Oh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but things have been CRAAAZY around here lately. For one, my husband right now is the most important person in the state of Mississippi. Well, one of the most important. Well, OK, an important person. (And, of course, to me he always is the most important person everywhere. This commercial message brought to you by the institution of marriage and soulmate-age.) Why is this, you ask? What has he done to bring such fame and fortune? Of course, those who know John L. Pitts are not surprised to discover the extent of his influence, but lately he holds in his hands, literally, the story that is shaking up everything anyone knows about football: namely, that the two teams his newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, covers — Mississippi State and Ole Miss — are in the top 10 in the AP poll. And, as of right now this very minute, they are no. 1 and no. 3 respectively. Pretty amazing. And now there’s Heisman talk? All I know is that for the past few weeks, my sports editor husband has been working pretty much 24/7 to cover this national story for his local readers — not easy. But, as always, he’s excelling. Of course, this could explain his recent encounter with a deer, on a heavily traveled road less than a mile from our downtown. I really don’t like to think too hard about this. And what’s even stranger is that my Republican-voting, NRA-supporting, Obama-criticizing husband went and bought a new car that’s synonymous with all he makes fun of: a Prius. It’s the mileage, you know. And the anti-deer capabilities.
Well, those are not even the most exciting things to happen to our family lately. Our third precious grandbaby-boy got born last weekend. Older Daughter and son-in-law did an amazing job of completely un-medicated childbirth in a hospital suite dedicated to a natural and drug-free experience. She is a warrior mom, through and through. I did un-medicated by accident with Younger Daughter (Me: “I really think that we need to go to the hospital now.” Husband-at-the-time: “No. You can’t be that close to pushing yet.” Folks at the hospital as soon as we got there: “Get this woman to delivery stat!!!”), and there’s something to be said for it — now that I’m 28 years away and have pretty much forgotten the details. And speaking of totally awesome Younger Daughter, she now shares her birthday with her third nephew, which is the second shared birthday in our family. I think we’re on a roll.
No, this is not THAT kind of post. Where is your mind, people??? It’s just that I wanted to share with you a prime example*** of the unassailable difference between men and women: shoes. You know where we’re headed, don’t you? This is my husband’s entire shoe collection, minus a beautiful pair of dress shoes he has carefully taken care of for years. His. Entire. Shoe. Collection. I can’t emphasize that enough. Because I literally will wear more pairs than this in a single day. Also, my shoes are different. From each other. I don’t need to say anything else, do I? Just ponder on that.
*** This was one of my dad’s favorite phrases back in the day, as in, “That is a prime example of what happens when you don’t pay attention,” which, it will come as no surprise, was usually directly at my middle brother because I ALWAYS listened and anything the baby brother — also known as The Favorite Child of All Time — did was just fine and dandy. In fact, I don’t think he ever was prime-exampled.
I love being a grandma. And I’m pretty good at it. Look, when you are the mommy and you have kids, you’re pretty much stressed and busy and even though you know you’re supposed to slow down and enjoy, there are clothes to wash and homework to check and teachers’ presents to come up with and cookie dough and wrapping paper to buy and so on and WHO HAS TIME TO SLOW DOWN??? But when those kids grow up and give you the most wonderful and adorable grandbabies in the world and you no longer have to worry about 101 ways to make chicken casserole, you can relax and indulge in grandbaby love. Which is The. Best. Ever. But I do try to follow the rules Older Daughter sets down. First, because she is an awesome parent and I have no idea where she learned to be so wise. And, second, if I follow the rules, that means more grandbaby love for me. So I try to be as creative and low-key and green as her standards request. That’s why, one recent afternoon, we all were sitting at the kitchen bar and I noticed four random rectangles of paper — tickets or coupons or something. Eager to show how
smart environmentally friendly I was and proud of my educational initiative, I quickly drew a shape on each piece for an impromptu game with 2-year-old grandson of Identify This Shape. And as the genius baby he is, he got the triangle. He got the square. He got the “E” (first letter of his name). But when I held up the fourth shape, he wrinkled his cute little adorable grandbaby forehead in concentration and then, puzzled, looked at his mom, his primary interpreter. She then literally fell on the floor laughing. “What? What?? WHAT???” I said, not sure what was happening. And in that patient tone of voice she uses with me with alarming frequency, she explained: “That doesn’t look like any circle he’s ever seen.” So, OK. I’m not a great artist. And nobody can read my handwriting. But, I ask you, isn’t that clearly a circle? Sort of, anyway? Thank you.
My mother-in-law was a strong and independent woman before women were supposed to be strong and independent.
Tennessee Pitts — isn’t “Tennessee” the best name ever? — passed away last week at age 95. She was born in 1918 — a year when folks used horses to get around, electricity was an out-of-reach luxury and World War I ended as an equally devastating flu pandemic began.
And American women couldn’t vote. Or, in many states, own property, keep the money they earned or divorce their husbands. And while American law and culture began to accept and acknowledge (shamefully, only white) women as Tennessee and the 20th-century grew older, a woman who wanted her own career faced plenty of challenges.
That was my mother-in-law, who lived a remarkable life of her own choosing in a time and place when most women couldn’t. Growing up in a large family on a middle Tennessee farm as her parents and their parents did before her, she married straight out of high school. But then the story gets interesting. When she discovered her young husband had been unfaithful, she made three decisions: To get a divorce, to get a job so she could support herself and to become a nurse. She did all three, taking classes in sheet metal to secure a “Rosie Riveter” job building fighter jets in Nashville and enrolling in the newly formed Cadet Nurses Corps. that the U.S. government organized to fill nursing shortages. As a registered nurse, she worked almost 30 years at the Veterans Administration hospital in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where she met Roscoe Pitts. They married in 1949 and eight years later, my husband was born. After her husband died in 1984, Tennessee moved from the family farm to a condo in town and indulged in her loves of traveling, reading and baking “treats” for friends and family. She loved her son and was fiercely proud of him. Self-sufficient and practical, she was not pleased when a stroke slowed her down in 2003. And although her doctor suggested in 2007 that we plan her funeral after a kidney infection, she — as usual — stuck to her own schedule.
I didn’t know her well. My husband and I dated in college but I only met her a few times then. And he and I reconnected a couple of years before her stroke, although a friend of hers told me this weekend that Tennessee had said she liked me and thought my (then-teenage) daughters were sweet. By the time she had to live in a nursing home, she’d forgotten I was her daughter-in-law and saw me as a nice friend who stopped by to visit. But I’ll take it. High praise from a woman who pretty much faced down a wandering husband, World War II and the health-care industry — and won.
Only a 5-year-old boy would have the good taste to request his mom’s Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes for his birthday dinner — accented with Star Wars decor, of course. Older Daughter obligingly whipped up a batch while Younger Daughter sliced the berries and made sweetened and real whipped cream. Family and friends sat down to the feast, even husband JP, who although he’s successfully sticking to a low-carb eating plan, cheerfully made an exception for Older Grandson’s birthday party. It’s what grandparents do. And only a 5-year-old boy would request the following for his special day: A trip to a nearby state park to explore a cave, a visit to the local children’s science museum, a pogo stick, Legos (always on any list he makes) and a dinosaur model that includes bones, muscles and a pink squishy stomach and other mysterious parts. Of course, all requests were granted.
My phone conversation this morning with Older Daughter, mom to our almost-5-year-old and 14-month-old grandsons, went something like this:
Her: Guess what? We got a new cat.
(Background noise of chairs screeching and children running.)
Me: A new cat?
Her, in a slightly raised voice, to the boys: You all let Tootsie go in Mommy and Daddy’s room to rest for a minute.
Her, to me: Yup, a new …
Her, to Older Grandson: Please take the laser pointer out of your nose.
Her, to me: … cat. She’s black and …
Her, to Older Grandson: If you point the laser at your brother, you’re going to your room and I’m taking it away.
Her, to me: … and white and 3-years …
Her, to Younger Grandson: No-no. Pulling the kitty’s tail is not nice.
Her, to me: … old and very friendly and ..
(More background noise of chairs screeching and children running with addition of frenzied meowing.)
Her, to Younger Grandson: Maybe the kitty cat doesn’t want to be chased anymore.
Her, to me: I think I need to call you back.
If my New Year’s resolutions were to watch football and stake out the coziest corner of the couch, then Jan. 1 was a success — although my beloved SEC took a hit as both LSU and Mississippi State LITERALLY dropped the ball(s), leaving Georgia and Vandy to represent so far. Now, since I am
lazy lucky enough to work part-time in places that sensibly close during the holidays, it’s back to work for me after a two-weeks vacation. My family had a super Christmas. Hope yours did the same. I did discover that my children are sneaky — Older & Younger Daughter conspired to give me an iPad for Christmas and kept the secret (after bringing husband JP into the loop) ever since Black Friday, when my son-in-law apparently was conscripted to stand in line for it after Older Daughter came down with the flu. And you know I try not to be materialistic and to believe in the simple things of love and laughter, but the iPad is THE BEST THING EVER. Ever. It only leaves my hands when it’s time to finish leftover Christmas cookies. Also, husband JP took note of my Amazon wish list and I now have a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired business-card holder and a lotion warmer that is the most luxurious thing ever and makes me think that perhaps a towel warmer is next. And then my mom gave us a monogrammed doormat, not knowing that JP only tolerates the open-scrollworked metal one we have now because although I think it’s the coolest doormat ever and totally says who we are as soon as you come to our front door, it does leave rust marks all over the porch’s concrete floor. So everybody was happy. And that’s a pretty good start to 2013.