“I have a great confidence in the revelations which holidays bring forth.”
This post contains four anecdotes about winter, the month of February, Groundhog Day, and Valentine’s Day.
I wrote up the first one back on January 27, 2009, during a winter storm. It was just a thought that occurred to me during a particularly difficult time in the year and in our life.
It will serve as an introduction to the next piece which I wrote about a seemingly inconsequential incident that also took place during a similar cold, hard time of the year.
The third piece is also topical since it is one I wrote up on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009.
The final piece is an early Valentine’s Day message to Mari for the reason explained.
Thought for a Winter Day
“Birds don’t sing because they have the answer but because they have a song.”
Since we are in the midst of a winter storm of freezing rain and sleet that has covered everything with a thick coating of ice, this frigid morning I braved the elements to go out into the back yard to scatter seed for the birds.
When Mari asked why I was risking life and limb against my doctor’s explicit orders, I replied, “I thought maybe if I feed God’s songbirds, He will feed His Peacocks.”
As someone has said, “While it is true that God feeds the birds of the air, He doesn’t throw the food into their nests.” So I’m trying to do my bit to help Him and His “other feathered creatures.”
“Nowhere, I think, does God speak more powerfully to us than through the events of our own lives, but more often than not we don’t take the time to listen.”
One January Saturday several years ago I drove down to the car wash (as I do every Saturday) to wash one of our cars.
I was in a big rush (as I always am) and had to wait in line behind an older man in no hurry.
He moved so slowly washing his old vehicle that I was impatient and was muttering (and cussing) to myself (as I so often do, part of my “dark side” that most folks don’t know about) and silently urging the old guy to “move it, move it, move it!”
Then I noticed that he looked and acted like my late Uncle Winfred (pronounced Wentford in Southeast Arkansas), so I tried to settle myself down by saying, “Be patient, Jimmy; remember, it’s Went.”
Then to my chagrin he came over to me and motioned for me to roll down my window. When I did so reluctantly (it was freezing cold), he leaned down and grinned and said, “You better watch out, they’s a big ole patcha’ ice over there, and you li’ble to fall and bust ya butt.” I made some gesture of thanks, and he ambled back to his washing.
Just then to make matters worse one of his cronies pulled up beside me and got out, and the old guy stopped washing so they could meet right in front of my car and “visit.”
Finally, he got through, but before he left he came back around to my side, had me roll down the window again, and told me the same thing: “You better watch out, they’s a big ole patcha’ ice over there, and you li’ble to fall and bust ya butt!”
Again, I muttered something to get rid of him, and he turned away just as his old crony repeated what he had just said, “Yeah, you better watch out, they’s a big ole patcha’ ice over there, and you lib’le to fall and bust ya butt!”
Then the two old guys parted, and “Uncle Went” moseyed back to his vehicle and took his time getting back in, sitting there forever, and finally starting it up and slowly, ever so slowly, driving out.
By that time I was fit to be tied—so I squealed into the bay, crammed on my brakes, jumped out—again muttering and cussing—grabbed the wand, dropped in some quarters, and started rushing around the front of the car feverishly washing away.
Just then I stepped on that “big ole patcha’ ice.” Both my feet went out from under me, and if I hadn’t hung onto the hose I would have “fell and busted my butt!”—just as “Uncle Went” and his crony had warned me about three times!
It was so funny that when I regained my feet, I laughed out loud, looked up at God, and said, “Okay, Lord, I get the message. You sent ‘Uncle Went’ to tell me three times to slow down and ‘watch it, so I won’t fall and bust my butt!’—in life as well as in the car wash.”
The sad thing is that I still haven’t done so. Not Uncle Went’s fault—or God’s fault. Mine, all mine. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Groundhog Day Message
February 2, 2009
“I don’t have any trouble with chores like car and yard and clothes. I have a ‘couple of hands’ to do all that. I am Mari’s house boy, yard boy, car boy, clothes boy, and toy boy.”
Dear Family and Friends:
Since the groundhog saw his shadow today, predicting six more weeks of winter, I thought y’all might like a bit of topical (if not tropical) humor:
I started out our marriage as Lord Jim, Head of the House, but ended up as Prince Philip, the Figurehead Spouse—consort to Queen Mari, daughter of the late Queen Mother Mary Elizabeth (Good Queen Bess(ie)).
I wish that was a joke, but it’s not. For example, I told it to Mari after the boys left today while she was paying the bills and I was vacuuming the carpet and mopping the kitchen floor—which I will do again tomorrow in preparation for her annual Valentine’s Teacher Bunco Party. So I guess I’m not totally just a Figurehead “Prince Philip.”
His Lowness, Lord (Have Mercy) James of Selma
PS I forgot to mention that for the next few days Mari will be working on the income taxes while I will be working on my writings, of which only one has been sold—for twenty-five dollars—a staggering rate of one dollar per year! That’s why I call myself (among other things) the Vincent van Gogh of Southern literature.
Early Valentine’s Day Message
“Le véritable amour est éternel.”
(True love is eternal.)
—Honoré de Balzac
Since tomorrow Mari will be once again having her annual Valentine’s Teacher Bunco Party, I could not resist the temptation to insert an early Valentine’s Day greeting to her.
That is nothing unusual. As I say, “I never have a conversation without talking about the two great loves of my life–Arkansas and Mari!” That is a slight exaggeration for effect, but it is close to the truth. Here is an example.
Back in the summers of 1964 and 1965 I attended two summer French institutes for high school foreign language teachers at what was then Kansas State Teacher’s College in Emporia.
One day in French Conversation class I was called upon expectedly to give an impromptu talk about any subject I chose. Naturally, I did not hesitate. I went straight to the chalkboard, drew an outline of the state of Arkansas complete with its geographical features, its primary landmarks, rivers, and cities, etc., and began to talk about the state–all in French. As a result of that totally unprepared and unrehearsed presentation I received an A for that course.
No one at the institute was the slightest bit surprised at my choice of subjects since I had talked about Arkansas for the entire course of both summers.
Neither was anyone surprised when, at the end of the second institute, I had Mari and her sister Janice drive up–from Arkansas, of course–to pick me up so we could take a vacation trip to the Colorado Rockies.
When the other participants saw Mari walk in to the hall where the graduation ceremony was to take place, they recognized her from the photos I had shown them. Instantly, they all rushed upon her, saying, “Oh, we’re so glad to finally meet you. We have heard so much about you. Your husband really loves you!”
I still do. As the poet says, “Love is eternal,” a truth that I have often expressed in one of my endless self-quotes: “If it ever dies, it wasn’t love to begin with!” (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
“Happy Valentine’s, Mari!”