"I see streetlights!"
Thursday, September 30, 2021
"I see streetlights!"
Friday, July 2, 2021
I have a friend, a fellow former sports writer pal, who takes his summers very seriously.
Every June (or July), he puts together a bucket list of people and places he wants to see and things he wants to do around the country. "Summer of John," he calls it and shares photos of his epic adventures with his friends (and occasional celebrities) at fabulous golf courses, restaurants and ball parks. It's pretty cool.
I take my summers pretty seriously too, especially since my longtime career as a sports writer ended and I became a full time school teacher. Yes, I am now one of those people y'all all envy, who gets summers "off." Although, I feel it is my teacher duty (hate that word!) to remind you that teachers do not get the summers "off," we just get laid off and have elected to spread our nine-month paycheck out over the months of June and July.
We also do work in the summer -- some more than others. I deliberately forced myself not to do school work during the month of June, telling myself "wait until July...wait until July...". But, I confess that, when I got my new assignments for the fall I did tinker just a little.
In the meantime, I put together my own bucket list. Mine was not nearly as exciting as my friend John's, however. Mine had things like paint the porch, power wash the deck and hire a painter on it. But then, the kid I hired to come power wash the porch before I could paint it stood me up, and so did the painter we asked to come give us an estimate, so there went that. There are some things I can't do by myself anymore.
And that's what I am. By myself. A lot.
Not all school people get summers off. My husband is still The Coach and has spent his summer so far coaching not one, but TWO baseball teams. If he's not playing, he's practicing. And if he's not doing either one of those, he's probably off watching somebody else do one of those. Then he got to be the interim principal for a month so, while I got to sleep in until 7:30 a.m. every day (damn teacher body clock), he had to go to work. That shoe was definitely on the other foot for us!
Of course, our beloved daughter is home for the summer from college, but, well, she has a boyfriend who just got his own place up the street so she is never home either. I follow her on Life 360, though, just to try to keep up. The dogs and I get butterflies whenever the little blip says she is home. We hear the signal then patiently wait at the door for her arrival. But most of the time, she just keeps going and breaks all our little hearts. It's sad really.
I do have a fairly large basket of books I want to read, some for school and some for fun. Instead, I binge-watched Firefly Lane -- alone. And now I am reading that book.
I did get to go on one trip, to Natchitoches, Louisiana, for the annual Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Despite my better sports writing days being behind me, I am still on the selection committee until they tell me otherwise. So, last weekend I took the four-hour drive -- alone. I stayed two nights in a hotel -- alone. I went to all the events -- alone (well, I was third wheel for one of my favorite couples). I got in a fender bender -- alone. Then I drove home -- alone. At least I could listen to Yacht Rock and sing as loudly as I wanted.
Now I'm spending this weekend alone again as The Coach plays ball on the road in Tennessee and The Daughter plays with my emotions.
I'm calling this my Summer of Solitude.
Oh yes. And a big, beautiful blue pool all to myself.
There's a lot to be said for solitude.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
His parents named him Martin Behrman French, in honor of the one-time mayor of New Orleans who counted his father, former Louisiana State Representative Henry David French, as one of his dear friends. Oddly, his family would forgo the simpler, more usual name of Martin, calling him Behrman (pronounced Ber - man) instead.
His wife called him Behrman too, but with a distinct west bank of New Orleans roil that turned it into "Boy-man." Only a handful of people ever called him Martin and he was never, ever a Marty.
I just called him Grandpa.
Behrman grew up in Algiers on the west bank of New Orleans, in a traditional camelback shotgun double at 813 Pacific Avenue. His mom was a big fan of ginger beer (a precursor to ginger ale) back in the day, and used the ceramic tan bottles to line the garden. There were hundreds.
When he was about 6 years old, he was playing with friends in his neighborhood when one of them, carrying a BB gun, tripped. The weapon fired and hit Behrman in his left eye, permanently blinding him on one side.
But that didn't stop Behrman from playing football or baseball. He matriculated at Warren Easton High School in New Orleans, every day riding the ferry across the Mississippi River, then taking a streetcar down Canal Street. Behrman was a member of the Eagles baseball team and later played on a few of the semipro teams in and around New Orleans. He loved to boast that he played with the great Mel Ott.
In 1926 Behrman married a girl who lived in the neighborhood, Evelyn Himel Cross, who had broken up with the Mothe boy because she didn't want to marry the undertaker's son. (The Mothes later opened one of the largest funeral homes in the city.)
Around that time, Behrman went to work for Bell Telephone Company. His first job was in an office, but when he got laid off, he offered to go to work as a pole digger. He did that for several years until he was able to work his way back to a desk and a position as office manager. His job took him from New Orleans to Patterson, where his only child, Lettie Lee, was born, to Baton Rouge and, finally, to Houma. He would retire in 1969 after 45 years with the company. The Houma Courier did a story on his retirement.
To this day I can't help but think of Edith and Archie Bunker when I think of my grandparents. He was a cantankerous old coot for much of my lifetime, a "get off my lawn" kind of guy who nearly had a stroke anytime anyone of the male persuasion dared to pull into our driveway to visit me. She was the sweetest soul you'd ever meet, who put up with his ire and anger for more than 60 years. Somehow, they made it work.
Grandpa loved to fish, too. But just a few days after his boss retired, Grandpa took him out on his boat fishing. The man suffered a heart attack and died on the trip and, shortly thereafter, Grandpa put his boat up for sale.
But he also doted on us grandkids, teaching my brother, Rhett, the proper way to throw a baseball and trying to turn my nephew, Lee, into a mini-Archie Manning back in the day. I wasn't into the sports thing, but we did share a love of music.
Paw Paw may have spent 45 years working for the telephone company, but in his heart, he was an entertainer. I don't know when he first picked up an instrument, or how, but I know he loved music -- playing it, writing it, performing it. He played the guitar, the banjo, the ukulele and the organ.
But the banjo was his jam. And I'm guessing, if he had a say in the matter, he would have preferred to be called "Mr. Banjo." It was the title of one of the many tunes he played.
Most of my early childhood memories of my grandfather are of him with a banjo across his lap. He played it often on the breezeway of his home in Houma and he had frequent jam sessions with his musical pals, Gene Dusenberry and Sonny Thibodeaux. (And one of my greatest regrets is that I never asked Mr. Sonny to teach me how to play the Hawaiian/slide guitar.)
He also played at the annual Telephone Pioneers picnics, before downtown Mardi Gras parades and at any other public event that called for musical entertainment. But Grandpa and Grannie were most known for their frequent gigs at the local nursing homes in Houma where they -- great-grandparents, mind you -- would perform for the "old folks."
|Behrman and Evelyn French, performing at one of the long term care facilities in Houma.|
The two of them had compiled a large repertoire of really silly songs from the early 19th Century, including such novelty tunes "Once There was a Little Pig" (in which the baby pig died and the mother pig cried herself to death), "The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia," (in which a cow was loitering on a railroad track and got run over), and "The Burglar Beau," about a burglar who happened to choose the home of a one-eyed, toothless woman for his victim. And we all learned to spell Mis - sis - sippi by singing it every time we crossed a bridge.
But Gramps also wrote a few ditties himself. When his adopted home of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1972, Grampa wrote a lovely song called "This is the Place."
This is the place I'll carry on.
This is the place I toot my horn.
Houma in Terrebonne."
Thursday, December 31, 2020
|Go Away 2020!|
Hey, 2020! Yeah, you. Go away. Get out of here. And don't come back no more no more.
Everyone in the world is counting down the hours to the end of 2020 on this New Year's Eve. We have the champagne ready. Although, most of us will be counting those final minutes in the comfort of our own living rooms. No parties. No fancy dinners. No ball drops. Well, that's not true. The balls will drop, they're just not going to let us go downtown to watch.
That's the word for 2020. That's what we will remember -- a virus that started somewhere in China sometime in late 2019 and quickly spread throughout the world, infecting millions, killing millions, shutting down life as we know it -- schools, businesses, sporting events. We tried to stop the spread. Scientists told us to wear masks and wash our hands and stay home as much as we could. But too many didn't listen. Now, too many are dead, dying, mourning, suffering.
We did not escape unscathed. The Coach got it just before Thanksgiving. A few days of sniffles led to a full blown "I don't feel so good." I told him he needed to get tested. He did. He was positive. A few days later he started coughing. He didn't stop for more than a week.
I never got it.
The Coach's ex wife's husband got it too. Woke up one morning and couldn't smell the coffee. She never got it.
Our boss got it too. He had a slight cough one day in August, but it was not even noticeable when I had a brief conversation with him in the hallway. The next day he was letting us know he had tested positive. Not long after he was in the hospital. He stayed for six weeks and, to hear his story, came pretty close to checking out for good. He was in ICU for 25 days. He didn't return to school until the week before Christmas, toting an oxygen tank.
Not everyone was so lucky. Several of our teachers lost parents. Our students lost grandparents. Our community lost many.
We also lost our ways of life. We learned to quarantine. No birthday parties, no backyard barbecues, no Mardi Gras parades, no Christmas bonfires. Baseball was canceled. A lot of college football was canceled. Beach trips were discouraged. Toilet paper disappeared. Restaurants and bars closed. Movie theaters were shuttered. Bourbon Street emptied. Basically, we just stayed home. A lot.
Some got to do nothing. The Coach sat downstairs in the living room watching Netflix and TicTok while I spent the spring upstairs in my Lyons Lair trying to teach English grammar and Multimedia via email, grateful for my extra large touchscreen monitor and advanced computer savvy.
Then there were the SIX HURRICANES ....
So now everyone is hoping 2021 will be better. It has to be, right? Well, we are readying our black eyed peas and cabbage just to be sure.
But I have to say, 2021 wasn't all bad. We got drive-through graduations, drive-by birthday parties, Popeye's home delivery and Zoom meetings.
And I got a new job! In January, my retired husband was helping out the Riverside baseball team when he learned there was an opening for an English and Multimedia teacher. I went to talk to the principal and got the job! It was rough, coming in at mid-year, but I loved the kids and I really loved the school and the community. Then I got to check an item off my bucket list by announcing a baseball game.... then another... then another.... I was officially The Voice of the Rebels.
We got to leave the house quite a bit during the summer. The Coach's summer American Legion baseball team, Gauthier Amedee, decided to play as long as it could. They used the field at our new school and I became the Voice of the Wombats. It was a good summer, too. The Wombats won the Louisiana State championship -- the second in three years! -- but there was no regional or World Series to go on to.
In other great news, Stepson Daniel saw a dream come true when he became the head football coach at Hahnville High School. It's really a Hollywood'ish story. Local boy goes to local high school, becomes the starting quarterback, achieves glory, returns as assistant football coach, goes off to become head football coach elsewhere, applies to be head football coach at alma mater, doesn't get the job, then a few weeks later, applies for sudden opening at alma mater's archrival school and gets the job. It would have been a perfect ending had he defeated the alma mater but .... oh well. There's always next year.
In the fall I got to sleep with the boss! When our principal went out with Covid, they asked Coach to step in for a week or so to get the ball rolling. No one dreamed it would be four months. He was the "acting principal" for the whole semester, guiding us through Covid, a wonky air conditioning system, a lightning strike that took out our bells and PA system, unhappy teachers, unhappy parents, technology issues, social distancing, skirt lengths, football and volleyball, bus routes and SIX HURRICANES. Champ that he is, he did a great job (and I'm not biased at all.)
Just last week he was officially named the HEAD baseball coach and the principal returned, so now he can focus on his first love -- baseball.
The year 2020 also brought us new love -- our little Pepper Boy! He is another rescue, about 10 years old. He is blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other and, we are fairly certain, 90 percent deaf. But he is the sweetest boy ever and I am totally in love.
And while you may not agree with my politics, I'll just say November turned out the way I hoped and prayed it would.
See? Every cloud has some silver in it. Sometimes you have to look for it, though. If I keep my job and successfully teach my sixth graders how to capitalize proper nouns and my high schoolers how to spellcheck their presentations I will be happy. If my husband has a winning season, I will be happy. If he manages to turn my pool blue again, I will be very happy.
If we all stay healthy and if these Covid vaccines work, we all will be very happy. May we all get through 2021 unscathed.
Happy --- BETTER -- New Year!
Monday, March 30, 2020
As a poodle, Leigheaux was supposed to enjoy water; he did not. In fact, Leigheaux wanted nothing to do with the big, beautiful swimming pool in his backyard and only jumped in once -- when a particularly loud firecracker went off nearby on the Fourth of July.
In between, Leigheaux enjoyed pilfering whatever food item he could reach on the counters, tables and buffets and from unsuspecting houseguests. He particularly enjoyed whole loaves of bread, not caring that it had become a very rare commodity in recent days because of the Corona Virus quarantine. In his last months, he became more brazen in his thievery, smashing not one but two jars of Milkbone treats in one week. He also became convinced that Mom was going to give him whatever she was eating and that, every time she got up off the sofa, she was indeed going to get something for him to eat. He knew Dad wasn't.
But more than anything, Leigheaux loved his morning walks with Mom to the park and back. When Mom was working at home and taking care of Grandma, it was a daily occurrence with his late sister, Lollee Sue. Sometimes, he would follow Mom upstairs and into the closet to see if she was, indeed, putting her sneakers on. If she slept too late, he would pounce on the bottom stairs until she woke up. If she did come downstairs in the proper attire, Leigheaux would do his amazing happy dance at the bottom of the stairs.
But age began to catch up to Leigheaux. It got more and more difficult for him to walk on the hardwood floors. Sometimes he couldn't get up after laying down. He no longer could manage the stairs at all. What began as a cyst on his shoulder grew to a very large, very angry tumor that could not be removed and would not get better. And last week, Mom finally had to go to the park without him. He did manage to chase a squirrel on his last happy day, however, but could not catch it.
Leigheaux leaves a family who loved him very much and neighbors who did not; Lola, the little one, who is happy she no longer has to share the treats but is too short to steal off the counters; and lots of puddles around the house that he never managed to get caught leaving.
I hope you and Lollee Sue are together again, my boy, chasing squirrels forever.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
|Whaddaya mean you're coming home three months early???|
Regular readers of this little blog (both of you) may recall that, last August, I wrote a very tearful (well, I cried) post about our baby girl leaving the nest and going off to college.
Although my heart was having a hard time letting her go, my brain recognized that it was her time to spread her wings and fly. Yes, I did cry. A lot. But then the Coach and I had a cute and funny photo shoot showing off our new empty nest.
Don't worry, everyone said. She will be back. I knew she would, I just didn't expect it to happen so soon. Or that she would come back with so much STUFF!
The spread of the Corona Virus has forced colleges to shut down across the country. Classes now are being held online and students are no longer required (or even allowed) to live on campus. Lora didn't hesitate; she booked it home as soon as she could following the announcement. But she only brought a few things with her. Yesterday, we had to go back to move her our of her dorm room four hours away.
It was quite a difference from Move-In Day.
For one, it wasn't 1,000 degrees outside. It was a nice, cool morning with clouds.
Also, there weren't 1,000 people there doing the same thing as us and trying to find the best parking space. In August, there were student volunteers directing traffic, welcoming new students and befuddled parents, pointing the way to go, telling us what to do. Yesterday, there were about five cars in the parking lot and no one there directing traffic. Inside, there was one young lady, who obviously had nowhere to go during her spring break, waiting to take the keys when we were done.
In August, I was sad but also thrilled to help my daughter set up her new living space. I tried not to be one of those overbearing moms, offering my help and advice only when asked and allowing her to do her own thing. Yesterday, I was only sad at the thought that she was losing such a large chunk of her freshman year of college. And she pretty much let me take charge of the packing and the cleaning.
In August, we spent hours unloading Coach's minivan and hauling everything into her room. Yesterday, it took us about 90 minutes to put it all back in. (And I am still the reigning Tetris champion of the universe!)
Now it's all piled up in the spare bedroom downstairs, awaiting her attention. Meanwhile, I'm wondering where in the heck we're going to put it all.
But, as I did in August, I'm letting her do her own thing. Gotta give 'em their space, right?
Friday, March 20, 2020
|Covid-19 -- The Corona Virus|
March 20, 2020
It's officially Quarantine Day 7 ..... or 8 .... or 25.... Who the hell knows? Frankly, I'm not even sure what day it is. Friday, my husband says. OK.
All I know is, all hell has broken loose in our world and no one quite knows what to do about it. Life as we know it is forever changed.
No. This is not the plot of some movie or book -- although it has been. Frequently.
This is really happening.
There is a virus spreading throughout the world so the world is shutting down. People are being told to stay home except for absolute necessities. Travel is curtailed around the world. Businesses are shuttered. Restaurants are take-out only. Sports -- all of them -- have been stopped. Schools, including colleges, have been closed with teachers (like me) trying to find new ways to teach online.
As an amateur genealogist, I've seen the effects of pandemics. Cholera, Small Pox, Yellow Fever. My grandparents lived through an Influenza epidemic in 1918. More than 54,000 people contracted Influenza in 1918; 3,489 died. My great grandmother was a Red Cross nurse at the time, working on the front lines. But I never thought I'd see anything like this in my lifetime. As of today, we have more than 500 cases in Louisiana with 14 deaths. My former physician is in quarantine.
Well, we all are, to be honest.
Over the past few months, we kept hearing about this strange new virus spreading through the population of China. Then it spread through Europe. Then there was a case here in the USA.
The Corona Virus. People laughed and made fun because it's named for a Mexican beer, for God's sake. There were jokes. Lots of jokes.
I really didn't pay that much attention to it. I was more focused on the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Although we don't do parades anymore, I had a week off from school and my baby girl was coming home from college for an extra long weekend and her boyfriend's birthday.
We did have a small group of students and teachers who traveled to Italy over the Mardi Gras break. At first, they were told to stay home on Monday. Then until Wednesday. Then until March 16. I sent work home to my one student, who was planning to do a project on his visit to Italy.
The following weekend was my birthday! The Coach took me up to our daughter's college town for dinner and several drinks in our hotel bar. The virus was still spreading.
In between all of that, the Coach was getting started with his new baseball team at our school. I even got to cross an item off my bucket list by announcing two of the home games. I tried to be a cross between Millie in "Bull Durham" and Renel Books-Moon, who used to announce for the San Francisco Giants. And my playlist was awesome.
It was back to school last Monday, but it was a short week. Our school had its annual Arts Festival on Thursday evening so there would be no school the following day. The Coach had a game scheduled that afternoon, so we planned to go the festival after that.
It was March 12. A normal school day.
Then all hell broke loose.
The baseball team's opponent, a public school just a few miles down the street, called to say their superintendent had ordered them to cancel. All extra curricular activities were canceled. Our team still had practice.
At the Arts Festival that evening, I got to see several of my students. Many of them came up to hug me. Our principal was dressed in a Maui (from Moana) costume. But people talked about little else. It was a game of dominoes as things began to shut down -- schools, colleges, businesses, communities. One plant worker told us he had heard that the local plants would be shutting its workers inside for weeks at a time.
Things were getting scarier.
On Friday, the Coach still had a game scheduled. But the team was on the bus headed our way when their Superintendent ordered them to turn around. Cancel everything, he said.
Our team still managed to sneak in a double header on March 14 at Loranger. It would be the last for quite some time.
Everything shut down after that. All schools. All games. All practices. The NBA. The NHL. MLB. All of it. No gatherings of more than 50 people. That later changed to 10. Lora's college (and all of the others) canceled in-person classes. She came home. Church services. Government meetings. Proms. Graduations. Class trips.
Most government officials urged people to stay home. "Social distancing" they call it. Stay at least 6 feet apart and, most importantly, WASH YOUR HANDS.
So what did we do? We ran to Walmart and bought every bottle of water and every roll of toilet paper we could find. (Not us.... in fact, I'm starting to get a little worried about our toilet paper situation.) And some youngsters ran to the beach. (Not us, but only because I don't have a beach house -- YET!)
No, but we did start fixing up the back yard and the pool. We hired a youngster with a machete to come cut down the frost-bitten banana trees and clear it all out. I put up some new lights on the trees. Made lemonade out of our lemons.
No one knows what will happen next. Today some cities, including New Orleans, ordered people to just stay the hell home. NOLA has become a serious hub for the virus with more than its share of infections. Officials are trying to stop the spread and people just aren't listening. Today they got LSU coach Ed Orgeron out to try and stop the madness.
But people aren't listening. They're acting like my 6th graders just before the bell rings.
I'm also trying to figure out how to do this online learning thing. I spent all of today writing assignments for my 6th and 7th grade English students, including trying to figure out how they're going to turn things in. How am I going to grade it all?
Meanwhile, my husband is downstairs with the sniffles and a sore throat -- universally the first sign of the virus.
These are scary times indeed.
But I have urged my students to write about their experiences and so shall I. I told them that someday their kids and grandkids will be doing Social Studies projects on this event. Writing isn't just an outlet for our emotions, this also is an historic event. I wish my Grannie had written about the Influenza of 1918, what it was like, how it came to be, how she felt, how she survived.
And what comes next.