Oh My Goodness. Another Birthday.

Ain’t no way.  Impossible.  Simply can not be.  The calendar must be messed up.

I mean, I just had a birthday a couple of months ago didn’t I?  Right before Thanksgiving?  Or was it just before football season maybe?
Remember it well.  Was the 36th anniversary of my 39th birthday.  Got two cards, four emails and one telephone call.  Some folks even mentioned it on Facebook.

So I have double-checked.  And then double-checked my double-checking.  And much as I would like to deny it, it really is true that on Monday, Jan. 21 I will have my 76th birthday.  And to make me feel even older, that means I have lived for 76 years and now start on number 77.

Apparently the news got out somehow because Monday has been declared a NATIONAL HOLIDAY.  How many of my friends can say that happened on their birthday?  Not many, if any.

Of course I know that most think Monday is a holiday because of Martin Luther King, Jr.  And some in the Deep South think it is because of Robert E. Lee.  But that is not he case at all.  You see, King was born on Jan. 15, 1929 and uncle Robert was born on Jan. 19, 1807.

So while we may have the day off on Monday because of them, it’s really MY birthday–not theirs.

I am glad to still be kicking.  Though hardly as high as I once did.  I’m not so steady when I stand up these days and to put on my pants I have to sit on the edge of the bed.  No more balancing on one foot while doing so.  And the memory is definitely not what it used to me.  Coming out of a restaurant today a gentleman spoke to me as if he knew me.  I had no clue who he was.

Here’s hoping that as you enjoy your holiday Monday, you remember why you got it.

55 Years Ago Today

It was a Saturday.  I was at the Mobile Infirmary in a waiting room studying German, having just begun my 4th quarter at Auburn.  I was waiting on my son Kevin to make his first appearance in this world.

The doctor had predicted that he would be born in late December, but sometimes doctors and Mother Nature don’t read from the same play book. I well remember being taken to the nursery to see him for the first time.  He was there among eight or ten other newborns.  Others were also looking at what the stork had just delivered and I heard plenty of, “why he has his daddies nose” or “she looks just like her mother.”

Kevin just looked like a brand new baby to me, all red and puffy with no resemblance to anyone I knew.

It is hard to believe that has now been 55 years ago.  But indeed it has.

He was a smart little fellow.  Attended a school for gifted in Birmingham and later was invited to attend the new Alabama School for Fine Arts.  He has always read about anything he could get his hands on.  I have often said that he is far more well-read than I will ever be.  And my sister just says, “Don’t ever play Trivial Pursuit with Kevin.”

He is an excellent writer and I’m proud to occasionally share some of his words on this blog site.  Unfortunately, we had no clue 55 years ago that his body harbored a genetic defect that would cause severe respiratory issues as he aged.

I enjoy conversations with him.  Politically we think very much alike.  And we certainly share the same allegiance to any athletic team that wears orange and blue.

But mostly I am just proud to be his father.  Even if his turning 55 does mean I am about to be 76.

I love you Kevin.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!.

A Tip Of The Hat

Let’s shut the door on 2018 on a couple of upbeat notes.

KUDOS TO GOVERNOR KAY

A few days ago I bragged on my son Kevin and the excellent article he wrote for the Lagniappe publication in Mobile about receiving one of his great grandmother’s quilts.

Somehow the article came to the attention of Governor Kay Ivey, my long ago Auburn classmate, and she took the time to send Kevin a very thoughtful hand-written note.  He was very impressed and indeed grateful.  As was his daddy.

These are the kind of gestures that seem fewer and fewer as the world increases speed.  Which is probably why they carry so much impact.

CHARLIE JOHNSON, BAPTIST OF THE YEAR

Though my friend Charlie Johnson lives in Texas, he grew up in Monroe County, AL.  He is the Baptist minister who started Pastors for Texas Children, an organization that is a strong advocate for public schools in the Lone Star state.

At last count, more than 1,000 Texas churches have become partners with local K 12 schools.  And similar groups have been started in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee and elsewhere.  Charlie’s group is also a strong public education advocate in the Texas legislature and haS been instrumental in keeping public dollars from being diverted to private school vouchers.

This work has not gone unnoticed as Charlie was recently named Baptist of the Year in Texas by the group, EthicsDaily.com.

Congratulations to Charlie.

Editor’s note: Charlie would love to come to Alabama and plant the seed for an Alabama-based group similar in scope to what is being done in other places.  We have had several conversations about this.  However, to this point I have not been able to round up much interest.  If you know of some ministers who would like to learn more, let me know.  larrylee133@gmail.com

HAPPY NEW YEAR

You Broke My Baton

Funny how our minds tuck away little bits and pieces of our past, only to be easily jogged into our consciousness years later  So it was on my recent trip to Wisconsin.  I was headed north on I-39 when a few miles across the Illinois-Wisconsin state line a sign let me know that I was in the vicinity of Janesville, WI.

I have never been to Janesville, but as soon as I saw the sign I knew it is the home of the American Baton Company and I did business with them not so many, many years ago.

Out of the blue one day, daughter Kim asked me innocently, “Dad, do you remember when you broke my baton in half?”  I was taken aback by her question and quickly admitted that I did not recall what she was talking about.  But I did know that she was speaking about something that took place eons ago.

I did not have to coax her to tell me the story.  As she related, she was a little girl of maybe five or so.  She had a toy baton and in a moment of anger, I sent it to the baton happy hunting ground.

My mind raced.  How could I have been so heartless?  My Lord, if she remembered this decades later I had obviously scarred her psych for eternity.

That’s when Janesville came to the rescue.  I had to replace that baton and google soon took me to the American Baton Company.  I don’t know how much it cost, but I got a super duper model and had it shipped to her ASAP.

Not so long after this happened, her brother Kevin said to me, “Dad, Kim did not tell you the rest of the story.”  I was all ears as he filled in the portion of the event Kim conveniently left untold.  The baton in question had rubbers knobs at both ends.  They came off and Kim, two years younger than Kevin, told him to look in one end as if he was using a telescope.

He did.  And that’s when she struck, popping the end nearest her which shoved the other end into his eye and inflicted both pain and parental concern.

Obviously the aftermath was a broken baton.

At some point I mentioned to Kim that her brother “spilled the beans” and asked why she didn’t tell me that part of the tale.  She laughed and said, “Well, you didn’t ask me about it.”

I have no idea where the new super duper baton may be today.  Nor do I care.  All I know is that I dearly love Kevin and Kim and wish for them a wonderful Christmas.

 

Christmas In A Different Time and Different Place

Once upon a time in a place very far away, there was a land called the 1950s.  When the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 1949, I was midway through the first grade,  Daddy was in the Air Force.  A decade later, Dec. 31, 1959, I was midway through the 11th grade at Theodore high school near Mobile.

So the 50s were my formative years.  And today, decades later, I can still recall times and people and events that made me who I am today.  I can also remember Christmas.

As I take in today’s world, it is hard to believe that I came of age in a time that now seems almost primitive.

Alabama was still a place of small towns like Red Level, McKenzie and Georgiana.  Their downtowns were vibrant with grocery stores, barber shops, banks, hardware stores and probably a cotton gin.  When you pulled into a gas station in a car with a clutch, someone came out to pump your gas, clean the windshield and check your oil.  You paid your bill in cash, not credit or debit card.

Interstates had not sucked the life out of the countryside.  Before air-conditioning people still sat on their porch as night fell and TV didn’t fill their lives with a constant babble of God knows what.  Some people actually read because there were real newspapers in those faraway times.  My classmates looked just like me.  We were all white and mostly middle-class.  Our mothers were housewives and our dads worked at shipyards and paper mills and built houses.  Most had worn a military uniform and done their part in World War II.

Some guy from Tupelo, MS was about to hit teenagers like a tsunami and usher in rock ‘n roll.  Preachers took to their pulpits to damn this music and teenagers kept on buying 45 RPM records, the ones with the big hole in the middle.

In 1952 the country elected General Dwight Eisenhower as president, who served until JFK came along eight years later.  Eisenhower graduated from West Point and spent 38 years in the Army.  He couldn’t have been more unlike today’s White House occupant.

But there was a constant during this decade for a young boy and his younger sister.  That was the small house sitting on brick pillars at Rt. 2, Red Level, AL.  This was the home of Grandpa and Grandma, daddy’s parents.  A little house daddy said was constructed in one week in 1936.  (But considering that it was built without wiring or plumbing or insulation, that doesn’t seem so odd)

This was where we celebrated most Christmas Eves of this decade.  Since presents were opened the night before Christmas, the timing was all the more important.  There was always a small cedar tree in the corner of the front bedroom that grandma cut on their farm.  Decorations were sparse, but we knew it was a Christmas tree just the same.

We gathered in front of the fireplace in the living room (which was the only heat in the house) while presents were given out and wrapping paper frantically torn aside.  I honestly do not recall a single present I ever got at grandpas.  Maybe a ball glove, maybe a shirt or some underwear or a book   But that matters not.  It was Christmas and I was with family and knew I was loved.

Those were not necessarily better times–just different in so many ways.  And one thing is undeniable.  I have never forgotten many of the lessons I learned back then.  They have served me well for a great many years.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Not A Death In The Family–But Almost

There are things we all know will eventually happen–still we’re never quite ready when the time comes.

Which is the way I felt when an email showed up in my inbox telling me that my little-hole-in-he-wall Italian restaurant on South Court Street in Montgomery, Corsino’s, will lock its door on Dec. 31.

Don and Myra Corsino have had this place for 37 years.  Before that, they had Pizzanos on Fairview Avenue.  It was about the size of a decent pantry.  The one about to close has nine tables and ten booths.

I would shutter to know how much money I have spent here over the years.  For sure, I’ve done my part.  As have many, many other regulars.  Seems that Don and Mryra know them all.  And their children and probably even the children of children.  It has always been strictly a local eatery.  Very few tourists wander that side of town these days.  However, Walter Matthau was once in the area filming a movie and stopped by.

And there was Paul Harvey.  Nope, not THE Paul Harvey, just someone else who bore his name.  And seemed to always be trying to peddle something.  I remember it was kites at one time.

While I have a jillion memories of lunches and dinners there, my favorite is of my 60th birthday party in 2003.  The restaurant was not open on Saturday or Sunday.  So sometime late in 2002 I set about to convince Don and Myra to open one Saturday night for me and my friends.  They were steadfast in their refusal.  I got the waitresses and kitchen staff to work on them for me

Finally, for what reason I do not know, they relented.  Dozens of friends and family from across the south showed up for an Italian buffet.  It was great fun.  Lots of tales were told.  Some of them may have been true.

I don’t know if they ever opened on any other Saturday night.  But they did open on the one that meant most to me.

It’s been great ride.  And I will never travel South Court Street without my car wanting to stop.  Thankfully, I have a handful of days left to visit.