Posts Tagged ‘downtown atlanta’


 

“Di, please don’t say that again.”

“What?”

“You know – about the —– fairies,” said my older sister Patricia, all of a sudden speaking in a small voice.

“What do ya mean?”

“You know – about seeing them and all.”

“I did see them. You did too.”

“That was when we were kids. And —— I never saw them.”

“What? You never saw them?”

“I said I saw them to make you feel better. You were sick in bed for so long with rheumatic fever. But, I never saw fairies in our backyard,” explained Patricia.

“What! I saw them! I promise you – I saw them!”

“Di! We are grown women now. I know sometimes it’s fun to make believe. But, you see fairies at your home in Forsyth County; you see them in London, and now you see them in Buckhead.”

“I do see them. They’re beautiful little creatures! The queen fairy wears an effervescent gown that shines like jewels. The king fairy can’t be missed with his regal ruby mantle. They wear brilliant reds and greens – sometimes blues. I tell you, Pat, I see them and they are real!”

“Shhhh, somebody will hear you,” Pat whispered as she looked about Swan Coach House Tea Room.

“I can’t believe you,” I said in a low voice. “All that time, and you were pretending. What about the wagon? Remember the wagon? You made sand castles in it for the fairies! And rolled it around the yard; if they didn’t visit the sand castle near Daddy’s vegetable garden and strawberries, you’d roll it to another spot.” I couldn’t help but smile at the mere thought of their teensy tiny little wings fluttering, “They really loved the spot against the house near Mama’s Canna Lilies. They always came to visit Mama’s…”

“Diane, I’m the one who knocked over the acorn chairs and made little feet prints in the sand castle. I wanted to entertain you while you were so sick. I hated it you couldn’t come out and play. I knew you could look out your bedroom window and watch the wagon. I just wanted to make you happy, so I —– fibbed a little. That’s all. I was being a good sister. That was a lonnng time ago. So, let’s not talk about the —– you know.”

“Fairies!” I said aloud.

I don’t know what had gotten into my sister, Patricia. All these years we have exchanged stories about the exquisite little backyard Tucker fairies. And today she was confessing to never have seen them at all! Maybe it was the long walk through the Swan House. Maybe her memory had been affected by trying to keep up with the count of swans that can be seen throughout the mansion. Thousands of swans can be found in the rugs, linen, drapery, china, silver, walls, gardens; the true swan count is a mystery. And now sitting here in the Swan Coach House, perhaps the meringue swan she was eating pushed her over the edge.

Perhaps the heat she endured walking in the sun through the vegetable garden at the Tullie Smith House had gotten to her. Or maybe she is just embarrassed – to speak of the sweet little fairies here in public. I can’t imagine what it could be. It’s not like Sister to fib about anything.

And I did see the fairies in my backyard home on Morgan Road in Tucker. I saw them. And when I moved to Forsyth County, I see the little things in my yard about the flowers, but I’ve never been able to capture their likeness on a camera. And yes, I saw them in London at Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace

James, my son accompanied me to London. No, he was not a witness.

London, England was the last place I expected to see the little fairies, but there they were. After shopping at Harrods, James took off for the British Museum while I took a cab to visit Princess Diana’s home, Kensington Palace. After the tour, I had time to myself. I had enough of running here and there on that octopus of a subway. I was sitting there thinking; the cab was much nicer. I’ll speak to James about taking cabs and ditching that subway.

James studying London subway.

 

 

 

 

 

And I thought – wouldn’t it be nice to sit on this bench at Kensington Palace and just people watch; pretend to have all the time in the world in London. I rested for a while and then I saw something. Could it be?

Surely not. I watched and listened. Yes, I was right! Backyard Tucker fairies here in London. I grabbed my camera to take a picture. But the fairies were again too quick for me. They darted in and out of the formal rows of hedges. As hard as I tried, I could not keep up with them. The little magical creatures seemed to disappear into thin air as soon as the camera clicked.

I understand they do not like to have their “beauty struck.” Of course, Sister told me that. What could I believe about that now? Again, no photo of the fairies. Oh, how I longed for proof that the beautiful little creatures really do visit with me!

 

But my luck was about to change – a few years later. Again, when I least expected it.

The Hummingbird House Bed and Breakfast

The Hummingbird House Bed and Breakfast

I drove down to Athens Georgia, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. I enjoyed the shops and a sidewalk cafe lunch with my cousins, Carol and Linda. After saying goodbye to them, I drove ten miles or so out to the countryside. There I saw a beautiful antebellum Greek Revival Bed and Breakfast nestled in acreage in the middle of the old historic town of Lexington. The charm of the columns and beauty of the yard pulled me in. I parked my car and took a stroll about the grounds. I felt right at home, especially when I met the innkeeper, a homegrown Tucker gal, Linda Parish. After tea and some yummy strawberry scones, I went for a walk alone.

As I walked about the grounds, I saw a flutter out of the corner of my eye. Could it be?

 

Yes, it could, backyard Tucker fairies down here in Lexington. I got my camera ready and was as still as could be. This time I tried to draw them to me. And then it happened. One of the fairies flew about my head and almost posed for the camera. Indeed! And then another appeared. The little fairies seemed to be at home here. Perhaps this is the real home of the backyard Tucker fairy. Right here at the Hummingbird House Bed and Breakfast in the sleepy little quaint town of Lexington, Georgia!

Can you guess what the Backyard Tucker Fairy is? If you guessed the hummingbird, you would be correct!

 

Correction: After Sister read this story she called me and said, “Di, now the world thinks I don’t believe in fairies. I do believe in fairies, I just didn’t see the backyard Tucker fairies.”


Written for and read at Shiloh United Methodist, oldest church in Forsyth County Georgia

Theme: What My Bible Means to Me

When I was six years old, my mother and father gave me a special Christmas gift. That Christmas morning when all the gifts were opened, my mother handed me the last gift under the tree.

“Diane, this is for you. It’s not from Santa. It’s from your father and me.”

My two sisters quickly took notice. Mama defended her statement, “Diane is six years old now; she can read as well as anybody. Patricia, you got your special gift two years ago – remember? And in two years, Barbara, you’ll get your special gift. This year is for Diane.”

All eyes were on me. I removed the red ribbon and white tissue paper. What was it? Of course, it had to be a book, but what kind of book? What made it so special? For the life of me, I could not remember what Patricia’s special gift was two years ago. I took a deep breath and carefully opened the box. Inside the box was a black leather bible. To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed. I mustered up a weak smile and thanked my parents. I tried, but could not hide my disappointment.

My father sat on the living-room hardwood floor next to me, and took my bible into his own hands, “Let’s see that,” he said as he admired it, “that’s real leather, and look here, there’s your name in gold letters. This isn’t a toy you know, it’s the real thing. You’re a big girl now. You can read. Keep this by your bed and read it – even if it’s just one verse a day. You can learn all about Jesus in the New Testament, look here,” he said as he flipped through the pages. “You know Jesus was a carpenter, an honorable profession,” he said as he smiled.

“Diane, your father is a carpenter too,” added Mama.

“I know.”

Sisters at Easter

Daddy handed the bible back to me and gave me a hug as he winked at Mama. I took the opportunity to leave the room and stash that bible away in my bedroom. I wanted to get back to my new toys. It was a few years later before I read any verses at all from that bible. But, I did take it to church on Sundays, so I could get a gold star by my name.

About a year later, I became sick with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. I was examined by many doctors. One day I noticed Mama packing a suitcase with my pajamas, house shoes and robe. Biting back her tears, she reached for my bible and said, “Let’s don’t forget this; I want you to read it – that is if you feel like it. Anyway, always keep it near.” She went on talking as she packed, “I know it seems like a lot of words – it’s a big book for a seven year old girl, that’s okay; don’t worry about it. Just read the red words. They’re the most important ones.”

I knew something was really wrong when Daddy came home in the middle of the day. When Mama saw him she left the room. I heard her whisper, “You tell her.”

Daddy could hardly look at me, but forced a smile and cheerful voice, “We’re gonna take you to Atlanta to see another doctor. He wants to run some tests – so – you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You’ll be home before you know it.”

Daddy hugged me, picked me up, and put me in the car. I stayed at the hospital for two long weeks. I shared a big room with lots of sick children. It was called a children’s ward – sick children for as far as the eye could see. I wanted to go home. I wanted to play with my sisters, Patricia and Barbara. Mama came to see me every morning and left late in the afternoon.

One evening, a night shift nurse came over to check on me. She noticed my bible on the night-table and could not take her eyes off it. She left and came back frequently to admire it. “What a treasure!” she said.

“Do you want to read it?” I finally asked.Red Words of Jesus

“Oh, Diane, I see it has your name on it!”

“Of course it does. It’s mine. My parents gave it to me.”

“It sure does have your name on it! And just do look at the fine tissue paper pages! I know you are proud of this! How much of it have you read?”

“Not much,” I really did not want to admit even to a stranger, that I had not read one word of it. “Do you want to read it?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t, I mean – I really wish I could…”

“You can.”

“Really?”

“Sure you can read it all you want, just make sure you have it back before Mama gets here. She’ll be here early in the morning.”

“You don’t mind? Oh, Diane, one day I’ll have a fine bible like this one.”

“Why don’t you have one now? I thought all grown-ups had a bible.”

“Well, I’m still in nursing school and work the night shift so I can support my family…”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay; you can read my bible all night if you want. That is, when you’re not working.”

She ran her hand across my bible as though it was pure gold. She could not take her eyes off it. “I’ll have it back before the sun comes up. You can go to sleep and be assured I will return your bible, and maybe a special gift for letting me borrow it.”

“You don’t have to do that, just make sure it’s back before Mama gets here, or I’ll be in trouble.”

And she did borrow it often; and she always returned it. And each time I awoke to a piece of gum or a pink flower made of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner – on my bible. Every night she told me how lucky I was to own such a treasure. She cherished her reading time, and thanked me over and over.

Finally my stay at the hospital came to an end. I went home, but everything was different. I no longer shared a room with my sisters. I had my own room. I could not play, could not watch television, nor could I walk. I was on strict bed-rest. My parents assured me it was for a short while, but a short while turned into almost a year.

To entertain me, Mama read all kinds of books to me. She read so much, she frequently lost her voice. My father spoke to Miss Cookie Thomas while he was in downtown Tucker one day. When she asked about “Helen,” Daddy told her how Mama was losing her voice from reading to me. She called Mama on the phone and volunteered to do the reading.

Miss Cookie Thomas brought in a big bag full of children’s books. She opened it and said, “You pick it!” We had great fun together. She loved to read and I loved to listen. One day I was a bit blue, “What’s wrong? Not feeling well today?”

“I tired of being sick – I’m tired of being cooped up in this room. I want out of here.”

Miss Cookie Thomas thought for a moment and then said to me, “Did you ever hear about a man who healed sick people?”

Miss Cookie Thomas had my attention. “He could not tolerate sick children. It broke His heart to see a sick child. Everywhere He went, He touched people and in that instant, they were healed. There are lots of stories about Him.”

I looked in her big bag, “You won’t find Him in my bag, but you will find Him in here,” she said as she reached for my bible. She flipped through the pages and said, “Let’s try this one.”

I nodded in anticipation.

Diane's 12th Birthday

Miss Cookie Thomas read from the Book of Mark. Jesus, the Healer was approached in a village by Jarius, a father in distress. His twelve year old daughter needed help. The father of the girl was told to not bother the healing man, because his daughter was already dead. The Healer told the father of the girl, “Be not afraid; only believe.” Then the Healer went into the little girl’s house as the crowd laughed at Him. Jesus paid no attention to the mockers. He focused on the sick child as he held her hand, and said, “Talitha cumi!” which meant – “Little girl arise and live.” And she arose and walked. Everyone was astonished.

“What’d He say? Talli…?”

Miss Cookie Thomas said it again, “He said, ‘Talitha cumi!’” She wrote the strange sounding words on a piece of paper in red crayon. “Diane, any time you feel sad or tired of this bed, look at these words, remember them, you’ll feel better.”

After almost a year of bed-rest, I was allowed to walk again, and eventually returned to school. But soon thereafter, I relapsed and spent many more months in bed. I recovered once again, only to relapse again.

Miss Cookie Thomas came as often as possible, but now had other small children to read to. I was getting older. Now she left her big bag of books at home, since she had read everything in it. She read from my bible.

I loved it when she read about the Healer’s followers. Jesus taught them how to heal too. Every time she mentioned James and John, the sons of thunder, she made a loud noise like thunder. She made me laugh and forget about being sick, and it was thrilling to hear about sick people getting well in an instant.

One day she asked me how I’d like it if I had two sons called, the sons of thunder. After that question, I didn’t want to hear about the sons of thunder anymore. Recently, the doctors told me that I could never have children. Now at such a young age, I really wasn’t thinking about having my own family. But it made me sad to realize I had no life now, nor would I have a life in the future. And it was hard being sick while aware that life was going on all around me, as I was secluded in this back of the house bedroom.

And then there was Miss Winnie Collins.

While painting the house of Miss Winnie Collins on Old Norcross, Daddy got to know this odd little lady. She was an artist and puppeteer who went about Tucker on a bicycle. She strapped a black suitcase onto her bicycle and would pull out all kinds of strange things from her suitcase. One being a huge wide brim black hat layered in long black silk which hid her face while making a perfect stage back drop for her puppet shows. She gave me art lessons and entertained me and my sisters with her shows. Miss Winnie Collins kept me busy drawing and painting. I used my bible to steady my paints and turpentine. Mama gave me a look of shock when she saw green oil paint on my bible. Then she smiled and said, “Well I did say to keep it with you.”

Needless to say, there were many discouraging days when I could only dwell on my loss, especially on pretty days when I could hear the students play at recess time at Tucker Elementary. Nothing Miss Cookie Thomas read, not even Miss Winnie Collins’ puppet shows, could cheer me. I was approaching twelve years of age and was not allowed to stand on my own feet. Mama fed me. I could not draw or paint anymore. I eyed my bible and thought about the strange sounding words of the Healer. I looked at the red letters Miss Cookie Thomas made for me, now crumpled and ragged with age. I thought about the twelve year old girl in the bible, and how her father went out and found Jesus, the Healer.

Dianes Birthday with parents

Diane's 12th Birthday with parents, Tom and Helen Story

I closed my eyes tight and imagined my own father driving up Morgan Road and turning right onto Chamblee Tucker and then down Main Street – Tucker. I imagined that Daddy parked his van and walked out into the Cofer Brothers Lumber-Yard. While purchasing lumber for his next job, Daddy ran into a stranger in town; a carpenter. I imagined that my father told that particular carpenter about his daughter at home in a sick bed. This carpenter told my father that his name was Jesus, and He was here ready and able to heal sick children.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Healer get into Daddy’s van and come to our little Morgan Road home. They came into my room and the Healer said to Daddy, “Be not afraid; only believe.” The Healer held my hand and said, “Talitha cumi – little girl arise and live!” I imagined myself standing up. I saw myself being received with open arms and astonishment by my family.

I concentrated on my soon approaching birthday and my attitude changed. Now, when I heard my family talking and seemingly enjoying life without me, I imagined they were preparing a home coming party for me as did the father of the Prodigal Son. In my heart of hearts, I knew that soon, I would join them. I would get out of this bedroom! I looked forward to my birthday – my twelfth birthday. The day came when my mother placed a birthday cake on my lap in bed. My cousin, Rachel, took pictures of the celebration. I keep those pictures in my bible, so I can always remember that day. I became twelve – and that year – I became well. I left my sick-bed and never returned.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

I still go for yearly check-ups for my heart. The doctors cannot believe it. “It’s amazing,” they’ll say, “how you can have such a long history of heart disease and not even have the slightest murmur – it’s beyond reason. And, you have children?”

“Yes, I do. I have two sons, James and Jon. They’re the sons of thunder, you know,” I tell them as I hear Miss Cookie Thomas make the sound of thunder in my mind. It makes me smile from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

Diane with sons James and Jon

As you may have guessed, I learned to appreciate my special Christmas gift from my parents. It is now ragged around the edges and the pages are pulling loose, but after all, it has been well over fifty years since I first received it. It has been a life long journey in which the book revealed itself to me. It’s a gift that I have sometimes ignored, sometimes mistreated, but I know it is a treasure. It’s the place where I learned that Jesus was far more than a carpenter. My bible has parrot green paint and turpentine circles on it. It bears my name in gold letters. This is my bible!

Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.

“Donnie.”

“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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