The Ken Burns series, Muhammed Ali, reminds me of a family story about my cousin and Ali. I had heard this story through the years and had seen photos, but it really came home to me when I traveled to Louisville, Kentucky several years ago to look at some family papers kept in the Filson Historical Society.

Driving through the streets of Louisville, I began to picture my family traveling there by carriage from Uniontown on the Ohio River to visit family and friends. I loved the elegant old houses that are being restored and the buildings that were standing as they arrived in downtown. While walking around the downtown, I found a statue of Mother Catherine Spalding, known as the first social worker in the area. My grandmother was a Spalding and easily could be related to Mother Catherine, which made me very proud to think about.

My grandmother was raised Catholic but converted to the Episcopal Church when she married my grandfather. We had many Catholic relatives on her side, including many priests and nuns, who we only saw occasionally. The one we did know was my grandmother’s niece, Susie Huff, who became Sister James Ellen as a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Louisville, the order founded by Mother Catherine Spalding. Susie was my first cousin, once removed.

Sister James Ellen (I understand she was sometimes called Sister Jimmy Ellen) was known to be a lively woman. She corresponded with my brother for years and I found many letters between them in his papers when he died a few years ago. She was very special to him as evidenced by the personal nature of the letters.

We had heard the story of Sister James Ellen’s friendship with Muhammed Ali, who is such a great figure in this city. I happened to be in Louisville in July, 2016, a month after Ali had passed away. I visited the Muhammed Ali Center, where his fans were still celebrating his life.

I left very touched by the greatness of his life and the effect of his words on the people who were there with me. I purchased a copy of his memoir in the gift shop, where I found that he had mentioned my cousin.

Sister James Ellen first met the young Cassius Clay when he was boxing in the gym across the street from the library at Spalding College where she worked. Here are his words.

I found a story in the newsletter of the Sisters after the death of Sister James Ellen in 2001.

“As a teenager attending Central High School, Ali, and James Ellen Huff, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, developed a close friendship. Sister James Ellen ran the library at Nazareth College (now Spalding University) across the street from the gym where Ali spent his days boxing. Sister James Ellen hired Ali, who at that time used his birth name of Cassius Clay, to work in the library so he could earn a little money. She said she liked his “zest.” She was known to often give Ali encouragement, frequently share laughs, and even return from dinner with snacks for him before he went to train. Once she found him asleep on a long library table! After the world came to know him, she put a sign over the table that read, “Cassius Slept Here”

Ali and Sister James Ellen are described as kindred souls and when Ali won the gold medal in the Olympics, she was one of the first people to whom he showed his medal. The two would remain lifelong friends exchanging letters, and phone calls, until Sisters’ death in February 2001.”

When Ali arrived to show his Olympic gold medal, Sister James Ellen (shown here in the front) sent word to the other sisters to come see their young friend. The absolute delight is shown in all their faces. The photos and story were featured in a story in The Washington Post at the time.

Muhammed Ali and Sister James Ellen remained dear friends until her death and I found these sweet photos of the two of them.

Ali and his wife sent a large bouquet of white roses to Sister James Ellen’s service when she died.

I searched for the site of this friendship and found Spalding University and the library where there is now a Huff Gallery, named for Sister James Ellen. The University has now purchased the building where Ali trained and also has several Muhammed Ali scholarships.

This special story makes my heart happy knowing that these two people from very different worlds formed a lifelong friendship as each had a lasting impact on the world. I love that I can claim even a touch of connection to these two incredible souls.

My only son, my youngest child of four, died ten years ago at the age of 35 after a long battle with cancer. He left us memories, his wonderful wife and his daughter, who was 15 months old. I’ve written about how it feels in the years after you lose a child, but it’s always different.

One of my grandsons was available to help me, although it was a very hot, humid day, so we tackled a little bit of the stuff in my garage. There were four shelves that were full of my son’s things, but I didn’t know if some of them were just things he collected when my mother or his father died or what was in the containers. We started pulling them out and found all kinds of treasures that warm a mother’s heart.

There was a plastic box with clothes and my college age grandson grabbed an old fanny pack and a red corduroy lined hat with flaps. If there was one thing my son had, it was his own style along with a vast knowledge of everything pop culture. He collected vintage clothing and lunch boxes and Scottish things and whatever caught his fancy. His old Star Wars toys are in other boxes and he would know the name of every character to this day. The original was his first movie when he was about a year and a half and all of it was such a huge part of his life. I also have his Lego blocks, having stepped over them and picked them up for years.

There’s a box out there with photos and school papers and notebooks that I just closed up for another day. I did move it from a cardboard box to a plastic container. Here are some of the other items we discovered in our archaeological garage dig:

There was a big box with his teddy bear collection. Again, he would know all the names. There was the little panda we got when we visited the pandas at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. when they had first arrived in the USA. There was the bear that he posed with in his one year photo. There were some other animals and puppets that actually came from the gift shop I owned when he was in high school and college. And this one was on top:

I needlepointed this for him when he was about three or four years old. His father was a sailor in the Navy, so it was a special bear for many reasons. He’s on my bed for the moment.

There were several books that he loved from his childhood. He didn’t have our copy of “Where the Wild Things Are,” his favorite, but he had taken this one that I must have read hundreds of times.

There were magazines from pop culture, such as a People magazine with Jerry Garcia on the cover along with others that are probably collector’s items today. There was an anthology from Tulsa Public Schools that I swear I had never seen with this published poem of his.

I now have a sealed valentine box of chocolates with Elvis to make me smile. The fact that they are Russell Stover chocolates is also fun since those were his father’s favorites.

I will sit down on days when I want to go back and learn more about my son and explore his drawings and writings. He tended to doodle, which his father did and his daughter does, in his notes, although most of his notebooks seem to be only used for a few pages, which matched what his attention span was. There is so much to explore.

One of the big pieces was an art project from his high school days. I think he was President of the school Art Club. Anyway, it was a big open box with lots of strips of film clipped to the sides. I had my grandson throw it in the dumpster that my son-in-law and daughter across the street were filling from their garage. A piece of plaster had dropped out of it and, when I picked it up, I realized that it was a plaster cast of the bottom part of my son’s face. This took me a minute because my son’s face had changed due to the treatment he received for the cancer he had in his mouth. I took it inside and my grandson threw the rest of the project away. I had seen other bits of plaster still in there, but didn’t look. Now I got curious and had my son-in-law climb into the dumpster and retrieve the plaster pieces. What we found were a complete face along with a sculpted piece of it. Pretty amazing. I have taken the pieces to be framed, but here they are.

I’ve always said that one of the nicest things to find is a photo of a lost loved one that you had never seen before. It’s like getting a piece of them back. I’d say that our little bit of cleaning in the garage brought me more pieces of my son than I realized were on the shelves. It seems there is a reason I sentimentally keep so many things that others throw out without a thought.

Now that I know what’s out there, I know I will return to the boxes to dig through papers and objects and recover little memories and new knowledge of who my son was and what his impact was on so many. It’s so comforting to know he can return to us through our memories and these pieces of him. I wish you had known him. I’m glad to know there is more for me to learn about him. We all miss him.

I was born in 1945 to parents who had ancesters who lived lives of comfort and struggle, wealth and poverty, in small towns and the country. My ancestry is pretty much from the British Isles with 33% Irish and 14% Scottish and a smattering of whoever else was around. Some of my relatives landed in Maryland, worked their way to Kentucky and eventually to Oklahoma. Others moved through the farms of the south to Texas and on to Oklahoma. Some owned slaves and some were servants themselves, some were business owners and some were farmers. I’m constantly finding out new things to help me understand who they were and how that shapes me today, but I know enough to keep me very humble.

As a child, I was an avid reader. Television wasn’t in homes until I was in elementary school, so I spent my spare time outside playing or reading anything I could find. We went to the library and I would bring home a stack of biographies (which were very diluted for our young minds, as I know now), fairy tales, fantasies, mysteries, all of it. I devoured them. In our home, we had a set of books, My Book House, which were published in 1937, that I read over and over.

The first volume was nursery rhymes from around the world. The illustrations in these books are so ingrained in my brain and I still think they are lovely. In these days of looking at things that depict others in ways that may not be pleasant to them, I was interested in giving some of these a new look with my more enlightened 75 year old eyes. The second volume was the one I probably read the most as I can remember everything I looked at when I went through it.

What I found is that the stories come from all over the world and opened my mind to traditions from every culture I could imagine. The authors included Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Song of Solomon, Jesus of Nazareth, Aristophanes, Aesop, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edward Lear, Beatrix Potter, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandberg, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, Leo Tolstoy, and Hans Christian Anderson. There are folk stories from Ireland, New England, Holland, France, Hungary, Norway, Chippewa Indians, East India, Czechoslavakia, Russia, American Negro Folk Tales, Africa, and stories from opera and ballet. This is just one of the basic volumes for the smallest children. A woman named Olive Beaupre Miller edited the books but there is no credit for the illustrations. What I know from just this is that I learned at a young age that all cultures have rich literary traditions to share.

Here is one of the stories I have always loved, Little Black Sambo. I look at the illustrations today and really don’t think anything but that it is a delightful story of a black family. I’m not sure I know how my friends of color will react to the images though.

As a child, I related them to Africa and the way the people lived there without any prejudice. Here’s another image

Even as a child, I understood that this was from the past and that Indians in my time didn’t dress like this. It’s actually a lovely poem. Again, I’m not sure my Native friends will react the same way.

And, yet another image.

I don’t know if the Chinese dressed like this in 1945, but I didn’t grow up thinking this was the only way they looked. I knew they did at some time from photos I’d seen of the old west. Again, I was just learning to wonder about the people who live in other countries.

Many years later, I worked with a program called “Different and the Same,” developed by Fred Rogers’ company to teach diversity to 2nd and 3rd graders. One of the 9 lessons was about how all people want the same things for our families but we may have different customs. I took a book I had which showed children around the world in different houses with different clothes, eating different foods, but all going to school, being with their families, celebrating their holidays. I think this early literature I was exposed to taught me this without having to overtly spell it out for me. I got it.

When I was old enough to go to movies, the first one I saw was the Disney gem, “So Dear to My Heart,” which was a sweet story. I still remember being enchanted by the animation mixed with the story.

I get the current reactions to the films I grew up with, even though some of them are older than I am. I absolutely loved “Song of the South,” and Uncle Remus because it fit right into my love of folk tales and folk songs.

I think I understood that there was something wrong with the situation being shown so lovingly, but I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the horrors of slavery when I was little. The song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is one I sang to my grandchildren and I can remember propping them in front of the tv to watch this video of the song. My oldest is 24 now, so we weren’t being corrected yet.

My oldest daughter was a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, which I read along with her. I hadn’t seen them as a child. I loved the stories, but I get the big uproar now.

We even have some of the Dr. Seuss books around that have the offensive illustrations, which I can see easily.

As I’ve written this piece and thought about it, I’m still learning. As a child and as an adult, one of my most solemn rules is not to hurt people’s feelings. The Golden Rule is one of the cornerstones of all I have tried to teach my children and grandchildren to live by. I even wrote a blog piece about it. It isn’t about offending people – it’s about hurting them. I absolutely understand why certain images perpetuate things that aren’t true and cause one group of people to consider others in a hurtful way. Good for those who are pointing these things out.

I’m coming to terms with these things in our society and in my own personal thinking of the ways I treat other people, whether they come from different places than I do or are people who grew up close to me. As I look at the things that shaped me, I’m not going to throw out all these books and videos that I loved as a child. I’m going to use them to teach myself and others how to be better by taking the good that is in each of them and using the things that are now known to be hurtful to teach and learn. Children are capable of understanding what is real and what it is someone’s interpretation of it if they are given the chance. They’re also capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

As a child, I was smart enough to understand that the illustrations and stories I was reading and seeing were just a part of the world. I had a broad enough education to put them in perspective. I guess that’s what being narrow minded means – not having the perspective to compare different stories with reality. I don’t think I ever have stopped growing and learning, which allows me to add to the stories I learned as a child and filter them into what I have learned now.

Writing this, my heart hurts for those who have not been open to lifetime learning, which teaches the good and the bad about humanity so that we can live in a world that is ever smaller as our societies are more and more linked together to solve the problems that face our planet and our individuals. But, my heart sings as I remember the stories that delighted me as a child and led me to want to learn more, which led me to more understanding of how we are all so much alike as human beings. We have so much to learn from nature, from history, from literature and the other arts, and from each other. Keep your minds open to the richness that is our world as we find our balance together.

Thirteen years ago, I spotted her at a fall bazaar. She was the smallest of the litter and the only female pup waiting to be rescued. I already had a dog (Molly) and two cats (Mickey and Guy), but who could resist this little Westie? I’d had this breed before and they are adorable, feisty terriers. I applied and went through a home visit with the Westie Rescue people to see if I was an appropriate owner (something I never had to do to have four kids) and then went to the vet to pick up this little one as soon as she could leave her mother. I mean. Really. What a cutie. Her name was Annabel. I tried to find a great Scottish girl name and Annabel was just fine, so I kept it.

Please note the little lamb toy that she has had since she was a baby.

Because Molly was a Labradoodle, she had the retriever trait of carrying something around in her mouth all the time. Annabel didn’t have anyone else to mimic, so she carried that lamb everywhere. I put it away at some point in her life so the big animals wouldn’t chew it up and found it this last year and gave it back to her. It’s like she never stopped carrying it. I find it all over the place in my house. Here she is recently.

From the very beginning, Annabel fit in with the other animals.

Annabel was Molly’s little sidekick, following her everywhere, doing whatever she was doing. She has a little hop skip she does now from Molly stepping on her foot when she was little. She was always walking under Molly or racing beside her.

Black and white, big and little. They were the best of friends and did everything together. They loved to go to the groomer, coming home clean and foofy, as we call it, with bows in their hair.

I haven’t mentioned Wanda, who came to live with us at some point. She belonged to my daughter-in-law and son and I ended up having her the last nine of her 16 or 17 years. She was a sweetie and got along with all of them, except when there was food involved, which is when the terror in terrier came out in Annabel and she might go after anyone. Annabel was the fastest at snapping up dropped food from under the other dogs’ noses.

I tried to keep Annabel clean and groomed, but she is a born mess. She is true to her nature and digs for moles in the yard, yaps at squirrels and chases rabbits and barks for whatever reason. Maybe that’s to let the world know she’s there since she looks awfully tiny out in the big ole’ world.

She also likes to play in the snow when we have it, romping around like a little kid.

I tried for the show dog look, but it was useless since I wasn’t going to brush her all the time, so we’ve gone for a shorter cut.

At least Westies don’t shed like my other dogs and cats did, so that’s a plus. She just always has a dirty face and her white coat looks less white next to my daughter’s Westie. It’s ok.

When she’s not on guard, she used to nap with her friends or in a sunbeam or on the deck.

One thing we never mastered was taking walks all together. Molly would run ahead and Annabel would choke trying to catch her and she would run under Molly’s legs or around mine. Besides, Molly’s legs were a lot longer than Annabel’s and a walk around the block was a big deal for the little one. The times they managed to run out the front door or escape the back yard, it was actually pretty cute to watch them race down the street together. I had to get in the car and go catch them, knowing that getting Molly first would bring Annabel with her. They would both be grinning when I caught them in their big adventure.

I tried the dog park with them. Molly was great, but Annabel would go into a frenzy because she had to stay in the small dog side away from her friend. It was a disaster unless I took Molly alone.

If anything unusual was happening in the house, such as me cleaning for a party or packing for a trip, both dogs would settle to watch me in what I called their worried position, with Molly lying down and Annabel tucked in beside her. I tried to explain to them that I would be through soon or be back soon, but they always were concerned.

This last year was a good one for the dogs. I’ve been home and was able to pay a lot of attention to them. Molly’s age was taking its toll and I spent a lot of time sitting outside in the sun talking to her and watching her last months. Wanda left us a year or so ago and the cats were killed by a coyote that started roaming our urban neighborhood, so I had gone from five animals to two pretty quickly. Now Molly’s time was coming to an end.

I think animals know a lot about life and death. Molly had grieved when my dog before her died and then I got the cats and Annabel and she was happy being the matriarch of this funny family. As much as she craved affection from me, she loved having her friends. I wasn’t sure how Annabel was going to take this. In the last few months, Molly couldn’t jump up on the couch or into the car and I found Annabel getting in bed with her a few times.

She had to know. Molly was falling down and couldn’t hear and I was having to help her get outside. I treated her like I would like to be treated at the end. In the last couple of days, Annabel would check on her and be by her side.

I didn’t know if she would mourn her best friend, but I think she knew and she’s older herself so maybe she sensed the time had come. Maybe she’s enjoying just being the only dog rather than being just the youngest and the smallest. She certainly has more of my attention than she’s ever had. She has no idea what a pandemic is, but I think she’s very happy with it.

Now it’s just the two of us, Annabel and me. I’ve started taking her in the car with me rather than leave her alone. She got a new cute collar and harness so we can take more walks. She wakes up in the night and waits to be lifted onto the bed with me. She’s not really a lap dog, but she has been in the chair with me a couple of times. She’s still on the alert for squirrels and ready to bark at the slightest movement outside.

Annabel is MY little sidekick now and we’re ready for the new year!

I miss her. I miss Miss Molly. On her 9th birthday, I wrote a blog on Good Golly Miss Molly (her whole name) and that was well over six years ago. Now I had to let her go and it was so hard. But she was ready.

Molly was about four months old when she adopted me. It was love at first sight for both of us.

My oldest grandson was there at the beginning and he went with me for the end. He’s 23 now and Molly was 15, almost 16.

So many memories of that sweet puppy as she grew older. The first time she saw a swimming pool, the Lab side of my Labradoodle came through with a flying leap.

I remember looking out the window one summer day to see her jumping up to bite at the flowers hanging down from the neighbor’s crepe myrtle. It was a glorious scene as the flowers fell around her. I remember her running through snow and playing with the other animals in our house. And, I remember her barking (I couldn’t get her to stop, no matter what I tried) and counter surfing and trash dumping and doing the ornery dog things she did. I remember how they tried to frill her up at the groomer, which always left her looking at me like “why?”

She was just the ultimate shaggy love of a dog, who lived for nothing more than to love me.

Over her lifetime, I worked at jobs that kept me away from the house during the day and sometimes into the night. I wasn’t here playing with her, but she had company with my other pets. Sadly, we lost the cats to a coyote last year, so we were down to two dogs – Molly and her little sidekick, Annabel. I’ve told their stories in the other blog. Now I’m retired and home more, but not all of the time.

And then came Covid-19. We have been pretty much locked down for months and it was her dream come true. I was here with her all the time and we made the most of it. I talked to her and petted her and was here for her. I knew I wouldn’t have her much longer and this was a gift for us both. This past few months, she was still sleeping on the furniture…

…and playing outside…

…and looking at me with that look.

She was getting grayer and slower and I knew she wouldn’t last forever, but I look back now and see how fast she started really really aging. She was slower, her sight and hearing were going, and she began to lose her footing sometimes. She couldn’t jump up on the furniture and I saw her looking at the couch and realizing she couldn’t get up there anymore. I was seeing it, but not seeing it. Or not wanting to see it. She slept so hard that sometimes I touched her to see if she was still with me. And she rallied. Over and over. Last week, she was going to the kitchen for dinner and she moved fast enough for her ears to flop. I thought she might make it to her 16th birthday.

The end was really pretty quick when I look back. Her back legs started going and I realized how many times I was going outside with her just to remind her why she was there. She walked endlessly around the yard and would stand in one place, like she was trying to remember why she was there (I can relate, unfortunately).

I had to take her to the emergency vet over the weekend when she collapsed and didn’t move. I thought she was dying right there with me on the floor beside her. One of my grandsons helped me get her there, but she stood up before they took her inside (Covid rules) and was so alert that I just took her back home, where she gave a little trot as she went back in the house. She wasn’t going to die in some strange place. Not that day. She made it through Sunday and then I made the call to the vet on Monday. It was one of the longest days ever, waiting for the inevitable. I kept the house quiet and let her lie on her bed in front of the fireplace. She didn’t eat a thing all day – a first for her in her entire lifetime. She went outside and walked her endless walk and slept and I talked to her. Before we left, I put her on her leash and we walked up and down in front of the house. She actually gave a bit of a leap to get out to walk, but it was really the slowest walk we ever took. I thought of all the times she pulled me down the street, even as recently as this year, and the contrast was dramatic.

The end was peaceful. I never saw a living being so ready to just rest forever. She was tired and she went to sleep. My grandson and I had tears as we left the vet’s office. It was hard. No matter how right you know it is, how long she lived, how great her life had been, it was hard for us.

Isn’t that the way it always is? I know from all the losses in my life that we are never ever ready to lose those we love.

Good Golly Miss Molly. You were just the best.

These questions started with a notice from that I had new information for my family tree. Ancestry is where you can get lost in searching all the branches, never knowing what you will find. Anyway, this was my paternal grandparent’s marriage license, which I had never seen.

First, I noticed that they were older than I thought they were when they married. Then I saw that they were married in Enid, Oklahoma. I thought they got married in their hometown, Uniontown, Kentucky. What were they doing in Enid? The only story I had ever heard about their wedding was from my mother, who said my grandmother said they took a train and that Grandad bought her a fur muff. She commented that she was so poor she didn’t even have underwear.

I contacted my oldest cousin and he was surprised, too. He thought that they married in Uniontown after Grandad graduated from college and before they moved to Troy, Ohio with United Motors Then I called his younger brother, who is still older than me, and he was surprised, but said he remembered something about Aggie being with some bad people and Grandad went to get her. What?

We don’t think about our grandparents when they were young and we don’t think about how old they were when we first came into their lives. When I was born in 1945, Grandad was 60 and Aggie was 58. I was the fifth of their nine grandchildren, right in the middle. I spent a lot of time with them while I was growing up, but I didn’t ask questions. I was quiet and it was impolite, or whatever. I certainly snooped through their drawers and pictures and books and stuff, picking up my information in my own sneaky way.

Now I’m asking all these questions and have to fill in the blanks when I find a clue. My oldest cousin lived with our grandparents during the war while his father was overseas and his mother was pregnant with twins. He mentioned that Aggie and Grandad were crazy in love and danced up a storm in some club called the Bohemian in Oklahoma City. He said they made him dance with the little girls. Again…what?

By the time I remember my grandparents, they were older and had lost their youngest son in the war. My grandmother had arthritis and wore orthopedic shoes. She had a twinkle in her smile, but how was I to know that there was a dancing girl behind those eyes or that she was ever with “bad people?” Here are the photos Daddy carried with him during the war. Hardly look like dancing fools, do they? But this was the time my cousin talked about.

They grew up in the same small river town, Uniontown, Kentucky. My grandfather’s family was respected and owned businesses, plus my great-grandfather was the wharfmaster. They belonged to the Episcopal Church. My grandmother’s family was poor and belonged to the Catholic Church. Here is Grandad in 1906 in a Sigma Chi picture from the University of Kentucky, where he became a mechanical engineer.

I’m not sure what he did after college and how Aggie got with “bad people” in Enid, but he must have gone to get her and they got married. My cousin and I think they married there because of their different religions. In 1911, it wasn’t so easy to marry out of the Catholic church. I wonder how they were received when they returned home, but it must have been ok. They ended up being married 54 years.

Here is the earliest picture I have ever seen of Aggie, shown with her three oldest children. Did Grandad take the picture? What kind of camera did he have?

Here they are, probably in the late1920s, with all their children. I can picture their dancing days from this one.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that my maternal grandmother, Mommie Dude, was fun when she was younger. Her name was Artie, from Artiemisha, but her brothers nicknamed her Dude because she was so prissy. I was the oldest grandchild and started calling her Mommie Dude. I recently found a picture of her as a girl and I can see it. She’s the one on the left.

She married when she was 18 to a man who was 42 and they had three children before he died and left her a widow when she was 29. My mother told me the story of their wedding when my grandfather, Ben, came to get her with his friend in a horse carriage with a brown horse and a brown lap blanket. Her parents gave her a bouquet of flowers as she left home and Ben’s friend asked him, “Where did you find this pretty little thing?”

Here are some pictures of her, probably around the time she was widowed. She is on the left in the first one and the right in the second one.

Here she is with her sister-in-law, Grace.

Mommie Dude was the grandmother who always said, “Let’s go do something!” If she had been a better driver, we might have had bigger adventures. She had an innocence about her that belied the strength it took for her to raise three kids in the depression and to get through the war years. Her life wasn’t easy, but I still remember her laugh.

My grandfather, Ben, was in business with his father in Ardmore, Oklahoma, running wagon yards until there was no need for them anymore. Wagon yards were places where people stayed with their horses and wagons when they came to town, kind of an early day motel. As cars took over the roads, they became obsolete and my grandfather’s family sold their main yard to a lumber yard while they kept the house. I grew up visiting the house that he lived in, across from Central Park in Ardmore, because my aunt and uncle lived there for many years. My mother once drew me a sketch of the interior and exterior of the house, remembering every detain even though she was in her 80s at the time.

I know that my grandfather worked for the telephone company, stringing the phone lines. When he got Bright’s Disease, he made sure my grandmother would have some income by setting her up in a neighborhood grocery store. But, what was he like before he met her? I have a very few pictures that give me some clues. Here he is at picnics with friends. In the first picture, he is in the suit. In the second, he is standing.

My grandparents must have married around 1905, so all these pictures were before that. He is shown here swinging some young ladies and with a group of friends (he is in the middle).

This one is my favorite. He may have been married by this time as he posed with his lodge brothers. He is in the middle, fourth from the left. I have no idea what this event was, but what in the world is the crazy bride creature in the back row?

This must be the group he is shown with.

The only other clues I have to my grandfather Ben are some of his textbooks, which show me more about what school was like back then. I can tell that he was fun loving and well liked. And my grandmother must have been pretty special to catch this popular bachelor.

Why are these stories so important? They are links to my history that connect me to my relatives and help me to understand who and why I am. They teach me that I need to make sure my own grandchildren know stories about their grandfather who died when the oldest was just a year old. They can look at lots of pictures, but they need to know his humor and his love of people and family.

There’s something about having a relationship with family you never knew or finding out new things about the ones you did that help you complete the picture you have of them and of yourself. History is all of our stories and it helps to understand how we fit into the continuum of events and lives.

I hope you find a clue to your own history like the marriage license that cause you to ask the questions and find links to your own story. It’s a comforting feeling to know your family and its history.

Lazy summer days are meant for meandering thoughts. Mine came while squinting into the sun, looking for signs of my youngest granddaughter in the vast swimming pool. She’s almost 11, but I automatically check to see where she is. She’s past the age where she delighted in playing with me and is content to be by herself or interacting with other kids, even though it’s 2020 and we’re trying to socially distance even in the water. That leaves me free to remember the years that explode in my mind as I listen to the sounds of happy people in the pool, cooling off on a hot summer day.

I go back over 70 years with this particular pool. Well, it wasn’t this exact pool, but it was this place. We moved to Tulsa when I was about 2 1/2 and my parents immediately joined Tulsa Country Club, the oldest country club in town, having opened in 1908. Daddy was a champion golfer and needed a place to play. He had come back from World War II and married at the age of 32 and rejoined the family business, moving to Tulsa to open a new branch in 1948. At what age they started bringing me to the pool, I have no idea, but we were certainly around the club in one way or another.

My first memories of the pool are of taking swimming lessons. The old pool, opened in 1935, was by the old clubhouse and this was back in the 1950s, my olden days. The pool was a large rectangle with a shallow end and a deep end that had both a low and high diving board. There were dressing rooms at the end of the pool and a grassy area to one side and an area with tables and chairs on the other end. Our swimming lessons were taught by Coach Charvoz, a coach at Central High School, who also managed the pool in the summers. I remember him so well, standing in the pool with a floppy hat to shield him from the sun, demonstrating the different strokes for us. He would stand in front of us and have us swim towards him, stepping back the closer we got until we could make it all the way across the pool. He was an excellent teacher as I can still remember everything he taught me about swimming the backstroke, sidestroke, breaststroke and crawl. I’m still pretty good, although the pool today isn’t as conducive to swimming laps as it was then.

My favorite thing to do for many years was to try and swim the length of the pool in one breath. I don’t know how long the pool was, but I could do it. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the boards, although I could dive off the small one. I’m sure my lifelong fear of heights comes from climbing up the ladder onto the high board and jumping off. It wasn’t a thrill for me – more likely something I did to show I could. Once or twice.

There were so many games we played in the pool, from racing to diving for objects to Marco Polo (why won’t that game go away?). The lifeguards constantly told us not to run around the pool, but we were kids and the pavement was scorching our feet. So many rules back then that have gone away. We were living in the age of polio, so we were constantly reminded to be careful of water. We couldn’t get in the pool for an hour after eating for fear of getting stomach cramps and drowning. This was proven not to be true, but we spent many an hour waiting impatiently for the pool clock to tick to our hour when we could jump back in. We also had to shower before we entered the pool. I still think this is a rule, although few follow it.

Another rule was that the girls had to wear swim caps. This was to keep the hair out of the pool filters, but it was pretty annoying. The guys kept their hair cut in buzz cuts for the summer so they didn’t have to worry. I kept my hair short, but still had to wear that cap. It was no fun squeezing your hair into that piece of rubber, although I guess it did keep it dry. The chin strap was just as irritating as the cap. I still cringe when I think of having to wear those darned things. By the time I was a teenager, it was even more annoying as we were striving to be bathing beauties as we laid in the sun, trying to attract the attention of whatever boys were around.

The sunbathing area was a large patch of lovely grass between the pool area and the clubhouse. To get refreshments, you went to the clubhouse, where there were steps to a window on the side where you could order hamburgers, drinks, ice cream and whatever. Those are the things I remember- cold Grapettes, hamburgers, ice cream bars. We spread our towels on the grass and slathered our bodies with tanning creams, including the all time favorite of baby oil and iodine. Those were the days when all we wanted was a good tan and knew nothing of skin cancers or the dangers of too much sun. We put lemon juice in our hair to bleach it in the sun and worked on getting that coveted beach look of tan skin and sun lightened hair. No wonder so many of us have skin cancers in our old age.

And those summers of my youth melted into the summers when I returned as a young mother. By then, the clubhouse had been moved from the site where it had stood in a wonderful old three story brick building since 1917 to the other side of the golf course into a “modern building,” a move that caused much grumbling among many of the members. The old building burned to the ground in 1986, leaving those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it with only fond memories, which leads me into other memories to be shared another time.

The new pool was a rectangle that flowed  into a smaller rectangle that was the diving area. There was a separate wading pool for the little ones. If I spent many hours of my childhood and youth at the old pool, I spent so many more at this one as a parent. My husband and I were able to get a junior membership and my summers as a stay at home mom were marked by the days we spent in the sun, moving from the baby pool to the main pool in what now seems like a flash. There was golf and tennis, but it was mainly the pool. My kids learned to swim there, taking lessons much as I had, and learning strokes that eventually led them onto swim teams in the winter months. They were genuine “pool brats” that I could leave to swim while I ran errands, went to meetings or played golf. They have their own memories of those days, but mine are of sitting with other moms, trying to talk over the constant cries of “Mommy, watch me.” To this day, I can hear those calls and hear the sounds of play that became the background of so many lovely days.

One of our favorite days in the summer has always been the Fourth of July, when there were swim games and races and fireworks. This has been a tradition that continues into the next generation. Here are my two oldest daughters waiting for a race to start:IMG_4802 2and my youngest daughter catching goldfish in the wading pool. IMG_4805Here is my husband playing with our son in the wading pool:IMG_4804and my middle daughter feeding her brother the wonderful pool water (yikes!)Scan 4and my oldest daughter diving from the board. IMG_4807Life went on and the kids grew up and I probably didn’t spend as many days poolside until the next generation appeared and we were once again gathering there in the summers. Here are my daughters and the oldest five grandsons at the wading pool:Scan 10and then there were a couple of more grandkids at the pool.Kids at TCC PoolAnd before I knew it,  they were growing up.

And then they were in the races and diving competitions. I will note (with a little bit of a grin) that our family is pretty competitive and we have won a lot of club races through the years.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then there were improvements at the club and by 2012, the old pool was gone and the new pool was in. This time, it is a spa design with a diving area, a slide, and a beach type area for wading, complete with fountains. My grandkids were bigger


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand still doing races in the new pool.DSC_0253By this time, we had lost my son, who was the kid that hung around the pool and knew everyone behind the scenes and everyone knew him by name. We are lucky to have his daughter, who has now grown up at the pool, following her cousins, aunts and father. And me, of course.DSC_0046


1 1/2 years oldMy three daughters are now the mothers of grown children, but still like to hang out at the pool together.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy grandchildren are growing up, with seven of them in college or beyond. In 2020, it’s just my last granddaughter, turning 11 soon, and me by the pool on this sunny day. Some things are the same. The lifeguards are watching the kids, who are calling to their mothers to see what they can do. Kiddos are asking for snacks, running when they should be walking, doing belly flops off the board, diving for objects, making up fun pool games and making new pool friends. The parents are more diverse and have their electronics with them to read books or check their messages. Now they have their drinks delivered to poolside, where they visit and relax. They look younger all the time to me, as they should.

Sometimes I wonder what my parents would think of the changes around the pool. Not the activities or the pool itself, but the people. From the time I was a child until I was too far into adulthood, the country club was segregated. Now you see a diversity of races in the families, which is nice. It’s more of a slice of our community.

The parents are not as uptight as they used to be and this summer of quarantine, there are more fathers around during the week. I can picture my mother making funny comments about their various tattoos. She wouldn’t have been shocked, but she would have found it as amusing as I do. Since I have so much time to observe, I think about why each tattoo was chosen. Why does this young mother have “Gone Fishing” on her middle right back? What does that woman have a slice of pie on her arm? What was this man thinking when he asked for all those interesting pictures of ships and animals to be inked into his chest? My husband used to amuse me with stories of the tattoos he saw when he was in the Navy back in the sixties. I’m sure he would be rolling his eyes at me. I take it all in when I sit by the pool these days. My mind is full with images of all those decades.

It’s a vault full of memories that flash by with each splash of the water, each squeal of a child, each kid jumping wildly off the board or each girl parading by with her suntanned body glowing with youth and health. It’s just one tiny piece of my life really, but it’s all tied together at this pool in the summer. There are so many places like this for remembering all the good people and things that I have been lucky enough to have in my life. It’s a reminder that I have more good memories than bad ones, more family and friends and love in my life than so many. It’s a good thing to be reminded of on a hot summer day.

For 74 1/2 years, I’ve been accumulating impressions, stereotypes, prejudices and images in my mind, whether I know or like it or not. I’m a white woman who grew up in Oklahoma with a certain amount of privilege, education, and experience which I have taken into the world as I’ve traveled, worked and lived. In 2020, I’m trying to analyze what my feelings are, where they came from and who I’ve influenced along the way.

We were taught that first impressions mean a lot. That’s where I’ll begin to check on myself. I’m figuring out what I see when I “size ’em up” as I meet people in so many situations.

When we see someone, whether walking down the street or being introduced to them, we are flooded with so many things to take in. As a woman, I think I check a person’s sex first. This is probably defensive. If it’s a man, how big or strong does he look, how old is he, how is he dressed, what is the expression on his face? It’s hard to break it down because we see so much in an instant. I’ve been experimenting with this for the last few days. There’s so much to assess. I’m trying to see how prejudiced I am.

Of course, I see skin color, race. It would be crazy to think any of us don’t notice something that is so identifying. What I’ve found is that I have so many prejudices and assumptions about people that it’s hard to decide what I see first.

The song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” from the musical South Pacific, reminds us:

You’ve got to be taught
Before it’s too late
Before you are six
Or seven
Or eight
To hate all the people
Your relatives hate
You’ve got to
Be carefully taught

Maybe our parents didn’t specifically teach us, maybe we just observed the way they treated people. The people of color in my life as a child mostly worked for us, but I only respected and loved them. I would have been in trouble if I didn’t mind them. The funny things I remember were hearing that my grandfather said to never trust a red-headed bookkeeper and having my grandmother tell me not to let communist professors influence me in college. Those are amusing, to say the least. Who knows where those ideas came from.

The main thing I am learning is that my parents didn’t dehumanize anyone to us. We traveled to other countries and met people of other cultures and races and learned from them. They passed down to me that people are interesting and you can learn so much meeting others.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s and watched the world change. I’m stunned now to have friends who grew up in other circumstances in the same city and were subjected to prejudices and abuse of all kinds because they were Jewish, Native American, Black, or crippled. One friend told me she was bullied because she had lived in South America and spoke fluent Spanish. She was called names and was so traumatized that she quit using her Spanish. She is quite white, by the way. And, my friends who have been treated differently because they are female is a whole other discussion. I’m in that group myself but I digress.

Being white in Oklahoma is almost an anomaly. At one time, I worked for the American Red Cross, where I took a lot of diversity training. The Red Cross has a large number of volunteers who work with staff to assist people in disasters and they emphasize that you cannot discriminate when people are in crisis after a fire or tornado or other tragedy. We spent a lot of time learning how to approach people from other cultures. I did a lot of the programs in rural areas and schools for all ages. We were supposed to report the demographics of who we spoke to after each program. My reaction was that I couldn’t even tell the boys from the girls when I was speaking to the classes. Especially in Oklahoma’s rural areas, there are so many children from mixed families – Native American/Hispanic, Black/Hispanic, White/Black, etc. So many combinations. It’s amazing that we are considered to be such a “Red” state since we are a true melting pot.

I’m finding that I have fewer prejudices towards the melting pot I find myself in than I do to the actual people I should feel most comfortable with. I’m back to the things I notice and the prejudices I have. I’m old enough to take my initial impressions with a grain of salt. Tattoos are a great example of something that used to signal one thing to me and now are just another feature of someone to learn more about. Fluorescent hair and messy clothing (which may actually be very expensive) are things that aren’t what they seem. Not all blondes are dumb and not all teen agers are on drugs and so on. We have so many assumptions we make at first glance. Today’s political strife is not making it easier. We judge people quickly by stances they take online and it’s a strange world we are in where we are making judgments on people we have known forever.

In the late 60s or early 70s, t-shirts became a fashion statement. I’m old enough to remember making the stupid statement that I wasn’t going to wear men’s underwear. Now my wardrobe has an inordinate number of t-shirts covered in logos from places I’ve traveled, groups I belong to, or statements I want to make. Here I am after the first Women’s March of the current times on January 21, 2017. IMG_0763Sorry for the mirror image, but you get the drift and you would correctly assume from this that I was marching for women’s rights, the climate, and civil rights – all causes I’ve been working for most of my life. I wasn’t a marcher most of my years, but I’ve worked to better my community for all who live here in these areas and others.

This week, I saw a woman wearing this t-shirt. IMG_4761I immediately made assumptions about her, based on my own prejudices. I saw someone who was proudly proclaiming that she was a Republican and would only vote Republican and there is no point trying to talk to her about anything. She is right (and probably never wrong) and proud of it. I watched her play with her child and thought how much that t-shirt had changed how I was reacting to her. All my own prejudices were on my nerve endings, an emotional and visceral reaction, which is pretty amazing since I spent most of my voting life as a Republican.

It would be wonderful to think that my years of experience have taught me something, taught me to not put people in little boxes of my own assumptions, but I’m not even close to that level of perfection, no matter how hard I try. The only thing I can conclude from my study of myself is that I don’t think I dehumanize people, whether I like them or not. They are all still human beings to me and I know they have challenges in their lives that I can’t see at first glance or qualities that I should spend time discovering. I know I need to listen to more people and learn from other’s experiences. Working on being sympathetic, empathetic, and understanding are at the top of my list of things I want to improve in myself. I try to practice the Golden Rule in all things that I do.

And, yet, when I see or meet people and “size ’em up,” there are my lifetime of assumptions oozing out of my brain. In these troubling and confusing times, it’s a good idea to step aside and look in the mirror. We can all do better – and should.

My father and all my uncles served in World War II. Daddy was a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Force and my five uncles served in the Army. All of them came home but one, my Uncle Bill, my father’s youngest brother. He died before my father met my mother, a couple of years before I was born, so I never knew him. On this Memorial Day, I’d like to tell what i know of his story.

My father was the oldest of four children. He and his brother and sister were all born within about three years, beginning in 1912, in Uniontown, Kentucky, where both of their parents were born. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas to start a new business and where William Lyle Hamilton was born in February, 1921. My mother was born the next month, which gives me a little perspective. Here is the first picture I find of Bill, obviously the baby of the family, with my father behind him, his brother, Ed, and his sister, Sara.Hamilton KidsThe family moved to Oklahoma City at some point, where my grandfather started his automotive parts business, J. C. Hamilton Co. Here is a photo of the family during that time. My father is on the front fender behind his brother, Ed. Bill stands on the running board between his sister and parents. It’s the only photo I can find of the whole family together, but you get the idea. Scan 35Years passed, the children grew up and the boys went into the family business. Sarah married my other Uncle Ed and started their family. When the United States joined World War II, all the men went into service. Here is my Uncle Bill with my grandfather. Clayton & BillMy grandfather was about 5’8″, so Uncle Bill was the smallest of the brothers in the family, besides being the baby. I still don’t know where my father got his height of 6’2″.

The brothers were stationed far apart for their service. I think my Uncle Ed served as a trainer, My Uncle Ed, married to Aunt Sara, served on General Patton’s staff. My father was a squadron commander, flying out of Africa to Italy, much like the story in the novel and movie, “Catch 22.” Uncle Bill was a Technical Sargeant. That’s what I know.

A few years ago, I traveled to Louisville, KY to go through some papers kept at the Filson Historical Society there. I had been told that the Hamilton papers were in their care and went to explore. I found boxes of papers belonging to my great-grandfather, mostly receipts for his business. But, there was a scrapbook kept by one of my father’s cousins, which was full of information I had never seen. I could only photograph the items quickly, but here are the things I found about my Uncle Bill. First is this article about his last mission.IMG_8720 And then this article from the local paper.IMG_8719All I had ever heard was that he was shot down while parachuting into Germany and was buried there, far from home. Then I found this touching letter, written to my father. I’m not sure how this got into this group of papers, but it showed a big brother trying to find more information about his little brother, probably trying to get answers for my grandparents.IMG_8722IMG_8723The letter shows they didn’t know right away if he was killed or captured, as this letter was written well over a month after he must have been killed, according to the newspaper clip above.

Now I have to imagine how this affected my grandparents and the rest of the family. They were in limbo for I have no idea how long and there is nothing harder than the not knowing – except for the knowing.

My memories of my grandparents are of them laughing and smiling and enjoying their family so much. My grandmother developed painful arthritis and my mother once told me that the doctors said that the stress of losing Bill may have been a factor. She was a grieving mother, but her grandchildren didn’t know this. I was the fifth of nine grandchildren, the middle, and I didn’t hear her speak of Bill. When I was in high school or college, my mother told me that my grandmother still got letters from Bill’s girlfriend. And she told me that my grandmother blamed FDR for her son’s death (because she needed to blame someone) and wouldn’t even have a stamp with his picture on it.

I never heard anyone speak of Bill, but I understand he was always in their hearts. I’ve lost a son at a young age and I know that you have periods of wondering what would his life have been like, where would he be now. And you always love them, they are always with you. I didn’t know these things when I was young and my grandparents were alive, so I never asked. I’m so sorry I didn’t know to let them share with me.

On this Memorial Day, I want to remember the uncle I never knew, the uncle who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our family. I don’t ever want to forget.

Thank you, William Lyle Hamilton. IMG_8718



You have to admit that the Coronavirus pandemic makes you face a lot of things in your life. This is an update from my last post when I tried to deal with these things early in the event, so I’m repeating myself because our minds tend to do that when there’s not much new to stimulate us and take us out of ourselves. I’ve seen my worst fears rise up from who knows where inside me and loom out there in front of me until I push them back where they came from.

The first one is the obvious if you are a parent. I don’t want anything to happen to my children, their spouses or my grandchildren. It would be devastating to watch any one of them suffer or succumb to this mysterious illness. I’ve always worried about them and I’ve lost my husband and son at young ages to cancer, so I know what I’m talking about here. It is truly devastating and my heart goes out to all who have been victims of this modern day plague. And I also hurt for those who have lost loved ones for any reason and were unable to be with them or other friends and family because of the social distancing. I will stay home or wear my mask (I’m getting quite the collection of cute ones) and practice physical distancing to protect everyone I love. Transmitting this to anyone, especially those I love, would be unforgivable to me.IMG_3816

The second one was serious at the beginning when my retirement funds were plummeting and I wondered what I would do if I lost my security. That one was more of a mental exercise because I know I would be resourceful and survive in some manner. I’ve had to regroup several times in my life and seem to land right side up. But I empathize with those who have lost jobs and income and have no answer in sight. It’s more than frightening and numbing to watch everything freeze up or go away. Americans are generous and helpful, but can we help everyone? It seems like we’re all trying. There is so much to do and so many to worry about.

Next, I’ve had a fear of not getting to do everything, or at least a lot of things, at age 74 while I still can. I’ve felt like I was racing to not miss any opportunity to experience whatever I can before either my mind, body, or money completely stop me. I’ve been stopped, as has the whole world. Maybe because my mother, who lived until almost 85, spent her last few years unable to walk more than a short way from her bed to her chair and back. She was the one, along with my grandmother, who always told me to never turn down an invitation and to explore all the time. My grandmother would say, “Let’s go somewhere” or “Let’s do something,” and off we would be to some new adventure. I was following in their fun footsteps until the world put the brakes on.

It’s been difficult to stay home without seeing my friends or my family. I’ve learned to kick back and enjoy the quiet, reading more, listening to nature as I sit outside on nice days or walk the neighborhood, greeting neighbors I’ve never met but we’re all friends now. Everyone sits out on their never before used porches and waves and smiles. I hope that feeling doesn’t go away.

I’m adapting and trying to stay calm as I watch months or years of my life (how much longer do I have anyway? – balanced by who knows how long any of us have) go by as I stay alone and fill the days with whatever (books, puzzles, cleaning, cooking, walking, television, trying to connect to family and friends) until I go to bed and then get up and do it all again. My sleep is sporadic, but what does it matter? I can nap when I want so I just go with it.

Don’t underestimate this time. It is difficult in different ways for each of us and we never know how others are really dealing with it. It’s a roller coaster of up and down moods and motivations and feelings of I’ve got this control shot by total chaotic responses to any given day. A worst fear was having to be an old person stuck at home alone. And here I am. Sigh.

And, once again, life is teaching me that planning is not what we can control, although planning gives us comfort to face what we should know by now is the unplanned. The challenge of life is to meet the unexpected that is sure to come. As always, being flexible beats being in control as a survival tool.

I’m sending love and hope to everyone out there who is hunkered down or going to work or just getting through this with whatever means you can. It’s just not easy, no matter how hard we try to pretend it is. It’s just another piece of life that we get to live through and hope to be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and maybe a smile and tear later.

Check on each other. You really don’t know how others are doing, no matter what they are pretending. Your call may be the thing that gets them through a low day.

Big imaginary hugs until we really can hug each other again.