December 21, 2021

I knew this day would be a difficult one. It always is, or rather it has been for the last nine years. It was on this day that my mother, Annie Laurie “Dink” Morrow, left this earthly realm for her heavenly reward. I spend a lot of time on this day especially, thinking about her and the things she stood for, the person she was, and the simple things she taught me.

One lesson that was forever etched into my memory was that we should be grateful for what we have and if we had everything we wanted, we would never have anything to look forward to. If I started to forget, I would be reminded of the less fortunate children in other parts of the world.

Be kind to everyone-especially the less fortunate because there but for the grace of God are you. I can remember coming home from school one day and making fun of a classmate when I was severely chastised and told to put myself in that child’s shoes for a day, to think how it would feel if I were in her place. I went to school the next day with a different attitude toward that child and we became friends for the remainder of our elementary days.

Speak to people. Acknowledge their presence with some greeting whether verbal or in a gesture. That was another lesson in Dink’s life lessons’ guidebook. It is a rule I try to live by and today let me know that these lessons still have merit.

You see, I walk six days a week in my neighborhood for my exercise and to just be outside. It just so happens that part of my route is along a busy street as people are heading to work or dropping children off at school. I would see these people in cars and thought about waving as a way to acknowledge them. At first, I was just going to wave at the people in red cars on Monday and the ones in blue cars on Tuesday, etc, but I soon forgot which days were for which cars and then I thought the people in the other cars would have hurt feelings if I waved at the car in front of them and not to them so I had to regroup and decide to just wave at every car. I was a little hesitant as first because “things are different in a city and in these days and times,” I told myself. But I started waving anyway and for a while, I could tell that the drivers were not sure how to respond but I kept doing it because I had been indoctrinated to greet people. Now, some people even stop to speak, others blow their horns, and almost everyone waves. Because I go out at the same time every day, I see the same cars, the same people. Sometimes in stores, people will come up to me and say, “You ‘re that lady that waves aren’t you?”

However, today was not a pretty one as it was drizzling rain and threatening to cut my walk short which did not make me happy. The rain, in addition to the fact that I was missing my mother made me sad. A lady rolled down her window to wish me a Merry Christmas and that brought a smile to my face. As I kept walking, I noticed a man at the end of a driveway with a large silver package. I thought he was out rather early to deliver packages, but he stopped me and said the package was for me. I did not know him, and he said, “You have no idea what it means to my wife and me for you to wave at us every morning and we wanted to give you something for Christmas. Your waving to us lifts our spirits.” With that, he turned and waked back into his apartment.

I was at a loss for words and through my tears, I could only thank this stranger. We never know how our actions are perceived or what effect they may have. Today, I was reminded that it is the simple things in life that are important, and I am thankful to have had a mother who made sure to instill that concept. Tomorrow, I will wave more vigorously–not only as a tribute to my mother, but in hopes that my wave will create a ripple of kind deeds to make our world a little better. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

The Schoolman

On days like this when the ground is covered with snow and the television is scrolling closings due to the weather, I am reminded of my school days in Tallahatchie County. We did not rely on the weatherman to forecast whether school would be in session. Rather we relied on whether Mr. Robert Taylor, the superintendent of schools, could walk from his house to his office. If he could, school would open and if not, the doors would be closed for the day.

The school district provided a house for the superintendent and high school principal along with an apartment building known as The Teacherage for those brave enough to come to the hinterlands of Tallahatchie County to teach. Those buildings were located about a thousand feet from the high school and about two thousand feet from Mr. Taylor’s office.

Mr. Taylor believed in having school and if a day was missed, a day was made up. There was one period of very bad weather when it was impossible for him to get to his office and we were out of school for about a week. When we were able to get back to school, the news greeted us that we would go to school on Saturdays until the missed time was made up. Believe me, six days a week for about a month of school was enough to stretch everyone’s patience, but we did it and survived.

During this pandemic, I have often wondered how Mr. Taylor would have handled all the days missed. I think he would have had the school doors open for as long as it took to make up the days, even if the school year had to extend through the summer. I can also imagine that he would have had the home economics departments making masks and handing them out so in person learning could continue.

Not only did Mr. Taylor believe in having school for the required number of days, he believed in running a tight ship in well maintained buildings. He expected the grounds to be kept up and attractive. He did not put up with any foolishness and he inspected the schools on a regular basis. Teachers were expected to teach and students were expected to learn. If a teacher needed to use some encouragement for correct behavior, a “board” of education helped motivate a student. He thought it was important for children to choose a vocational or college path. He set the bar high for those administrators who followed him. Parents referred to him as “a good schoolman.”

During his tenure, the schools were forced to integrate and there was a lot of uncertainty from everyone about the changes. Students, parents, teachers, and community leaders looked to him for guidance and assurance. When it was time for the school year to begin,the doors opened and school continued.

I was very fortunate to have been a student while Mr. Taylor was superintendent at West Tallahatchie. He hired the best people to mold our inquiring minds and shape our characters. There was never a clock on the amount of time these teachers spent with us. No one ever dared to say, “This is not in my job description.”

I was even more fortunate to return to my alma mater as a teacher and receive even more guidance on a professional level. The school had changed in many ways from the time I graduated until my return, but the one thing that did not change was Mr. Taylor’s expectation that the doors would open and that learning would take place. Actually, that seems to be a rather simple formula for a successful school.

Granted, much has changed in the decades since I was in high school or taught there. Technology, mobility, information, attitudes, and other factors have influenced those who choose education for a profession. So many challenges greet educators these days but so do the rewards.

So, on this snowy, wintery February day, I am pretty sure Mr. Taylor would not have been able to walk to his office and school would not be open, but being The Schoolman that he was, those doors would not be closed for long.

Fourth memories

THere is something special about the Fourth of July….the celebration of our country, gathering with friends, and honoring those who have served and continue to serve.

This day brings back memories of how we marked this day when I was growing up. The long front porch would serve as a gathering place for friends to enjoy grilled hamburgers, boiled corn,watermelon, baked beans, homemade vanilla and peach ice cream. Baseball games in the lot beside the house were a chance for the kids to challenge the adults and led to spirited rivalry anticipated from year to year. The sounds of the ice cream freezer whirring signaled the delicious dessert to come for the thirty or so hot and hungry guests.

Years later,when I had children of my own, we marked the day with a parade around our neighborhood in Webb. Children pulled pets in red wagons while other rode three wheelers. Adults donned red,white, and blue attire and waved American flags as they walked around the neighborhood. Afterwards we gathered for lemonade and cookies before disbursing for other activities.

Fireworks blazing through the night skies help to lend a festive element to the celebration of our country’s freedom. Always, there are fireworks the mark the day. The sounds of them erupting through the air remind us of the words in the Star Spangled Banner, “the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

The flag is still there…thanks to all who have served and continue to serve. My father and uncle are two of those who answered the call of duty in World War II. Countless others have answered that call and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We live in the best country in the world. Visit others if you doubt it.

We enjoy freedoms that sometimes we take for granted. Today marks our country’s independence. THis country has survived wars,turmoils,difficulties and been through many changes in its young history. Today we remember celebrations marking this day and the reason for it.

Our flag still stands. It still waves “ over the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Blest be the tie

I stood at the old cemetery last week on  a bleak Delta November afternoon to say goodbye to a friend I first met in 1967 at Millsaps College.  I reflected about our friendship and what it had meant to me for all these years as family and friends gathered to pay tribute to a loving mother/grandmother, sibling, educator, Christian; and I recalled the words to an old hymn: “Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.”

For that time, and for all the years and people who have felt her presence, those words rang true and will continue to  reverberate as we remember a life will lived and influences that will go with us for the rest of our lives.

Her courage inspired us as she battled cancer for two and a half years.  Her faith made us stronger, hopeful, and cognizant that each day is precious and is to be lived to the fullest.  Her example bound us to do better, to be better, to value our friendships, and make the time to keep our ties ever present.

For those who knew Mary at Millsaps, she will be forever known as the cowardly lion in the Kappa Delta Wizard of Oz skit.  Who would have predicted that the imaginary dose of courage she received as the cowardly lion would serve her as she encountered trials and tribulations later in life?  Her courage and faith as she fought cancer stand as a testament to the ties that continued beyond the college years.

Our lives took different paths as we finished college, embarked on careers, and had families, but we always seemed to be able to connect when an opportunity presented itself.  Her laughter and sense of humor drew me like a moth to the light and I relished the times we could visit. 

In 2011, our pledge class gathered for a reunion and almost everyone in the class attended to perform a special skit written by Anne Babb Roberts and Ann Munday Priest as only our class could do and only with Mary.  She almost backed out of coming, but she summoned the courage to make the trip to everyone’s delight.  The ties that drew us together in 1967 were in full force for that event and we left saying we would do it again….get together, but not in such grand fashion.  We have not kept that promise and the next time we gather, it will be without our beloved Mary.

As an educator, Mary touched countless lives.  I can only imagine what her classroom would be like, what her school faculty would be like, but I know deep in my heart and soul that the world is a much better place as the ripples of her influence continue to impact the people who walked through the doors of her school.  The courage that bound her to go the extra mile so that the students she was entrusted with would know more, be more, do more is an everlasting testament to the passion and commitment she made to make the world a better place.  I am sure there were times when she thought it was too hard, too stressful, too much; but she summoned the courage to continue until she couldn’t any more.

The grey November skies with the threat of rain created a somber atmosphere at the graveside of Mary Glassco Hubbard, but the rain held off as if in tribute. “When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” I recall these words from the old hymn and pay tribute to a dear friend.  Indeed, the tie that bound us is blest and one I will always treasure.

Note: The words from the hymn “Blest Be the Tie” were written by John Fawcett.

Snow daze

It started early this morning….those first gentle powdery flakes floating down and gently brushing my face as I was finishing my walk. Soon, the flakes became larger and were coming down more quickly. My first thoughts were that this was a fleeting thing and would disappear as quickly as it had begun, but as the day continued so did the downpour of the sky’s powder.

Slowly the ground was covered with the white substance and I began to recall memories of snow days,of adventures made possible only by this blessing of Mother Nature.

Snow ice cream was a delight to be savored on those rare occasions when we had a few inches of snow. Mother would scoop up a pan full of untouched snow and put vanilla flavoring and sugar and a little milk for our snow cream. Oh! What a treat!

We didn’t have a sled but we were not to be outdone.We got a big tire and hooked it onto the back of the truck and our parents and their friends would pull us all over the county while we screamed and shouted with no thoughts of the dangers we could encounter. The angels were surely watching over us.

There were times when the temperatures stayed below freezing so the small streams and ditches would freeze. Out came the rubber boots and Aunt Billie’s ice skates that were a few sizes too big and off we would go to test our skills at ice skating.For some reason, it was never too cold as we sailed across the ice ( mostly on our bottoms). We just knew that we were invincible.

Of course the inevitable snowball fight was a must for where two or more children are gathered in an area covered in snow, an unwritten rule says a snowball fight occurs.Hastily constructed forts provided little shelter from the assault. Our friends who lived a mile down the road were only too happy to join in and form teams to see who could become the victor. I can almost feel the sting of that hurled orb now.

Since we lived in the flat
Delta, there were no hills to slide down so we would go to the railroad tracks with cardboard boxes obtained from the Western Auto store and slide down the only hill around.
What fun!

We could play outside for hours and not feel the cold while reveling in nature’s rare offering. We didn’t care if we would have to make up days in school.
We grasped every minute of our times in the snow and were bound only by our imaginations as to how we would enjoy this rare occurrence.

The snow is subsiding and so are my recollections of days gone by. Now,I simply enjoy the snow as a bystander in awe of this beauty and the tranquility it brings by causing us to move a little slower and marvel at the unblemished canvas of our surroundings.

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare wrote “A rose by any other name smells as sweet.”  Truly,what is in a name!

For the past few years, I have come to realize that our names define us in countless ways. What people call us communicates a level of familiarity and demonstrates how and when someone has known us.

I was given the name Anne Hart by my parents Annie Laurie and James Hart Morrow several decades ago. My father thought that if you named a child, the child should use all the names and he was adamant about that. When I went to college,that is what people calaled me and when I got married and moved back to Tallahatchie County,that is what people called me.

Life happened and I moved away from Webb in Tallahatchie Couny. I went to work at Delta State and found it was just easier to say Anne. So in that chapter of my life,people who knew me , only knew the first name. It seemed simpler and less complicated and then, I was looking for simple and uncomplicated in my life.

However, as I would go back to visit my parents and encountered those who had known me in my younger days, the sound of people calling me Anne Hart gave me a sense of comfort, of belonging, of being in a place where people knew me, knew my history,my family, my trials as well as the tribulations.

Nine months ago, I moved from Bolivar County to Starkville, and as I began to make this place my home, I realized that in this phase or chapter of my life, I wanted to be called Anne Hart. It was the name I was given. It is the name that evokes a sense of belonging. It requires that a person pay attention when being introduced and understands that for me, the double name is important. Use of a double name is a southern tradition that is fading along with many traditions and maybe that is a reason I hang on to it. That, like saying yes ma’am and no sir are part of that tradition and I hang on to those as well.

This is not to say that the people I met and became friends with in Bolivar County are not friends or a special part of my life. It just means that  I share a different experience there. It also makes me realize I should have taken the time there to identify myself more clearly.

As I open a new chapter in a new place, I want to learn from past errors and start here with who I am.

There have been many chapters in this life’s journey: childhood,college, work, retirement. Through them all, I have met people who are near and dear to my heart, Anne Hart that is.

The Answer

It never occurred to me that people had so many questions until I made two announcements about life-changing events.

When I retired in April, 2016, from “The Bolivar Commercial”, people asked me what I was going to do with my time because their first assumption was that I would be bored after working for 45.5 years–not just at the “Bolivar Commercial,” but in education too.

“Are you going to get a part-time job?” Are you going to travel?” Will you be moving?”

My answer was, “I am going to explore  my options,” and that seemed to satisfy the curious for a while.

I enjoyed several weeks of not having to wake up to the alarm clock and then began to think about my next steps- the next phase-the last hurrah before the nursing home and looked at the best place for me. Should I stay in Cleveland where I had been for 16 years or should I move and if I moved, where? Now, I was the one asking the questions.

All the arrows pointed to Starkville so I contacted a realtor, found a place I loved, listed my house in Boyle and moved. Things just fell into place. If the truth were told, I really thought I would take a couple of years to make this move,but then, the reality of   a few more birthdays creeping up hit me and the notion that if I were to make a move, I could not wait for the calendar pages to turn. Sometime in the future was not an option and as my Mother would say, “You better strike while the iron is hot.”

Believe me, packing up and moving in August with temperatures nearing the triple digit mark was not what she meant,though.

So,the movers came. My friends asked, “Why Starkville?” I never in a million years realized I needed an answer. I knew why Starkville was the right place for me but not that I would need an answer for anyone else.

“Do you have family there? Are you getting a job there? Do you have a boyfriend there?” So many questions! Who would have thought?  Well, I decided I had to come up with a standard answer that would discourage further questions, so I pondered.

The movers unloaded my valuables and I began to settle in and meet people. After the “Where did you move from?” which was not hard to answer , the inevitable “Why did you move here?” ” Do you have family here?” “Do you have a job here?” came. When I answered in the negative, puzzled expressions and silence greeted me next. I needed an answer that would curtail further questions and one that would satisfy the curious without seeming rude or flippant or causing anyone to contact Homeland Security.

I scoured the internet to see if there was a resource or guidebook but there seemed to be no reference material for my dilemma. Surely, there was something like” Twenty Questions: Twenty Answers” but alas, nothing like that exists so I started making a list of answers that I might use in case anyone else might need to have this resource.

Here are a few answers I thought of and they are not in any particular order or importance.  1. I like moving. 2. I like moving–especially in the hottest weather. 3.  Change is good. 4.  I am on a quest to see how many people I can meet and set a world’s record.  5.  I am in a contest to see how much stuff I can get rid of.  6. I am training for the next Olympics and want to take advantage of the athletic facilities at MS State. 7. Life is short and we have to seize the moment- to do things when we can and while we can.

Any more questions? Pick an answer.