afterwords we went to downtown Lilburn to walk around and browse the antique store for a while.

Here are a few of the pictures I took:

Friday, November 29, 2019

Returning from Minnesota

Tonight I went back to the airport to pick up the girls after their flight back from Minnesota. They had a great time seeing their various relations (parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents--depending on who we're talking about being related to whom) and playing the piano, baking cookies, going down the fire pole (no pictures of that, sadly), knitting, and all the other things they did there. They were ready to be back home and away from the cold and snow, though!

Here are fifteen pictures that were texted or e-mailed to me while they were gone:

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Coffee Haiku, Christmas cup edition

shivering, sipping
coffee from a Christmas mug--
freezing fall morning

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Girls Go to Minnesota

This morning I took the girls (including Anna--all the girls in our family except the cats) to the airport to fly up to Minnesota to spend Thanksgiving with Anna's family!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Lunch with Jessica

(She wanted an arty black and white photo of herself.)

We ate pizza at Fellini's (the one on Lavista) and then went to Barnes and Noble (the one on Peachtree). 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Thanksgiving Feast with Elyse

Today was the Thanksgiving Feast at Elyse's school. Here's a picture of the two of us in the cafeteria:

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Exploring Duluth with Jessica

Today Jessica and I went to Duluth, Georgia (not far from where we live) to explore and take pictures and have supper. Here are some of the pictures I took:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Today is the twentieth anniversary of our first date!

This is what I wrote and posted two years ago, on the eighteenth anniversary:

As it happened, the day we first went out--we met at Marco Polo, a Chinese restaurant, in Roswell--was also the day I bought my first digital camera, and one of the first pictures I took with it (after a couple of myself and the inside of my car) was this one of the twenty-three-year-old Annie:

That was a Wednesday; the following Saturday we went on what might have been our true first date, to the zoo. I took this picture that day:

Thursday, August 8, 2019

On Grits and Grannies

Every morning I wake Elyse up at 6:55 and say, "It's time to get up, Honey." She mumbles and turns over to face the wall, and I ask, "Do you want me to make you some grits?" She says "Uh-huh" into her pillow, and I ask, "Do you want to stay in bed until they're ready?" Of course she says yes.

So I shuffle off to the kitchen to make her some grits.

I'm quite happy using instant grits, Quaker Instant Grits with Butter Flavor, to be exact. I do wonder how a grits purist would feel--and I'm pretty confident there are grits purists; I'm sure a quick Google search would return many very opinionated grits Web sites--when I recall that scene in My Cousin Vinny when the witness on the stand asserts that "no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits." Well, maybe I'm not a self-respecting Southerner. In many ways I'm only southern at all by an accident of geography: I love but can't personally relate to the works of true Southern writers like Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. In fact, if I were able to go back in time and have a conversation with any of them, it's possible I wouldn't even be able to understand them through their thick Southern accents.

But about those grits....

When I was little, starting (I believe) when I was five years old and my family was freshly returned from our brief life in Maryland, and lasting at least until I was eight--this I can say for sure, and I'll tell you why in a minute--I would often be left for a morning or a day with my grandmother at her little brick house in Tucker. I suppose my mother needed the time to go to work at a part-time job, or run errands, or maybe do some shopping; I don't know that it ever occurred to me to wonder where Mom was going when she dropped me off at Granny's. In any case, I remember those times with Granny with a great fondness, as something I very much looked forward to. Whether that is exactly what I felt at the time I really can't be sure, but I can tell you that now I miss them terribly; I would give nearly anything to be a kid again on my way to Granny's, where we would read stories, color in coloring books, and, when I got a bit older, sit and watch "Wheel of Fortune" with its original host, Chuck Woolery, on that small rabbit-ear-antennaed color TV that sat on the rolling cart in her living room. (And that is how I know that these times with Granny went on at least until I was eight: in 1974, when I was seven, we couldn't have watched "Wheel of Fortune," for it didn't begin its lengthy run until a year later.)

One of the details I've been remembering the most lately, the thing that makes me wistful as I prepare my breakfast these days, is seeing Granny make grits for me on those mornings more than four decades ago. I was much more interested in eating than in cooking, so I didn't pay close attention to what she did, but I know it involved bowls and pots and measuring cups and water from the tap and grits from a bag she kept under the counter--she probably used quick grits, for I don't think instant grits existed yet, and even if they did, I want to believe that my grandmother wouldn't give in to them, as I have. Finally, when the fixings were all prepared, she would ask me, "Soupy or not?" Some days I would want them soupy: plenty of water for very thin, easily slurped grits. Some days, not: only the proscribed amount of water, or perhaps even a bit less, for thicker, more substantial grits.

So when I fix a bowl of grits for Elyse every morning, I am temporarily taken back to the early seventies, to that small kitchen in that little brick house in the suburbs of Atlanta. It's one way to keep my grandmother alive and with me, and to keep alive within me the memories of people and places who were once so important to me. And in a very real way, it keeps me alive within me; the me that once was, many years ago, and in most important ways is still here. Someday when this story will mean something to Jessica and Elyse, I hope a little of my grandmother--their great-grandmother--may live within them too, and perhaps a bit more of their father than is already there. Someday I hope it will resonate with Elyse if I ask her if she wants her grits soupy or not. (If I asked her that question now, I'm pretty sure she would just wrinkle her nose and say, "Make them like you always make them." Which, by the way, is a little bit soupy; I use five ounces of water for one bowl rather than the four ounces the directions on the box call for.)

The thing about getting older, if you're me, anyway, is that you can look back and see how wonderful, how nearly perfect, many of the pieces of your past have been. But you also realize that you slogged through these near-perfect times largely blind to how truly wonderful they were. Back then, I took it all for granted, as children--as we all--are wont to do. I was clueless. I still am.

I'm not the first person to say this--it is, in fact, something of a cliché--but it helps you understand the importance of appreciating every moment, of realizing how lucky you really are, of trying your hardest to take nothing for granted. The importance of really taking the time to enjoy a good bowl of grits. It's such a simple thing, and yet, as you can see, it's really not.

I'm glad I get to prepare grits for my daughter for breakfast. I'm sorry I didn't realize what a precious thing it was, all those years ago, to have a granny who would make them for me, just the way I wanted them--soupy, or not.

(NB: I started this several months ago--actually, in a different form, several years ago--but am just now getting around the finishing and publishing it. Everything I've written here is still true, except that lately Elyse hasn't been eating grits as often; now she's more given to requesting Pop Tarts or Honeynut Cheerios. Maybe I'll write an essay about my lengthy history with Pop Tarts and breakfast cereals some day.)

Monday, August 5, 2019

First Day of School 2019

Today is the first day of the new school year! Here's Elyse, about to go down the bus stop:

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Critters in the Planet Burdett Backyard

We have a number of bird feeders in our backyard and one attached to a living room window. We do get a good variety of birds that visit (and probably live in) our backyard, but for this post I'm concentrating on some of the other critters who regularly visit our yard, and also on the cats who watch them.

Most of our bird feeders are "squirrel proof," though the squirrels aren't yet convinced of that:

The squirrels love eating the peaches in our backyard peach tree:

Our resident chipmunk felt sufficiently hidden from predators on our deck rail, with its cover of wisteria and whatever that bush is, to sun itself and groom for several minutes:

(I realize most of these picture are actually focused on the leaves, not the chipmunk. It was the best I could do.)

The rabbit in back kept a close watch on us--I don't even know for sure if he could see us through the window, but he sure acted like he could--while the rabbit in front ate. I don't know enough about rabbits to say if he was more likely a parent or a boyfriend to the other rabbit--or even if he is a he--but this rabbit was a good vigilant companion.

We haven't yet gotten many birds to visit our window-mounted feeder, but the squirrels love it, and the cats, especially Halle-Bopp, love watching them: