Friday, June 30, 2006

Small town living

Seemed like every child in Bainbridge was packed into the assembly room at the Library to meet some visiting animals. The guest Eagle Owl wasn’t interested in his audience; he had those big eyes glued to the snakes, the stars of the next act. They looked a lot like lunch to him!

I was born and raised in a small city (Amarillo, Texas) and raised my family in a huge one (Houston). Most days I feel that I’m a city girl to the bone and I can’t fathom that I’ve ended up spending a major chunk of my adult life living the small town life. I begin my day with the New York Times—online, we can’t get home delivery. I wince when I hear about the Houston Grand Opera or Atlanta’s Alliance Theater.
Then I have a day like yesterday. I left my house a little past eleven to check out the animal show at the Library. It was the only time all day that I had a problem parking, and I didn’t mind at all. Every one of those cars jamming the parking lot had brought at least one child, probably more to the library not only to see the animals but to head home with two, or three, or four books to read.
I left the library and ran by the Sweet Spot, a just opened boutique and bakery, owned by the Sweet family, to pick up a dozen peanut brittle chocolate cookies (six chocolate, six white chocolate) for my pals at the Post-Searchlight where I have a bi-weekly column. It still wasn’t time for my lunch date, so I dropped in the fabric shop sure I wouldn’t find the cheesecloth I needed for a cooking experiment. (More about that later—if it works.) Janet stopped and thought. From behind several bolts of net, lace and other fancy fabrics—here was the cheesecloth. 89 cent a yard. I took three yards and talked to Janet about my daisies and her upcoming trip to Greece. She’ll close the shop for a week, but that’s fine. All of her customers know about the journey.
I dropped the cookies at the paper and met my lunch date. We walked to CafĂ© Perk right across the street from the Courthouse. I had a chef salad and mega iced coffee. My bill added up to under $8. An hour later I waved good-bye to my pal and popped into the Courthouse Annex to vote absentee since we’ll be gone on Election Day. That took about ten minutes. I was the only one there. Two voting clerks made sure things went smoothly. I needed some ingredients for my cooking adventure. I trundled out the mile or so to a supermarket on my way home.
Just before 2:00, I pulled into my driveway ready for a writing afternoon! Image doing all of that in a little over two hours in NYC, Houston or Amarillo!
There’s something to be said for small town life!

If you'd like to see some more scenes of Bainbridge, go to my webpage, and click on Bainbridge. It's a work in progress!
More on small town living in the next few days.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Professor Elcan's lillies

One day it is a patch of twenty shades of green nestling under the century and a half old first-growth long leaf pines and the ten year old cedar that once was our Christmas tree. Then one early morning, I take my cup of coffee out for a stroll in the morning cool, and suddenly find the blaze of pink.
There's been a a blaze of pink under those whispering pines for (we think) over 70 years. Professor Elan (see yesterday's post) was a vigorous gardner and his efforts still glow forth in many ways, especially in these lillies.
I asked his daughter, who grew up in this house and who has been beyond generous in helping me learning the its history, when her dad planted the lillies. She shook her head. They've always been there.
Standing among them I almost see the good professor, trowel in hand putting in lillies, probably a housewarming gift from a friend's garden, on a lazy evening in the summer of 1933.
In 19 years I've divided these beauties only once. I shared my ( and Professor Elcan's) bounty with friends and neighbors all over town. Pink blaze is every where!
My local gardening friends call these 'crinum lillies.' I'd love to know if there is another name.
A note on our home. It has a name, given by the Elcan family, Whispering Pines. Bob resisted keeping the name because it seemed ordinary and trite to him--until we spent a few evenings in the porch swing on the big, shady front porch not talking but listening. He came around. Whispering Pines is the perfect name.
Here are Professor Elcan's lillies with a swipe of blue salvia in the early morning hours of this day.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Coming up daisies

In one of my earliest postings to this blog I showed a lonely daisy bravely blooming on a January-bare bank. Now in summer-verdant June a host of her daisy sisters brighten that same bank. They are a welcoming sight to all who pass.
The lillies blooming with the daisies are friendship flowers from the gardens of neighbors. Some came in exchange for some of the daisy sisters.
Our yellow and white vernacular bungelow is in the background. I've lived in it for 19 years and loved every minute and every inch of it. I didn't know what vernacular meant as an architectural term until someone told me that it is a house that more-or-less happens. This house certainly did.
It began as a "four-square" farm house around 1910. (A four-square house is perfectly square with four identical rooms.) In 1933, the local school superintendent, Professor Elcan, purchased the house. It was in the center of a citrus grove. He made substantial changes adding several rooms and the big front porch. If you climb up in my attic you will find the roof of the original house, shingles and all. In 1997, when we'd been here for ten years, we added a bedroom wing that retains the 1933 appearance.
While the Elcans lived in the house, the citrus grove slowly disappeared. A cow named Beauty lived in the back yard. Professor and Mrs. Elcan were enthusiastic gardeners. We still enjoy the azaleas and lillies that they planted over seventy years ago! The side yard has returned to wildness through the years but occasionally as I ramble through it I run across a border or a blossom to remind me that this spot has been a loved home for many years by many people.
I've lived here now almost as long as the Elcans did, but locally it's still known as the Elcan Place. Probably always will be.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Downtown on the square

As in many small towns, community life in Bainbridge centers around our downtown square. We’re a little different. Our courthouse does not dominate this town center. It is on the corner across the street. The square is a park complete with a gazebo/bandstand, lovely flowers, memorials, a cannon and the almost requisite Confederate soldier. Oh, and a goldfish pond.
It’s where we gather on Christmas Eve to listen to the Bainbridge Brass Band and join our neighbors in singing carols, where the high schoolers promenade before the big Prom, where we have our annual Artsfest Saturday morning.
This year on Flag Day we gathered again to welcome National Guard members home from Iraq, listen to one of our favorite daughters sing patriotic songs and share our lunch.
Small town living at its very best.