This is me

Cheryl (177 of 418)-1
Special thanks to Koli Nichols Photography 

I love children, flowers, and conversation.   I don’t watch tv and I don’t iron.  I am tender hearted and hard headed.

I believe in marriage, foster children, and adoption.  Despite that fact, I have failed at all of them.  I do not regret anything I have attempted and, of course, there are things that I would do differently.

Thirty days ago I didn’t know much about a podcast.  Things have changed.  I obviously don’t know much about a blog either, but I have a precious baby girl who is loyal to her mother.

I love being Southern, at least in the mindset of all that is good.  Relationships are the best and it all began with my Aunt Genevieve.  She lovingly called me by my middle name of Suzette my entire life.  She was my dad’s baby sister.  She spoke her own language-Genevievian.  It was tons of small phrases followed with laughter.  I try to speak it with my close friends whenever possible.

A funny story was always preceded by “Don’t laugh, Suzette”, and I knew that I was about to.  I would love to share the best of us with you as well.

Don’t laugh,

Cheryl

Struggling for imperfection…

I have wasted so many years on a life that doesn’t exist.

I remember being around 12 years old and I questioned why God made people who were different.

My friend Sheree Goggins scolded me quickly and strongly enough that I remember it 30+ years later.

She was so very right back then.

Your truest and best friends don’t tell you what you want to hear, they tell you the truth.

The truth that you need to hear.

And they still love you.

Clarence Reach has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

Our little town has taken him and loved him like family.

And he has loved us back.

He walks the streets of West Blocton and makes the world better just by being his beautiful self.

He was there when we laid my Daddy to rest and he wanted to help.

He grabbed a shovel and offered his own version of comfort-a helping hand.

He was there again to help me move furniture and decorate for the Woodstock Music Festival.

Always willing.

I guess what I am trying to say is this-

If you feel that you are wasting your life to acquire things or the pressure you are under is too much to bear, I have an answer.

Find one good friend who will help you slow down and one good friend who just loves you.

I am so very thankful that I have both.

It only took me 40 years to figure out the value of a simple life.

I hope you find it much sooner.

If you are going to struggle,

Try struggling for imperfection…

Much love,

Cheryl

My Valentine…

Valentine’s Day-1978.

He was my parents 4th baby.

He came into this world at over 10 lbs.

He held his breath and turned his face red when he cried.

We used to laugh at him constantly.

He turned the tables on us and made everyone laugh with him.

There is something about the baby that can do that.

I was always amazed at the things he could say to Mother and Daddy that I would never get away with.

Everyone’s favorite.

I told Jeff I miss him so much.

And he knew exactly what to say.

“Everyone misses Johnny.”

Oh that laugh. 

Even when it was on me.

So today I celebrate the day you arrived.

You took this world and my heart by storm forever.

It is so hard to imagine that you would be 42 today.

I would say that you were forever 29 but it was more like forever 17.

Happy Birthday and Happy Valentine’s Day to one of my greatest blessings.

I miss you baby brother.  Always.

Your Daddy’s Prayers…

28 years ago…

There is something special about your Daddy’s prayers.

Especially knowing you were in them before you were born.

A Daddy that prayed for you. A big, tough hard-working man wearing overalls and covered in sawdust.

When he started out as a newlywed with your Mother he made $100 a week.

He laughs and corrects me.  “Don’t cut me short, I made $120.”

He was one of 3 boys. And then, he had 3 boys.

A baby girl was all that was missing.  For two generations.

And then you get that wonderful news.

On the morning she was to arrive, he walks out of the bathroom and he had shaved his beard.  When his wife asks, “What are you doing?”, she gets one of the sweetest moments of her life…

“I want to feel her face on my skin.”


She is now grown with two girls of her own, but he tells that baby girl he prayed for her until this day and she loves her Daddy.

I don’t blame her.

When I told him, I was about to be a grandmother, he told me-“You’re about to get wealthy.”  And he was so right.  He should know.




Sometimes in the middle of a busy life you can’t see that your prayers are being answered. 

Sometimes you can’t see the priceless value and riches that come in the health of your children.

That alone would be enough and all that you could ask for…

But sometimes you are fortunate to live long enough to see and realize the blessings you have may just be the answered prayers of your sweet Daddy…

The Burt Boys changed places and got outnumbered with 8 little girls.  Never underestimate the love and prayers of your Daddy…

Whatever it takes…

It is never easy to be a single mother.

Especially to not just one, but 3 young girls- ages 10, 7 and 4.

Sometimes it took 3 jobs.

You waited tables, cut hair, and worked at the garment plant.

You hung up sheets and lived out of one room with a space heater.

You walked in the woods and cut down a skimpy Christmas tree.  It was so skinny it wouldn’t stay in the stand.  You used bricks to prop it up and it fell every time, so you finally stapled it to the wall.

Just a few years before, you were Junior Miss WBHS.


You probably had no idea what life was about to send your way.

Through it all, you would be kind to those who faced hardships along with you.

You would stop at the food bank and deliver it to local households.

No one was watching.  You did it because it was the right thing to do.

Throughout your lifetime, you continued.

From local group homes to the Bibb County jail, you have been a mother to those without one.

You have spent your check on simple things like socks and underwear because you know how good those feel to someone without family and money.

You may even be seen buying spices at our local Wal-Mart to make bland jail food taste better.

In titles, you have been the jailer, the cook, and the transporter.

But in life, you have been the hero.

You have been called in to talk to inmates who would not listen.

But they would listen to you.  They saw that you truly cared.

You have even been the recipient of someone’s one phone call from jail.

They used it not to ask you to bail them out.  They instead called to tell you they were sorry for how they acted and thank you for what you have done for them.

Kindness is so much greater when it is done for those who can give nothing in return.

You don’t even know I am writing this, I did not interview you.

When Candi messaged me, I was more than happy to do a story about you.

After all, you have been a mother to me too.

You set a wonderful example of how to love not only your own children, but everyone.

I am sure that behind closed doors, there were many times with tears and prayers and despair.

But on the other side of that wall, three little girls were paying attention.

And that is all that matters in life, when you know that whatever comes your way, you have a Momma that will do whatever it takes…

Thank you Miss Patsy for loving all of us.

Take notes…

Early Summer-2019.

Somewhere along a Bibb County Backroad…

Daddy calls me.

“Sister, what are you doing Wednesday?

Jason and Shea went over to this restaurant in Montevallo. It is a little pricey. But nothing is too good for my baby girl…”

Just typing that makes me cry.

But at the time, I remember laughing about it to my husband Jeff.

Daddy and I had two different ideas on the definition of “pricey”.

He loved to plan ahead our little adventures.

They usually revolved around payday and a Wednesday or Saturday. (These are the two days that the Clanton Outdoor Flea Market is open.)

We would agree for me to be at his house at 7 a.m. (To Daddy this meant 7 a.m. and to me it meant 7:15.) There were always distractions that delayed my arrival.

I usually got a phone call about a mile before I got to his house. “Just checking on you…” I would let him know what I was passing or that I was about to turn in by Reach’s service station.

He would let me know to park in Shelenia’s yard. His neighbor was kind enough to allow us to park in her yard because Daddy did not want his freshly scattered birdseed disturbed.

He fed dogs and and cats and birds. And to my amusement, two possums he had nicknamed Jack and Jill.

I always loved to see him and listen to his observations.

Daddy was a simple man.

The same man everywhere you saw him. Every day of the week.

No high horse. No “putting on airs”.

This particular day something triggered his memory.

He began to talk about things he did as a child.

“We didn’t have cars or trucks to play with, we would push a brick around in the dirt track we made up under Mama Reach’s house.”

I am so very thankful I pulled out my little notebook I kept in my purse.

He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was taking notes.

There are 7 tiny pages with his own sweet language.

Memories of doodlebugs and penny balloons.

How everyone would get excited on days the “rolling store” came around.

Collecting glass bottles for spending money.

Making sure his chores were done so he could go camping and fishing…

I did not know at the time, but this would be our last carefree day together.

In July, he would get sick and by August he would be gone.

I say all of this just because life is so busy and hectic.

We all need more riding around and porch time.

A little less hurry.

If you have someone special in your life, I wish you would schedule a few hours with them-

And take lots of notes…

Farnetti…

It is 1902.

You are a young girl who only speaks Italian.

You are about to arrive in America.

Ellis Island-Early 1900’s

You have bronchitis. Your doctor told you America would be good for your health.

Your husband Caesare came over a year earlier to prepare for you.

You are required to have $35. You have $45.

You have a sign around your neck with your name Maria Farnetti and it also says deliver to West Blocton, Alabama.

You would later say you were treated like cattle as you were directed to the train station.

When you walked the Brooklyn Bridge you had your possessions in one hand and your 18 month old in the other.

As if that wasn’t enough, every other board is missing due to the fact that it is under construction.

Brooklyn Bridge-under construction

I cannot imagine.

I called Mrs. Hilda to thank her for last week’s story. We talked for 2 more hours and I learned this one.

I have replayed this image in my mind over and over.

I have always admired the determination and perseverance of those who came before us.

I also wonder when we are faced with similar obstacles can we rise to the challenge?

Mrs. Hilda told me many stories that involved her grandmother.

Caesare and Maria Farnetti

One thing that stands out to me is that she says they didn’t intend to stay.

They hoped her bronchitis would be cured and they would return home.

That was not meant to be.

Five generations of Farnetti children are now here.

They may have faced different challenges but I believe they have stayed true to their bloodline.

Charles told me his Dad was the kindest man he ever met.

I personally know hundreds of local boys who would say the same about Charles.

My boys Colby and Jacob cried at their last little league game when they thought their days to play for him were over.

A few years later they would also look back on playing for the West Blocton Tigers and Charles’ son Gregg.

I believe Colby said it best,

“I would suit up again knowing I was going to lose every game.”

Records go on paper, but the best part of life is what lives on in our hearts.

I looked in the trophy case at West Blocton High School today. I saw Jodie Farnetti in a football uniform and wearing the Homecoming Queen Crown.

Jodie and Charles Farnetti

I have to think Maria would think every difficult step was worth it.

Thank you so very much for the love your family has given our community.

I know we are all very thankful for the Farnetti’s…

Built to last…

The Strand Theatre-West Blocton, Alabama.

You are a 14 year old girl at the movies. The movie stops suddenly and a man walks onstage to make an announcement.

We have been attacked at Pearl Harbor.

It is December 7, 1941.

You would have to wait until the next day when the newspaper comes out to tell you where Pearl Harbor is even located.

You remember being afraid of bombing and mandatory “blackouts” that required covering your windows with blankets at night.

You move first to help an Aunt and Uncle with six kids that summer in Arizona. Your family would later follow.

The mining community better known as “Little Italy” would become vacant.

Little Italy-Early 1900’s

You later work at a grocery store where you separate and tally ration stamps. These coupons were required for meat, sugar, coffee, and canned goods. Even gas and shoes.

You remember that blue ration coupons were canned goods and red were for meat.

You remember and remember and remember.

You are Mrs. Hilda Holland Tozzi.

A local historian who has not lived here in over 70 years.

At 92 years old, you have given many of us the priceless treasures hidden in your memory.

Technology has allowed you to share not only your grandparents but mine.

I am amazed that you gave directions to your grandparents bread oven. (An oven that you had not seen in over half a century. )

Caesare and Maria Farnetti

When the rock was stacked and bread was baked, you told me that you could smell it all over the hillside.

People would find excuses to visit your grandparents when bread was baking.

I love to imagine you at a computer giving directions to your cousin Charles. Go to the bend in the creek, turn around, go 200 feet, turn left, there it is…

Charles Farnetti in front of the original oven

It is so wonderful to know that it would be moved and enjoyed by 5 generations of Farnetti children over a century later thanks to you.

The relocated oven at the home of Charles and Judy Farnetti

It was Charles that said I needed to write a story about you.

After I talked to you for an hour and a half, I agree. But I have to admit Mrs. Hilda-you deserve a novel.

I have 8 pages of notes, a few hours of my time, but my heart is still so full.

The beauty in your comments stands out.

When you talk about the Great Depression, you say “we never went without”.

“We pooled our resources and we kept each other alive. Life was different. Simple. No distractions.”

And I believe you.

You tell me how Fonso Farnetti bought all of the punch board raffle tickets to help raise money for my grandmother Maudie to have a glass eye.

I remember my Aunt Genevieve and my Dad both saying how much her eye bothered her.

But to me, she was a beauty. I never knew your family played a part in that.

Just for a moment, you gave me my grandmother. Not just her pain, her healing.

There is always a desire in all of us to understand who we are and where we came from.

When someone like you shares your stories, it is more precious than gold.

Thank you for sharing your time and memories with me Mrs. Hilda. I hope your New Year is as wonderful as you.

And I am so thankful that your memory is just like that bread oven,

Built to last…