Monday, June 5, 2017

Kith and Kin

My early years were with my grandmother. I remember her face, her smile, her unconditional love. A small woman, she possessed an elegant grace and an enigmatic smile. One never knew what she was thinking. I thought of her as my mother though I knew she really wasn’t. Grandma was a unique individual, a woman wrenched from her idyllic life one Christmas Day in 1929. Her husband died in a plane crash, and mother told me of the long line of black cars outside their home. My grandfather, the first licensed pilot in North Carolina, had earned the respect of all. His pilot's license was signed by Orville Wright.

Grandma moved from her small town to a larger one, and having no resources, fed tobacco factory workers during their lunch hour to make a living. She was a wonderful cook and an excellent tailor. She would look at a dress in a store window and make one just like it without a pattern. I still remember my favorite, a shirtwaist dress with long sleeves.

A proud woman, she could be utterly charming or caustic with a smile. One memory that brings laughter is of a pretentious man walking away with a “did she just tell me off” look on his face and Grandma’s sweet, Cheshire-cat smile behind him. She was a major influence during my early years, accepting me with all my faults and frailties, never criticizing, always supporting. I never told her of my many failures, the family grapevine did that; but she always greeted me with a smile, a hug, and lots of love. I pleased her despite myself and to this day, I will remember the feeling with gratitude.

Grandma and I loved the trips we took home every year.  We would turn a nine-hour trip into fourteen or fifteen hours, stopping on the spur of the moment for anything that looked inviting.  We usually took the scenic route, staying off the interstates, so we passed through many little towns filled with craft and gift shops, fairs, and restaurants.

One year, I was in a hurry to get home.  Bad weather was on the way and I took Interstate 95.  Atlanta was notoriously busy and we hit it at rush hour.  I was a little nervous, but having taken the yearly trips home had given me a familiarity with the traffic. Grandma was sitting next to me with her hands folded, probably willing us down the road.  

I was in the middle lane when suddenly, a car shot from the left in front of me across all lanes of traffic headed for an exit on the right with no warning and no turn signal.  To my credit, I didn’t slam on the brakes but out came the dreaded “F” word followed by “you S.O.B.”  As soon as I uttered those horrible curses, I realized who was sitting next to me.   I spent the next few minutes profusely apologizing.  Grandma didn’t say a thing and when I finally stopped, without batting an eye, she patted my hand and said, “That’s alright, honey, I probably would have said the same thing.”

Many other tales come to mind, but this one always brings a smile. Thanks, grandma, for all the memories.


Monday, May 15, 2017

I have been absent due to an ongoing health issue and plan to return on June 5th with the schedule as follows:

              Monday                 Kith and Kin
              Wednesday           Ramblings from Belladonna
              Friday                    Feature of the Week

Barbara Chioffi  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


*This is a continued story. If you are tuning in for the first time, please refer to previous chapters.

My first instinct was to throw something through the window, but I knew that would create more problems than I wanted; instead, I returned to my car, removed the basket I had so carefully packed with food, wine, and "dessert attire" and left it on the porch, certain H would realize where it came from.

I drove home, a myriad of emotions playing through my mind... anger, hurt, betrayal. H and I were in a relationship, weren't we? He had professed his love, bought me expensive gifts, and paid my rent for a year. Wouldn't that indicate commitment? Then the imp on my shoulder brought up other possibilities... H wasn't married. There was no written agreement. I had assumed that he would be faithful, but with assumptions there is no truth and plenty of wiggle room.  

By the time I arrived at my apartment, I had decided to see when H would call and what he would say. My future course of action would depend on his explanation. The imp, however, was focused on payback.

To Be Continued.....

Monday, March 20, 2017


If I could have one wish, I would be back in my mama's house. I loved her company.  She was a brilliant woman with a wicked sense of humor.  I think she knew me better than anyone, and for the most part, she was a delight. We spent many times in the car on the way from one place to another, discussing ethereal topics, her mind wandering as far as mine. She seemed to know no limits in her imagination and I found her a joy. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone as fascinating.  

I remember sitting in Grandma's kitchen when young, watching Mama cook.  She was a fantastic creator of food. Despite what you had in your kitchen, she would produce a delicious meal.  I asked her how she would feel if I died, and she answered, “I would cry for the rest of my life.”  That, to a paranoid kid, meant the world.

She was fixing dinner in a pressure cooker, leaning over to inspect the pot, and it blew up in her face.  I remember her consoling me in my terror, telling me that she would be fine as she was taken to the hospital.  I counted every second until she returned, her face wrapped in gauze.  Luckily, she suffered no real damage.

Another memory…she made wonderful donuts and shook them in a bag of sugar.  My sweet tooth raged as I watched.

When I was around 12, my parents discovered I could sing.  I hid it from them for a long time, letting them think that it was the radio. She was so proud and engaged a German voice teacher nearby to give me lessons.  She would sit in the car and read while I sang.

She was a voracious reader, everything she could get her hands on.  It tickled her when we girls shivered as she told us about Rasputin, the mad monk of Russia.  I’ve never forgotten the look on her face as she watched our reactions.

Mom was also a talented writer. I grew up reading her family anecdotes and thoughts on life. She was my inspiration that resulted in my lifetime efforts and recent publications.

She had a good work ethic, often leaving home in later years, traveling several hours away to make a sale.  She could sell clothes to a nudist and no one could resist her charm. I don’t think she ever met a stranger, no matter what race or nationality.  She had many friends and was a friend to them as well. 

My sisters and I were blessed to be her children.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I will resume posting next week on March 20. Please excuse my absence.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


As time passed, the relationship between H and me became routine. He came to my apartment only when we were going out, so I began to make friends in the building, enjoying the camaraderie. The summer I met Barbara and her sister (if she reads this, I'm in trouble), we had our own cliche, meeting in the evenings for entertainment that included dinner, drinking, and general mayhem. 

Our group grew to include other people in the building, male and female. The pool was closed at night, but we often climbed the fence for a midnight swim. Grocery cart races up and down the halls were a source of merriment. That summer was the beginning of friendships that would last for years.

One weekend, I decided to pay H a visit... an unannounced one.  He had taken care of me for almost six months and I wanted to show my appreciation. My car was packed with dinner, wine, and a special outfit for "dessert". We had talked earlier and I was told that he would watch TV and relax for the evening. As I pulled up to his house, there was a small car in the driveway. My curious little shoulder imp suggested I look in the window before going in. There was H, stretched out on the couch as he told me he would be, but he wasn't alone. Sitting on his lap was a curvy blonde, wearing only her birthday suit.


Monday, March 6, 2017


My father... November 21, 1915 - March 6, 1993.

My early memories of him come in vignettes…

We were on the way home after visiting my grandmother. I was standing in the backseat, looking out the front window of the car. It was dark, and the road was virtually deserted. I’m sure that I had ridden in cars before, but for some reason, this night is what I remember as the first time.
I noticed two bright eyes way down the road and instantly screeched, hitting the floor. A few seconds passed, and hardy laughter came from the front seat, followed by this explanation . . . “Honey, that is a car down the road and what you saw were the headlights. Stand up and look.”
I trusted my father with my whole heart, so shakily, I did as he said, and sure enough, there were the “two scary eyes” surrounded by a car. I felt instant relief and continued looking over the front seat for the rest of the trip.
I was always impressed by my father’s grasp of things. He was a brilliant man with a lusty sense of humor, loving his fellowman, while at the same time understanding their faults. He certainly seemed to understand mine. Impatient with me but still helpful, he would lose his temper first, then complement me, then figure a way to help me out of one situation after another. The one area in which he showed pride was my singing.
I told no one of my talent. I would sing only with the radio at night after we had gone to bed. I had my own room and would lie in the dark listening to the wonderful sounds, trying to match them. One night, Mom yelled up the stairs, “Bobbie, turn off that radio and go to sleep.” One of my sisters answered from the other room, “Mom, that’s not the radio, that’s Bobbie.”
She must have told Dad, because the next day, he had me at the piano, singing up and down the scales. A look of surprise and joy was on his face as he yelled to Mom. “Jean, do you hear that?”
He was always my biggest fan, quietly supporting me with a smile and praise. I’ll always remember the songfests we had, singing gloriously together. His voice was of operatic quality and magnificent. It was pure heaven.
A happy soul, he brought a smile to everyone he met. Mom, my sisters, and I adored him. I miss you dad.