Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hope In The Woods

 
    My daughter, Allison Hope, is now driving on her own and has a limited range that she may travel.   Looking much like a tiny soccer mom in my white SUV, she drives to school, church, the gym and occasionally to local restaurants to dine with friends.  She does an excellent job keeping me posted on her exact location at all times.  She is keenly aware that modern technology permits me to see the location of her phone as she travels down the road, but  I try not to be that insane of a mom and allow her the chance to keep me informed without big brother watching.  I think that teaches a much more important lesson on responsibility.  If she fails to call, I can always zoom in and find her munching on nachos at the third booth in Taco Bell.

    Recently, she had gone out to eat with friends at a local eatery.  They finished early and she called to ask if she could drive to her friend's home that was about a mile away.  I agreed and off she went.   The problem with this decision was that she did not know her friend wasn't home and her phone was about to die.  Had she traveled to anyone else's home, those facts would not have mattered.  Unfortunately, she drove to a house with a gated entry that allows one in, but doesn't let you out.  The exit sensor had been broken for weeks and egress was dependent on someone in the house opening the gate to let you out.

    Upon arrival, Allie realized that she was the only one at this house, tucked deep in a very dark wood.  As she neared the gate to come home, she realized the seriousness of the situation at hand.  She was trapped in the woods, alone, with a dead cell phone.  She drove back to the house to look in the vehicles to see if there was a gate remote.  None could be found.  She knew the alarm code to enter the house, but knew there was no land line in this home.  She had no way to call for help.  After being trapped for over an hour, panic began to set in and she mapped out a plan to cross a field and make her way to the highway, placing her in a much more dangerous situation than she was in, currently.  Luckily, the thought of coyotes in the woods caused her to abandon that plan and she began toying with the idea of climbing the gate.  The woods were much too dark and thoughts of strangers lurking behind the trees kept her planted in her car.  Her mind raced back to the open field behind the house, but the  coyotes and strange shadows in the woods were much too real and, thankfully, kept her away from the highway.

    An hour and a half into this situation, she prayed and told God that she could not sit there, alone in the woods, until midnight.  With tears in her eyes,  she looked down and saw the glowing apple light up on her cell phone as it mysteriously powered on.  She had no charger. The phone had been dead for over an hour and she had not touched it.  There was no backup battery and there is no other explanation than the fact that a child called out to God for help and He did. She immediately called me and I answered to find a frightened child crying for me to come and get her.  My heart sank as I imagined the worst.  As I raced for my car keys, I calmed her down and learned that she was safe.  There was enough battery on her phone for me to keep her on the line until I could arrive and enter the code to allow the gate to open and free her from the other side.

    She jumped out of her car, hugged me tight, and cried tears of relief.  Lesson learned....  never, never travel without a charger, a back-up battery or a simple back-up plan.  One should never have to run through the woods for help.  Red Riding Hood knew this well and my daughter was wise enough to stay clear of the dangers that lurked at the edge of her path. She waited for help and placed her trust in the Lord who delivered her safely back into my arms. Thank you God.









Saturday, February 14, 2015

Stirring About

   

    In 1899, one hundred years before my daughter was born, another turn of the century child came to be.  Florence Joyce, a daughter of the 19th century, entered this world with an independent spirit that would serve her well in a life that would span almost an entire century.

    I came to know "Aunt Florence" when she was an old woman and I was just a child.  The road to her home was dirt and gravel and wound through the woods of Vicksburg under a canopy of trees that seemed like tunnels.  In a child's eyes, it was a great adventure to travel to the great white plantation that was Aunt Florence's home.  In the heat of the summer, we would all sleep on the giant sleigh bed in the downstairs bedroom for it was the coolest place in the house.  We kept the windows open, hoping for a breeze to come our way and break the still of the night.  The heat was sweltering and there was no such thing as air conditioning unless you stood in front of the freezer door.  The  adults would sit on the screened porch while the kids stirred inside, jumping on the bed, hoping not to get caught.

    My aunt was a firm believer that stirring was the key to life.  One should be up early going about the tasks of the day, never sitting idle.  Florence Joyce Mallet was the kind of woman who could work all day on the farm before coming home and changing into a proper dress, hat and gloves required of those attending the Vicksburg Garden Club.  She lost her husband at a young age to pneumonia and later lost her only son who flew into the unknown somewhere over Italy in WWII.  She had no choice but to be fiercely independent.  She lived alone in the large plantation home where she kept the front porch light on for thirty seven years in hopes that her son might return one day.  As a child, I did not understand this.  Didn't she know he was gone?  As a mother, I fully appreciate that she kept hope alive and never gave up on her child. I can still see the rose colored lamp that lit the entryway in the darkest of nights.

    During one such night, torrential rains were swallowing up the land around Vicksburg and my widowed aunt stayed up all night, in the downpour, moving earth equipment around to save her levee, which in turn, would save her plantation. She was one of the few who did not lose her farm or her cattle because she was not afraid to face a storm, even alone.

   Florence Mallet, a tiny woman in a big house, kept a gun under her pillow and a freshly baked whipping cream cake on the kitchen counter.  Her home was filled with antiques and colored glasses that caught the afternoon light and washed the staircase and hall in dots of brilliant colors.  The great home had a cellar which was just the right thing in the imagination of a child to conjure up ghosts of Confederate Soldiers who once had stayed there.  Years before, her husband's family had hidden their silver from the Union Soldiers and generations of children have since played in the woods convinced they would find buried treasure there.  No silver or ghostly apparitions were ever found but the thought of such kept children entertained for years.

    When Florence reached her 80's, she left the plantation to be near her sister in another state.  An opportunity for a summer job called to me and before I knew what I had agreed to, I was 600 miles away from home and the newly appointed caregiver for my aunt.  At the age of sixteen, my one goal was to earn $300 to purchase a stereo that had a magnificent light display on the panel.  My aunt's goal was to continue to live independently with a little help from her niece.  Together we helped one another and two girls from opposite ends of the century lived together for a short period of time. She bought a white Nova and I learned to strap a wheelchair to the back and sail down Cherry Street while she learned of the great bands of the seventies and eighties who would one day be singing on my future stereo.  When she fell and broke her arm, I learned that my job was to sit patiently in the waiting room because sometimes just being there is the best thing you can offer someone.

    At the close of the summer, I returned home with cash in hand and she moved on to live with her sister. I earned more than stereo money that summer.  I gained the knowledge that just because a body is frail, it does not mean that the mind is.  That 80 year old woman was sharp as a tack and did not sugar coat life just to make things easy.   She faced every trial head on with sound decisions and courage.

    Aunt Florence is long gone now and I received a packet of all of the letters written between her and her son during the war.  He wrote of the missions and the cold and assured her all was well.  She sent her love and a scarf to keep him warm.  The packet of letters contains such love between a mother and son.  I like to think of her now sailing down the red dirt road of Vicksburg in her sporty little Nova darting in and out of view through the trees as she gets closer and closer to Heaven where her son waits with his helmet and scarf, simply stirring about until her arrival.  With windows down in a summer heat, she'll have "Journey" playing "Open Arms" on her radio as she disappears into the clouds with the boy she waited a lifetime on.