Tag Archives: relationships

Early Monday Morning . . .


The grass is lush and wet with dew, the ground spongy on this Monday morning. The dog named Elvis wants to play, leaping up with dirty paws as the couple navigates their way across the expansive backyard down to the fence.

She is fearful of falling, even against the soft ground. Too many bad memories from the accident. The man calls out to the dog, commands him to stop.  She tries to push the over-eager hound away, her voice breaking a little.  She hasn’t slept at all and her nerves are raw.

“I’m sorry, Elvis. Not now. Just–not now.”  Slogging through the thick grass, they finally reach the big pecan tree at the fence.

The hole has already been dug. The man had done it the day before. He’d had the feeling the night would end as it did.

He carries a sturdy plastic container with a snap-on lid. He had bought it a few days before. Once the woman finally spoke of the inevitable, it had freed him to make preparations.

The container was hot pink. He’d thought she’d like that better than the clear ones. More–girly, he had said, with a sad, sheepish smile.

The man lowers the container into the hole. For a moment, he bows his head and presses his hand on the top. “Goodbye, girl,” he says softly.  This is the fifth time he’s gone through such a ceremony here beneath the big, shady pecan tree. It just doesn’t ever get any easier.

Standing, he wraps his arm around the woman and gives her a hug, brushing his lips against her cheek.  She can feel tears running down her face. She is not sure if they are her tears, or his.

With a sigh, he releases her and picks up the shovel, filling in the hole and patting the earth down firmly before placing the concrete block on top.

A concrete block  isn’t very girly, but it does help protect the gravesite.

They pause for a few moments, saying nothing, and then turn to walk back to the house. He gives her the shovel. “That should help you keep steady,” he said with a half-smile.  He is such a kind and gentle man.

She wouldn’t trade him for all the gold or gorgeous actors in the world.

Love is risky. It makes us vulnerable, and that can be scary. Love can open us to the possibility of rejection, disappointment, loss, to heartache and heartbreak.
And yet, what is life without love? Love for our soul mates, family, friends, pets. Love enriches and inspires.  It liberates.  It teaches. Love makes us fully human. It can cost us everything. But without it, we are nothing.
Touched by An Angel
We, unaccustomed to courage, exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness until love leaves its high holy temple
 and comes into our sight to liberate us into life.
Love arrives and in its train come ecstasies,
old memories of pleasure, ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold, love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity,
In the flush of love’s light we dare be brave
And suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be.
Yet it is only love which sets us free.
Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is only love which sets us free

“The Help” and Mama and I: Part Two


Part 2 (see below for a link to part one)

I cannot tell you Celestine’s story without including her husband. Celestine had married very young, in her early teens.   Prince “Tut” Marsh was, in certain ways, so much like my daddy that we sometimes said they could have been twins if only their skin had been the same color.

He was one of the hardest working men I had ever encountered. While working for my grandfather in his youth, Tut lost one of his arms in a sawmill accident. As soon as it was healed enough that he could manage it, Tut was back at work at Grandfather’s saw mill. Although my grandfather helped with the medical expenses, there was no workman’s compensation in those days. If you wanted to eat and keep a roof over your head, you worked.

A sawmill from the 1930s, not unlike the one in which Celestine’s husband worked.

He’s never lost that strong work ethic, either.  I remember several years ago when I did a newspaper interview with Tut and Celestine to mark their 60th wedding anniversary. Poor Tut could barely keep still long enough in their trailer to answer the questions.

“If-if you are done, Miss, I need to ge-get back out there and finish planting the garden,” he said politely with his familiar stammer.

Like my daddy, Tut was a good man but a very quick-tempered one. He drank in his younger years, and when he was intoxicated, Tut—a big, strapping and very strong fellow who could do serious damage even if he did have only one arm–could be pretty terrifying.  Mama said that on more than one occasion, Celestine would flee their house in the dead of night and run through the woods to turn up at our farmhouse’s door. And there she would stay in her safe haven until Tut sobered up.

Daddy knew he couldn’t hold liquor well and rarely drank. But he was volatile and it didn’t take a lot to make that temper flare at times. More than once, Mama sought out Celestine when Tut’s “brother” was misbehaving. You could say they were in the same boat at times, and it was comforting to share the ride with someone else who understood where you were coming from.

I remember seeing Celestine in her preachin’ robes, topped off by the jauntiest of satin berets. On Sunday afternoons, I would sometimes sit on the back porch of the farmhouse and listen to Celestine’s congregation in the little church on the hill, singing to the rhythm of that big bass drum.  I loved how spirited those voices were as they rose and fell and the drum thumped away. There was so much more life and energy in their singing compared to our church’s congregation, or so I thought.

In addition to serving as a minister, rearing her own children and later, some of her grandchildren, Celestine was also a foster mother for the county, helping raise children in need of homes.  In addition, she worked for a couple of families in town, helping to cook and clean and care for their children.

In the black community, Celestine was fondly referred to as “Mama Teen.” She was a mother figure to many people, black and white.

She provided me with comfort and encouragement during those difficult adolescent years, when I was certain I was one of the ugliest people to walk the face of the earth and that no one would ever want ME.  Years later, when the ugly duckling blossomed, I remember her beaming smiles and those hugs. “See, baby, I told you so!”

Celestine often referred to me as her white baby. And I thought of her as one of my second mothers.  I loved her more than I did or do some of my own flesh and blood relatives, as did my two older sisters. After all, Celestine took an active interest in our lives. She sincerely cared.  And when we accomplished some milestone in life, I don’t think anyone outside of our parents could have been any more proud of us.

In the last portion of her life, Celestine suffered many health problems, losing her customary plumpness and shrinking even shorter. At five foot six inches, I felt like an Amazon when I stood beside her.  It gave me a pang when I realized the indestructible Celestine Marsh was getting old and ever more frail.

She had to endure long hours of kidney dialysis, but she didn’t complain.

“Actually, it’s kind of nice to just have some time to read my Bible and to think things over,” she used to say. Still, Celestine would find the energy to whip up goodies for the holidays, presenting tins of her trademark cheese straws to Benny because she knew he loved her straws better than anybody else’s.  Sharing good food is a way to show love here in the South, and like so many other people, Celestine loved my husband. She loved that he was so good to her baby.

Celestine had a handy little gadget she used to make fancy cheese straws that were also crisp and tangy.

When she passed away several years ago, the church could barely hold all the attendees.  Mama and I were the only two white people there, but we were given seats in the front of the sanctuary. It wasn’t because we were white, you see; it was because we were family.

Sometimes, when I am down at the old farmhouse, I close my eyes and listen and I can almost hear the boom of the big bass drum and the sound of voices praising God, echoing from the hilltop church.  I can see her, white apron flapping, wielding that hoe as she killed the rattler. Smell the delicious scent of her homemade yeast rolls and fried chicken.

Celestine’s homemade butterhorn rolls put the Pillsbury Doughboy’s to shame.

I can feel her arms wrap around me in a warm hug and hear her say, “It’s good to see my baby. You’re lookin’ good.”

I am so glad and so blessed that I had someone like Celestine Marsh, a strong and compassionate and wise woman, in my life.

Watching The Help brought back a flood of memories, and quite a few tears.  It is highly recommended.

I just wish she  and Mama could have seen it. I think they would have enjoyed it, too.

A complex and controversial early TV role: Paul Andrews in BTS


Alona (Julie Graham) and Paul (Richard Armitage) in BTS

In 2003, Richard appeared in the supporting role of widowed sex therapist Alona’s live-in younger boyfriend, Paul in ITV’s Betwen the Sheets. Paul is also the father to a daughter the couple shares. BTS has been described as an “emotional touching, sometimes humorous carnal drama” revolving around the love lives and physical hang-ups of several couples who are all linked in some way.

Paul is a probation officer accused of inappropriate behaviour with one of his underage clients. Throughout the series’ six episodes, the viewer is not quite sure if Paul is guilty or innocent. As with other Armitage characters, one is left wondering about Paul’s past and his future and just what makes him tick. It is yet another character that, when viewed on additional occasions, allows you to pick up on nuances missed the first time.

If you have not seen BTS or have seen it only on YouTube, be advised that Richard is nude in a couple of rather graphic sex scenes–nothing most of haven’t seen with other actors in other shows or films, but it can be a shock when you see John Thornton going at it.

It is a frank adult drama about intimacy issues and has scenes that correlate to this theme. I personally don’t have a problem with this; excessive gratuitous violence is much more disturbing to me, I have found. But I do think potential viewers should have a forewarning, just in case.

I should also add that I don’t think of it as Richard Armitage when I watch this series. It’s Paul Andrews, just as it’s John Thorton in N&S, Porter in SB and so forth. he inhabits the character so well.

Do I feel the actor was exploited by his nudity and simulation of intimacy? No.

He was a grown man capable of making his own choices, fully aware of what the role required and he acts the part extremely well. But do we expect anything less?

On a lighter note, I do find it amusing RA told his mum he had a “bum double.” 😉 An edited version of BTS is available to view on YT; the DVD set of the complete six episodes can be ordered through Amazon.

Screencaps from RANet and Richard Armitage Central