Posts Tagged ‘grandmothers’

When snow melts, the creeks do rise. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Remembering my Grandmother

I was reading High Tide in Tucson, an essay anthology by Barbara Kingsolver who mentioned that she was often tempted to use one of her grandmother’s axioms when asked to commit to a future obligation. “Lord willing, and the creeks don’t rise,” she wrote.

My grandmother used to say exactly the same thing — and suddenly my wondering-brain was wanting to know the origin of the phrase  …  and then I was putting down Kingsolver’s book for a bit of research.

As usual, I came up with conflicting stories. One is that the phrase was first used by Benjamin Hawkins, U.S. General Superintendent for Indian Affairs between 1796 and 1818. Supposedly he used it in a letter to Thomas Jefferson requesting his presence in Washington D.C. in which he replied he would be there “God willing and the Creek don’t rise,” meaning the Creek Indians.

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors — and I’m loving this book of essays by her.

Others believe that Creek merely refers to a stream, and that it was simply a hayseed rural term meaning if nothing stops me or all goes well. One example for this is a mock rustic speech from an 1851 Graham’s American Monthly Magazine: “Feller-citizens — I’m not ’customed to public speakin’ before sich highfalutin’ audiences. … Yet here I stand before you a speckled hermit, wrapt in the risen-sun counterpane of my popilarity, an’ intendin’, Providence permittin’, and the creek don’t rise, to go it blind!”

Another example of early use of the phrase, according to Wikipedia, is from the 1894 Lafayette Gazette: “We are an American people, born under the flag of independence and if the Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise, the American people who made this country will come pretty near controlling it.”

It’s also said to be a sign-off tag line of the 1930s’ radio broadcaster Bradley Kincaid. My grandmother liked to listen to the radio so maybe this is where she picked it up. And finally, it has also been attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, among others, on the usual principle that attaching a famous name to a story validates it.

Well, that was enough information, if not exactly uncomplicated, to placate this wondering-brain of mine — until the next time it is wants answers. In the meantime, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll go back to reading High Tide in Tucson. And in case you’re wondering about that title, Kingsolver explains it in her first essay.

Bean Pat: In tribute to Mary Oliver https://deborahbrasket.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/mary-oliver-washed-in-light/  Her words live on.

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Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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            “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” – Robert Frost

Part of my everyday Sunday life was sitting on the back steps of my grandmother’s home early in the morning watching her wring a chicken’s neck so we could have the best fried chicken in the world for dinner. It spooked me the way the headless body of the chicken would flop around. My grandmother’s house on the outskirts of Dallas is now condemned. — Photo by Pat Bean

Mine from the Ages of 3 to 11

These are the steps I ran up every week day to catch the school bus. I tripped on them once and chipped a tooth, which the dentist said was why it finally fell out when I was in my 60s. — Photo by Pat Bean

When I was 11 years old my grandmother, the only person I thought loved me – of course I was wrong – died. My whole world then changed, and it wasn’t for the better.

I recently searched out my grandmother’s old home. As Robert Frost said, life had moved on. But the memories of my everyday life as it was back then are still etched into my soul.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon


This is the tree in the next door neighbor’s yard that I climbed most everyday. I loved this old tree, which back then was young and perfect. The house on the right was a corn field. — Photo by Pat Bean

          “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.” – Anton Chekhov .


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 “A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” – Nancy Reagan.

Travels With Maggie

Photo of my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother with my grandmother, Iva Mae, on the left, and her younger sister on the right. I never met any of these people.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother, my mother’s mother and the only grandparent I ever knew. She died when I was 11. Now, for some strange reason, all the things I don’t know about this person, the only one in my young life whom I was sure loved me, frustrates me.

The little I do know of Mamie Truesdale Lee, who died in 1950, is that she divorced her first husband, for which the Catholic Church excommunicated her, then later married my grandfather, Charles Forrest Lee, who died when I was only two years old. My mother tells me he was gentle man and that I inherited my love of travel from him, that and my middle name of Lee, which is why I dubbed my RV Gypsy Lee.

But it’s my grandmother’s spirit, the person who they say made bathtub gin during prohibition, and the tiny spitfire of a women who was my mother, Kathryn Lee Joseph, that travel with me and Maggie

The two stuffed birds I've named to remind that I come from strong women stock when Maggie and I are traveling down the road. The condor on the left is Mamie, after my grandmother, and the chickadee on the right is Kathryn after my mother. And yes, it's OK if you want to laugh at my foolishness. I have tough skin. I came by it honestly. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Both of them were strong women who survived tough times and fought the genteel images society expected of them in their days. To remind me of the female strength in my genes, I have reminders on my dashboard to help me through travel emergencies, like a blown tire, or a snowy, slick canyon road.

Laugh if you will, it’s OK. But the reminders are stuffed birds – ones with squeakers that imitate their calls. There’s a condor, purchased at Idaho’s wild Birds of Prey Sanctuary, named Mamie because my grandmother was a large imposing woman. And then there’s a stuffed Chickadee named Kathryn that I found at a Yellowstone National Park gift shop. Chickadees are tiny, but loud, and that is how I best remember my mother.

I started thinking about my grandmother a week or so ago when my son, Lewis, who lives in Texas, sent me a picture of my father’s mother and her mother, both of whom had died before I was born. He’s been researching our family history, and was all excited about the discovery.

I started this blog to tell you about these two women, but then I realized that I had nothing to say because all I know about them is what I can seduce from the photograph my son sent me. While it does stir my imagination, I find the story of the son of a Portuguese sailor who jumped ship in New England and propagated my Texas roots more fascinating.

Tune in tomorrow for that story.

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I remember sitting on these back steps eating praline candy my grandmother made from pecans I had picked up off the ground. I ate so much I got deathly sick and have never liked praline candy since. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.” — Cesare Pavese


When I was three years old, my grandfather died. My father took it as an invitation to move our family of three into my grandmother’s house. We stayed there for eight years, moving only after my grandmother died.

Those years weren’t a happy time in my life. My mother and grandmother did not get along; and my father was a good-timing Charlie who left the house early, came home late and almost always gambled his paycheck away.

My life was squeezed between the petty bickering of my mother and grandmother, and my mother’s shrill voice berating my father when he was home. My dad never fought back, and because of this I erroneously considered him the hero and my mother the villain of the family.

Into this chaos came two younger brothers demanding my mother’s attention, and making me feel even more unwanted and unloved. It was with great glee when I could put this past behind me, although of course, as we humans so often do, I created another kind of chaos for my own children.

Mostly dead now, this large tree in the neighbor's yard was an ideal one for climbing, and I spent many an hour nestled among its branches. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’m not sure why, but this time when I was visiting Dallas, I had a deep-seated urge to find the home of my youth, the one in which my grandmother taught me how to cook, the one where my mother sewed me a beautiful blue flowered dress from a flower sack, the one where I had a faithful canine companion named Blackie, and the one that had a large swing set in the backyard on which I played circus trapeze artist.

My oldest daughter drove, and together we found my grandmother’s house, where it still languishes, dilapidated and condemned, in the small Dallas suburb of Fruitdale.

Of course there are differences. There is no lush gardenia bush, whose fragrance still haunts me, beside the front door. Two houses now sit where my mother had attended a large vegetable garden. And houses now stood in the large cornfield across the street, from which I remember my dad sneaking into at night to bring home a few ears for supper.

I suddenly remembered how we all laughed, even my mother, as we ate old Miss Hallie’s corn slathered with homemade butter. Strange, I thought, what a difference 50 years had made in the memories that now seemed important.

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This young lion, which came close enough for me to lean over and touch if I had been so inclined -- I wasn't -- provided a tall-tale to relate to my grandchildren. -- Photo by Pat Bean



“An optimist is someone who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.” — Walter Winchell


My early mornings are reserved for writing, but I played hooky today to run errands with my daughter-in-law.

When I moaned to her that I didn’t have an idea for today’s blog that I was going to have to write when we returned from gadding about – That’s the downside of signing up for this blog-a-day challenge – she suggested I write about my encounter with a lion.

The story is one of the anecdotes from my African safari that I tell to impress my grandkids, whom I want to think that Nana is cool, or whatever term they use for it these days. I know such self-serving promotion smacks of Frank Lloyd Wright’s decision to choose “honest arrogance” over “hypocritical humility,” but I do it anyway.

Lions sleep the day away as tourists gawk from metal contraptions that African wildlife consider just part of the landscape -- Photo by Pat Bean

And since it’s now past time for my brain to be at its writing peak, I’ll accept the suggestion and repeat the story. Once upon a time, on an August day in 2007, I had the experience of a lifetime…

All three of the native guides who chauffeured my friend Kim and I through Tanzania and Kenya for two weeks were experts at finding wildlife. On this particular morning, our guide had spotted three lions, a mother and two almost fully grown males, headed our way.

He parked and we waited for them to pass by our Land Rover. These tourist-transporting vehicles have become so common to African wildlife that they’re merely considered an indigestible part of the landscape. And Kim and I had been assured we would be perfectly safe as long as we stayed inside the metal contraptions.

As our guide had so correctly assumed, the lions passed not far from our vehicle. That is to say two of them passed. One of the younger males took a short detour to scratch his back on the tire of our Land Rover, whose canvas tops and sides had been rolled back to give us better views.

I froze, but then couldn’t resist a single shot from the camera I had in my hand. Here I was, standing mere inches away from the king of the beasts. I wanted proof – and I got it.

How “cool” is that?

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