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…


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…

More than Christmas…

There are many reasons I love Todd Jones.

It would be very difficult to name them all.

When you think of a friend, everyone needs a Todd in their life.

I am so very thankful for mine.

In our 30 year friendship, we have shared a love for local history, antiques and hometown hospitality.

And a love for Music. Music. And more Music.

And then, there’s Christmas…

Todd’s love started at an early age.

If you are stressed and don’t enjoy Christmas, I invite you to step with me into Todd’s Main Street home.

Todd lived here as a teenager. And in a twist of fate-the former owners, (the Ambrose family), introduced his parents.

When he bought the old Ambrose place, he was handed a skeleton key.

I think that sets the stage for everything you will find inside.

Everything has a story-a connection with the best of days gone by.

A Christmas Tree for every time period. A time capsule of our happiest days.

You can search for your childhood and find it.

I have spent the holidays mourning the loss of a loved one, but there among the clumps of tinsel and large vintage bulbs I find them again.

Staring at a vintage tree, I am warned by my grandmother not to touch the hot bulbs. The colorful glow and I am automatically a child again.

A simpler time that seemed so very magical.

Suddenly my memory unties a paper sack. I can smell a clove-covered orange and see an apple. A candy cane, a few pecans and walnuts. And if you’re lucky, old fashioned vanilla creme drops.

My Aunt Genevieve always made sure we had a sack. She wanted us to see what they had growing up. I was amazed at what they were thankful for that we now take for granted.

Thank you Todd for doing that very same thing for us now.

Because somewhere among the many red and green tubs, lies a different ornament or decoration that brings back a similar memory for someone else.

I know it takes all of your free time every year to put this together.

But the fact that you do it doesn’t surprise me.

You have always given this town your whole heart.

Whether it is a yard full of guests for the Homecoming parade or 700 trick-or-treaters, they are always welcome.

And that my friend, is what makes me and this town love you back-even more than you love Christmas.

Merry Christmas Todd. Nobody does it better.

And my wish for you and my friends in Bibb County and all around the world-

May we all feel the joy you share this Holiday season.

That is what we are all searching for after all-the joy of having each other.

The Basketweavers…

A few years ago, I dreamed of this wonderful job. I could share the people I love with the world.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt silly. No one would want to hear what I have to say.

I didn’t think anything else about it and then a few years later, I started a blog.

The first person I wanted to tell everyone about was Mrs. Mary Ann.

I don’t know why I never did.

And then we have an announcement recently at church, Mrs. Mary Ann and Brother Bill are selling their home and moving back to their “happy place”.

I am happy for them, I am just sad for me. Their happy place is a few states away.

Their home was just like them.

A refuge.

Mother Nature would be proud.

Simple, earthy, and crafted.

If you were invited over, you felt honored.

It was magical.

I think it was because you could see their love and handiwork in everything.

When I had surgery years ago, they arrived that evening with a meal featuring a mixed berry pie for dessert. Back then, most people would not volunteer to feed my large family. It was very appreciated and still the best pie I have ever eaten.

Mrs. Mary Ann is everything I have ever wanted to be. I love her beauty and sense of style. She marches to the beat of her own drum.

When others have walked away from me, she has come over and encouraged. A compliment from her heals my soul.

Always a good sport. After all, I have accidentally spilled not one, but two gallons of sweet tea on her.

She changed into a pair of my yoga pants and rocked on in good humor.

And her husband is just as sweet.

A simple smile and a nod of his head always welcomes you.

After he retired, he devoted himself to teaching recovering addicts a trade.

I just love them.

And I have always admired them for their anonymous good deeds.

I hope North Carolina knows how blessed it is to have you.

And for the time I and my family have had you both in our lives, I can think of nothing better to say than Brother Bill’s own words,

“We are so truly thankful.”

We love you and miss you already.

Enjoy your happy place. I can think of no two people who deserve it more.

The Dodsons


Summer of 1993.

I am heading to a blind date.

I am in college.

I am feeling a little bit lost in this world.

And someone says, “I know this guy…”

This guy was different.

He came with two kids.

He had lost his wife in childbirth.

We got along well.

I think we were 2 broken souls.

And then I met the baby boy who would give me purpose.

I don’t know why terrible things happen.

I don’t know why you lost your mother immediately.

She was a beautiful girl.

And then 18 months later you got me.

A broken-hearted kid.

An absolute calamity.

But I do know I needed you back then.

And as far as that goes, I need you now.

Today is your birthday.

And I know you don’t like to celebrate it.

If you don’t mind, think about me.

I am so very thankful for you.

And this year is even more special, because I think you are about to get your own purpose.

I love you Jessi.

Always have. Always will.


Great days are ahead.

And that baby girl is about to rule your world.

Just like you ruled mine.

Happy birthday to my first baby boy.

I love you,


The instructions…

1989-no particular weekday, 3:00 p.m.

The school bell rings.

We, (meaning as many girls as possible), pile into a car, make our mandatory laps on Main Street and go home.

I would always ask them to drop me off at my grandparents house.

One day I remember standing in the driveway. Right before they pulled off, they laughed and asked, “Why you wanna hang out with those old folks?”

Not really sure, I shrugged my shoulders and went on in.

Daddy would later swing by and get me on his way home from work.

I remember leaving their house one day and he said, “Sister, this is time you are never going to regret.”

He was so right.

Unconditional love. Papa and Granny were so good at it. I didn’t know how to explain it to my friends back then.

I just knew I needed it.

My home was broken, but theirs was not.

Inside those grey walls, all was right in the world.

When they were both gone, I was so sad.

Who is ever going to love me like that again?

And the sad answer is noone.

But it dawned on me this week with Hadley, I get to love her that way.

No expectations. No criticism. Just love.

Inside these walls this week, the world was right again.

I turned on my bluetooth and introduced her to her great granddad through the Bellamy Brothers. I sang and she laughed.

I don’t know where the past 30 years went but it was okay.

Daddy also told me the older you get, the faster it goes. Right again Daddy.

But the one set of instructions that gets me most, was the set he gave me for days like today.

He told me, “Don’t you feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for you. I remember what it was like to lose my parents and I know you are going to miss me.”

Oh Daddy, nothing you have ever said has been more true.

I do miss you.

And I am trying my best not to feel sorry for myself because I had you.

Your sweet simple mix of common sense and contentment made life so good.

I can hear you tell me to listen to the words of this song. We laugh. We always listened to people who misbehaved. Bob Seger, Eddie Raven, Earl Thomas Conley…

I promise I will get a better playlist before Hadley can repeat anything.

But for now, we are going to just sing.

Thanks for the instructions. For the first time in my life, I am really trying to follow directions.