The store porch…

It is funny what triggers your memory.

I walk in the store to pay for gas and I am as excited as a kid when I see a glass bottle.

All of a sudden I am seven years old and have been sent across the road to Freda’s.

The official name on the front of the store was Hunt’s Grocery.

Most of the time, we just said we were going to sit on the store porch.

We didn’t have to specify, there was only one.

And most of the time we just sat.

It didn’t seem like we had enough money to stay inside long.

And if you did, Mrs. Freda was bound to get onto you.

My first destination was the drink box.

I loved to open it up and stick my head in it. I can still smell the cold metal.

Drinks always seemed to be just beyond the reach of my arm.

It felt like I had to tiptoe to reach one.

About the time I had cold wet glass in my hand, I was already in trouble for leaving it open too long.

Then I would love to wander around dark aisles and stare at racks of Goody hair accessories that I did not know how to use. It seems like nobody else did either, because they were dusty.

If someone was at the register to distract her, I could make it back to the scales and the rack where you could tear off the butcher paper.

Those were fascinating. I have tried to think of a reason to purchase one.

Maybe a lifetime supply of gift wrap in butcher paper? The Christmas tree would look like I gave everyone a pack of hamburger meat.

I may have just found a reason!

Anyways.

One particular day Mother sent me across the road to put something on her charge account which we called our “ticket”.

Yours truly gets the bright idea to charge a bottle of fingernail polish (of all things) to Momma’s ticket.

Mrs. Freda looks about 9 feet tall on the other side of the counter.

“Did your mother give you permission to charge that?”

I lied and said “Yes”.

Uh-oh.

“Yes what?….” Double trouble.

I forgot to say “Yes, mam”.

I got out to the road, checked for cars, took a deep breath and braced myself to run across the road barefoot.

As the outside temperatures increased, so did my speed in crossing the road.

When I proudly gave mother her purple-brown fingernail polish, she was not impressed.

She told me to go right back over there and take that back.

Talk about a walk of shame, hanging my head and facing Mrs. Freda.

She was smug as she said, “Your mother didn’t say you could buy it, did she?

“No, mam….”

Over the years, Freda seemed to grow shorter and not so scary.

It was probably because I remembered to say “Mam” to her even if I said it to noone else.

She would rock on the porch and talk to whoever was in the next chair.

I would sit on the back corner and eavesdrop.

You could find out lots of things on that porch.

Who was fighting, honeymooning and drank too much. We shared everyone’s business but our own.

I think that was a rule.

If I could go back, I would run behind the mosquito truck and breathe in all the carcinogens again.

I believe the smoke must have helped our immune systems.

I would just love to go back to the store porch for the advice of everyone and better yet, I would love to ask for a few more memories. Tell me more.

There are so many things I forgot to ask.

When the cars go by faster now, noone is there to fuss about their speed.

It is an empty ghost of a building.

Don’t they know there should be a historical landmark sign there?

It was our community center, our neighborhood watch, and etiquette training classroom.

But mostly it was just ours.

It belonged to Mrs. Freda, but she shared it with everyone who crossed the road.

Here’s to dusty dark shelves, metal containers and paper sacks.

I wish I could shop there again just long enough to get in trouble.

Don’t laugh, or it makes it worse-

Cheryl Suzette

Stay tuned…

My favorite Father’s Day weekend was a few years ago.

It didn’t revolve around gifts. It was the toughest challenge of parenting- Discipline.

Our kids only loved it when it applied to someone other than themselves.

Our middle daughter Lea is continually teased for being Daddy’s favorite.

So it comes as no surprise that her brothers loved to be spectators of her being in trouble.

One big fib about her whereabouts late one night and a pair of short-shorts caused all of her siblings to chime in.

She happened to get grounded on the Saturday night before Father’s Day.

So as they visited, they had to comment.

“What did you think you were doing?”, asked our oldest Lauren.

“How’s it going party animal?”- big brother Jacob.

The famous, “I would never…” from little sister Reagen.

Lea took it all in stride with plenty of eye rolls.

But my favorite was finding out that when they found out she was in trouble, her older brothers were texting a play-by-play.

Jacob said when he got a text from Colby late on a Saturday night that said-

-Stay tuned-

-She has poked the bear-

He looked at his phone and the late time and he called for details. Still makes me laugh.

Jacob says Jeff knew what they were doing before they did it.

They would tell him where they were going and his reply would be, “Now where are you really going?”

We use all of these stories to warn Reagen and hopefully save us some energy.

Because we are tired now.

But we are proud of all of you.

(Minus the shorts that went into the trash.)

Happy Father’s Day to you Jeff Dodson.

I know our children are thankful for all of the times you said yes.

I, however, believe they benefitted the most from your love on the times you said “No”.

Looking forward to the grizzly bear becoming the teddy bear with our grandbabies.

It is a beautiful thing.

Now the “No” belongs to all of you.

Don’t laugh kids,

I am just kidding- (I already know that all of you do not think I am funny…)

The dressing room…

I can remember opening the door without permission.

My right hand would swat the air softly searching for the string.

When you felt it, you pressed down slowly, held your breath and hoped Granny didn’t hear the click or see the light come on.

Otherwise, “Cheryl Acker…” and her Indiana Jones adventure was over.

For most of my life, my view was only from the doorway because I would not behave.

And she was right, I would not have.

There was a hairpiece and rows of scarves to the left.

To the right were racks of clothes squeezed in tightly.

But if there was a treasure map, straight ahead would be where X marks the spot.

As she would say-“Pocketbooks, brooches and earbobs” were all in their place.

Rows of white boxes filled with thin cotton and treasure.

I strain to remember their contents. My mind thinks there was a fox and maybe an owl or both with enamel and rhinestones.

I know there were many clip-on earrings, but how many I am not sure because there were even more strict instructions of “Do not touch”.

As I grew older, I was lucky enough to be handed a pair of vanity fair pajamas from that same closet.

She would be putting on her face cream and she would giggle at her reflection.  I can still smell the Avon rich moisture when I close my eyes.

Something about that all felt like such a luxury and I don’t think I could ever feel so rich these days.

I know that my greatest wealth today is in my memories, not possessions.

I was at the thrift store earlier today and the display case held a pair of earrings that I just knew would have belonged in her closet.

I smile now because I am wearing them as I type.

Thank you for donating whoever you are.

I just used them for time travel.

And I stayed in the closet, as long as my heart would let me.

That’s all of my thoughts for today, my vision is a little blurry.

Big hugs to all of you who know about the forbidden…

She really didn’t have much, but what she had she appreciated.

Trying to remember that myself and quietly enjoying my collection,

Cheryl Suzette

What she has…

January 4th, 2019- Daddy and I have just left the doctor for a follow up from his lung cancer. We eat lunch and I am driving him home.

A few miles from his house, the phone rings.

“Mr. Acker….”

He answers the phone and the volume is so loud that I hear them say they want him to come back next week and meet with an oncologist.

I am thankful to be wearing sunglasses and I hope he does not see the tears I can not stop from rolling down my face.

Fear.

After losing mother two years ago, Daddy has become more precious than ever before.

Approximately 40 doctor visits later and the doctor has given us wonderful news. The cancer has responded to treatment.

I don’t think I would be typing otherwise.

Our daily trips to the doctor have given us a lot of time.

Daddy has shared more about his life than ever before.

He talks of my mom. He talks of his.

It makes me happy to hear about good days.

We listen to a lot of Earl Thomas Conley.

He tells me a song reminds him of his mother.

A lyric stands out to me.

“And what she has, she thinks is enough. ”

I long to be as content as the grandmother I never met. This December will be 50 years since he lost her.

When he says, “Mother would have loved you,” it makes my eyes water.

She was kind and humble.

When you hurt her feelings, you should be ashamed of yourself.

My other grandmother came over and belittled her when my parents married.

She ridiculed the house.

When I think of that, I think about what we value.

She was content with what she had. She passed away 4 months later.

My other grandmother lived another 40 years and was never content.

When I told her I was pregnant with Jacob she said, “I don’t want to hear it. I thought you were going to make something of yourself “.

It has taken a while to get over her hurtful words.

I am very thankful to be Jacob’s mother. I have also learned the priceless lesson of contentment.

I try to enjoy my home and flowers and I am thrilled about my grandchildren.

Miss Hadley James will be here Monday.

I want her to know the kindness of Maudie and the laughter of Genevieve. The resilience of Theo and the adoration of Jackie.

And hopefully what she remembers of Cheryl will guide her long after I am gone.

Here’s to healing and Hadley. This world needs both.

I love you so very much already,

Your Mamie

Breakfast Blessings…

Frog Level, Alabama.

Approximately the Summer of 1984.

I am standing on the ground pointing my finger and saying every cuss word I can think of.

My two younger brothers, Jason and Johnny, are laughing down at me from our treehouse.

That only makes me madder, so I cuss louder.

I could not understand why they shook with laughter after everything I called them.

Until I heard a voice behind me.

“Sister…”

My knees went weak and I began to cry.

Daddy was standing behind me.

Nothing like the disappointment of John L. Acker to break my heart.

“I can’t believe my baby girl would talk like that.”

I am ashamed to this day just thinking about it.

Daddy will be the first to tell you of mistakes he made.

He has a survivor’s grit to him combined with tender hearted kindness.

These days he grows and cooks collards. If you are lucky, he will deliver them to you.

He makes sure to ask if you ate all of them because he doesn’t like waste.

“Those are a lot of work.”

I divide them up and share to avoid leftovers.

There were years where I felt like I was a failure. No degrees, certificates and titles.

Sitting down to breakfast with him and my baby girl this morning, I am so very thankful.

Lung cancer came along 5 years ago and I never thought I would have mornings like this.

When I think of the unknown of tomorrow, I am unsure of what lies ahead with his health.

But I have decided that I will not allow that worry to steal my joy from today.

So here’s to 2 eggs, bacon, grits, toast and coffee for $4.95.

Breakfast with my Dad and Jeff’s.

We are sitting in a small restaurant like VIP’s.

They might not know who I am, but I do.

I am Sister.

Hugs to you all and Happy Saturday!

Cheryl

A New Year with Old Memories…

I received a gift of trendy household cleaning products.

So I mopped.

There was a familiar smell when I sprayed the floor.

I kept mopping and tried to figure it out.

I called Jeff over.

I told him this smell reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen.

I was so puzzled.

I flipped the bottle over to read the ingredients and found out the mystery scent-almonds.

Ah, that’s it…

Almond extract.

Suddenly, my grandmother is standing to my right.

She is squinting at a cookbook as I read the recipe.

I can’t remember the dessert.

I have looked in my cookbook trying to “trigger” my memory.

But I remember her beside me.

From deciding what we would cook and driving to our local IGA for the ingredients to actually following the recipe.

It was one of those rare occasions that I actually followed instructions.

“Cheryl Suzette” was actually behaving.

It has been almost 30 years since I stood in that kitchen.

But I smile at the thought of it.

When I close my eyes I can hear the metal cabinet in the corner open and close.

I remember what and where she kept everything in her fridge.

Once a week or so you could get a Coca-Cola. It was a real one in a glass bottle. But you had to ask permission to go in that bottom drawer.

Flannel backed tablecloths protected the kitchen table.

Wealth was measured by the contents of your deep freeze. And it was always full.

We saved bread ties and reused tin foil.

Most people remodel their kitchen for state of the art appliances.

I did the reverse. I removed my cabinets. I searched for an antique sink.

I went with state of the heart I guess.

Her words and wisdom echo when I wash my dishes.

I laugh at my own absent minded actions.

I try to water my plants with my dishwater.

On several occasions, I have found a spoon on the ground the next day.

Yesterday I was aggravated at someone littering only to find it was my own dishrag hanging on my camellia.

So here’s to another year of memories and calamities.

I don’t know much about keeping a resolution, so my hope for you is that you search your heart and mind.

And maybe, just maybe, you will find your grandmother…

I hope you have a Happy New Year. I hope it is so good that it will become a “Good Ole’ Days for you,

Cheryl

Spring came early on my street…

I moved to my little house on 50 Rotenberry Lane over 16 years ago.

I spent the first few years apologizing to the neighbors for our bad manners.

My boys loved to play football in Mrs. Lela’s yard instead of ours.

I would “holler” at them to come back in our yard.

I would walk over and apologize and Mrs. Lela would tell me she loved to watch them play.

When my dog stayed at her house, I found out he had a food bowl at hers. I don’t blame him for staying.

She always wanted you to stay and visit.

We shared a few things in common.

My first husband Ward lost a wife in childbirth. He had two children when we married.

Mrs. Lela would talk of her husband Robert. He lost his wife and had 4 children to raise.

When she talked about painful things it was more than just wisdom, it was with understanding.

When I walked over after my brother Johnny died, she told me about her sister she lost unexpectedly in a car accident.

When you live 90 years, there isn’t much you have not seen.

I admired her grit. She would rub her knees and say she ruined them playing softball. She played in her 50’s with women 20 years younger than her.

She mowed her lawn and would use a pushmower until she was 86 years old.

And I adored her sense of humor.

A visit never left you empty handed.

Our yards bloom together because of what she has sent back home with me.

Old maids, 4 o’clock’s, lilies, etc., etc…

The Saturday before Thanksgiving I was planting bulbs.

I heard a familiar, “Hey…” coming from across the road.

I walked over and planted her a row of tulips around her birdbath and told her I would be back on Monday to plant some daffodils.

She bent down and pulled up a few weeds while I planted.

I remember thinking how nice it would be for her to look out from her porch and see the tulips this spring.

I didn’t go back on Monday and I can’t remember why.

Wednesday she fell and went to the hospital.

Thanksgiving was so sad to see her yard empty.

Normally cars and family are everywhere.

When we heard the news, my heart broke for myself and for her sweet family.

I will have to wait for my flowers in April.

She got hers in December.

My town, my street, and my heart won’t be the same without her.

I will be forever grateful for my address and my sweet neighbor that came with it.

Some people dream of Heaven with streets of gold, but I believe it is lined with little houses like hers.

A cake always ready.

A yard in full bloom.

And someone waiting and so happy to see you.

I hope to live my life to join in you Heaven one day Mrs. Lela, and I hope the Good Lord lets me be your neighbor again.

Love and prayers to the Rotenberry family,

Your neighbor Cheryl