The incredible gift

Welcome to a typical morning with Mama and Daddy, August 2013

Welcome to a typical morning with Mama and Daddy, August 2013

“The incredible gift of the ordinary!  Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life.” Macrina Wiederkehar

One of the hardest things about the past year has been the need to cancel no fewer than three scheduled visits to see my parents.  It’s good that our grandson happened to be born in Atlanta, so I was finally able to stay with Mama and Daddy when I went to see Grady.  I had not seen them for more than a year, and it felt like forever.

I took this photo one morning after arising to an everyday scene that becomes more dear to me each time I see it.  I know a day likely will come when I would give so much for one more chance to wake up to this sight.  Mama and Daddy were preparing freshly picked beans from their organic garden, and Mama protested when I brought out my camera (and she might be mortified if Daddy tells her about the photo appearing on this blog), but she has always been a good sport about such things.

I think she looks pretty good for a woman in her 80’s who has just gotten up and hasn’t yet dressed, combed her hair or put on makeup.  As is her frequent custom, she prioritized getting a start on dinner before tending to her personal appearance. I know you can probably guess who she sent out to pick those beans, long before I got up!

I had enthusiastically devoured the freshly picked purple-hull peas and cornbread they fixed the day before, so I appreciate her fresh vegetables and wanted a photo of her as I’ve seen her countless times. To me she is beautiful any time, as is my Daddy, whose longsuffering smile has always brightened my spirits.

Today you probably will come in contact with at least a few people who are dear to you. Chances are there won’t be any special occasions to photograph, but it’s the everyday memories we will treasure most anyway.  Take a minute or two to snap some digital or mental images of your extraordinary ordinary life, and cherish these incredible gifts for many years to come.


  1. Your blog entry of the July 16 instant was wildly popular – at least the photo gained attention that I know of, from the “cell phone photographer’s” family, as far away as Massachusetts.

    This entry is better, in my opinion; and I know the subjects well.

    • Thanks Eric. You do have a insider’s view of this, and have probably seen this vignette more often than I have!

  2. Sheila

    Julia, the special occasion here was captured and is so beautiful for many is a charming setting and I so appreciate that you shared this time, not only with them but with others. Hope all is well with y’all mid week. Your southern friend, Sheila

    • Sheila, as one southern “girl” to another, I figured you have probably seen your share of such tables. I am so glad you like it!

      • You two southern girls need to realize such tables are against the law in the erstwhile southern city, Austin, Texas. (They outlawed plastic bags.)

        • All I can say is, they must have less to worry about there than we do in the rest of the country!

      • Sheila

        We speak the same cuisine …….peas and cornbread (and sweet tea)! Great blog, again. Sheila

        • And the cornbread is best if it’s cooked in a skillet!! Mama would tell you that you MUST have some sort of greens, too!

      • Now, now. Austin may disapprove of the plastic bags, but we LOVE the green beans and home gardens. We just pick them in our skinny jeans while sipping an organic latte…

        • I just hope the latte is made from FAIR TRADE coffee beans! πŸ™‚ Actually I really loved Austin, though I haven’t seen it since 1995.

  3. Ryan

    I see Papa in her face. Glad you got to see them, Gia.

    • Thanks Ryan. I do think Mama bears more resemblance (in looks and personality) to her father than her mother, although she has a bit of both (as I hope we all do).

      • I agree with Ryan, and Papa would probably be pretty happy about the green beans as well.

        • Yes, he taught Sybil everything she knows about growing food, I would guess.

  4. Ellis Anderson

    This entry and photo brought tears to my eyes. They absolutely radiate love and strength. Your mother is beautiful in a way no fashion magazine will ever know. Your parents must be so very proud of you! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thanks, Ellis! We are both “Eastern Air Lines brats,” for which we can thank our fathers, and though your mother had a much softer and sweeter personality than my mother’s, I have no doubt that she was just as strong inside. We are so fortunate.

  5. so true … memories of my grandma & mama on treasured above all earthly ‘stuff’. In my heart and prayers with love

    • Thank you Kate. Our loved ones are with us in our hearts forever, even when we are separated by distance or death.

  6. MaryAnn

    Lovely! For a myriad of reasons!

    • Thanks, Mary Ann!

  7. they are lovely people, and i picture the stained fingers from those purple-hulled peas!!!! yes, we should always savor all moments with out loved ones!

    • Thanks, Z! I remember many summers of purple fingernails after shelling those peas for what seemed like hours – they were so delicious it was hard to complain about the work :-).

  8. maggie clure

    Beautiful couple!! This photo brings back wonderful memories of growing up on a farm in SW Ga…..We had very little money growing up, but lots of love and that was most important. We kids used to sit around in the summer, shelling peas and butterbeans and have so much fun!! Wonderful memories…Thanks, Julia PS I still cook my cornbread in a cast iron skillet!!

    • Aren’t those fun memories of shelling time? The butterbeans would have such beautiful speckled patterns on them, and were much easier on the fingernails than the purple-hull peas. Sometimes we would have a “bribe” of ice-cold watermelon when we got finished. To this day, butterbeans are my favorite vegetable, and there is no fruit I love better than watermelon! On a hot day, an ice-cold watermelon cools you down inside like nothing else. I’m so happy you like the blog!

  9. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    • Thanks for the reblog! I love, love, love freshly picked corn. Jeff’s Daddy used to grow some really good corn, and Mama and Daddy used to grow it too, though not lately. There is really nothing to equal freshly picked vegetables. A home-grown tomato from the garden is a totally different experience than the kinds bought in supermarkets.

  10. Carlyle

    Your mother and I enjoyed and appreciated so much the sentiments expressed by you and your commentators. It helps to reflect on the real importance of the “everyday” in our ordinary lives. Thanks for the love transmitted by your blog..

    • Daddy, I’m so happy you like the blog and the comments. As crazy as technology can be, it has its good points too, such as being able to share memories of a low-tech way of life that is all too rare nowadays. Thanks for being here! And have an extra slice of skillet cornbread for me tonight. πŸ™‚

      • Sheila

        If there is a sliver of cornbread left, Mr. Carlyle, would you enjoy it for me? Until tomorrow …..Sheila

        • πŸ™‚

  11. Those moments are so dear aren’t they? I wish I had more pictures like this. Breakfast with my Dad was something I always enjoyed. He’d make scrambled eggs with cheese and onion even though his favourite was over-easy. Dad always walked me to the car, with a hug and a kiss goodbye, he’d stand waving till I turned the corner. I’d watch in the review and wave back. I can still see him standing there. Oh-o, teary now. I’m so glad you got there for a visit, I know it means the world to them too. How’s that little grand-baby? You and Jeff must be over the moon.

    • Boomdee, sounds like you must have been a Daddy’s girl as I was. I find I have that in common with several friends. It’s a blessing that stays with us for life. Grady is doing fine and we are excited that Jeff plans to go see him soon – just for a few hours (out and back the same day, on a weekend when he doesn’t have treatment scheduled) but I know it will be more therapeutic for him than any chemo or radiation! Thanks for being here!

  12. Nancy

    I cannot begin to tell you how many beans I broke and strung during my childhood!! Mom would sit and watch her “stories” as we strung and broke them and then she’d can them for cold winter nights. I made money for late high school and college years by picking beans for a farmer who sold them commercially. I earned 50 cents a bushel. Probably explains why I’m not crazy about store beans even today….they just don’t taste the same and makes my back hurt from memories of picking them in the hot sun on my knees most of the day!!

    • Nancy, is it my imagination or did we used to have wonderful canned beans from your mother that you brought back to Nashville? I remember when I was first learning to cook and you showed me how to add basil to the store-bought beans to make them taste a bit better. What I remember most from your mother’s kitchen was her home-churned butter! Remember how she laughed when I asked her why it wasn’t bright yellow? πŸ™‚ Almost as hard as your Daddy laughed when we went out to throw food to the cows from the flat bed of his truck and I got scared when they came stampeding toward us! Or when I got scared at how people driving in the mountains never stayed in their own lanes going around the curves! The first time I saw Shady Valley, I felt as if I had stepped into a set from the Sound of Music. East Tennessee will always be the most beautiful part of the state to me.

  13. I love this post. It is so short, but made me think so much!
    You are right, it is important not to forget about cherishing everyday situations. It is all about being in the present moment.

    • Thanks for visiting! I’m so happy you like the post.

  14. What are you saying? Your mother is a gorgeous woman who needs no make-up. A beautiful image. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Tony – I’m sure my mother will be happy to hear about your nice comment! πŸ™‚

  15. What a lovely photo of your parents. I bet those beans were good – they taste so much nicer fresh from the garden.

    • Yes, a vegetable garden is on my “someday” list. We have tried tomato plants and they grow well, but we can’t figure out how to keep the squirrels from eating them before we are able to! They are cute to watch though, so I suppose I can survive on store-bought veggies for now.

  16. Really Incredible Gift. It reminded me of my good olden days lived with my parents.

    • Yes, those days are a gift that keeps on giving; I am so happy to know you have been blessed with fond memories of your parents. In a very real sense I will always have my parents with me even when they have passed from this life; their guidance and love stays with us always. Thanks for being here, and for your comment.

  17. Connie Reed

    Julia, so glad we have connected again on FB. It is just wonderful seeing this about your parents!

    • Thanks, Connie. I have driven past Briarwood a couple of times over the past two decades (of course it’s no longer Briarwood) and I always think of you and your family when I pass your house. Thanks for visiting my blog! Be sure to come back on the 9th and enter the contest (click on “You’re Invited!” to read more).

  18. Came back to reflect on your photo here and your poignant words. Glad you have the memories (and photo) of this visit xoK

    • Thank you K. I too will treasure that morning, and I’m so glad I took some “heart photos” to go along with my digital one. ❀

  19. donbuck

    Just revisited this post. Made me think of all the good times hunting with Carlyle and enjoying the evening meals with him at the cabin. I didn’t know then how special those times would be to me now. Loved Carlyle’s hunter stew with barley. Loved the cabin and the wood burning stove. Loved my early years of bowhunting and the special things I learned about the local deer and what their favorite foods were. Once Carlyle killed a buck in a deep draw far away from the road. I assumed that he would wait for me to help him or come get me for help if he needed it. After a few more hours hunting, I went to where Carlyle had been hunting only to find a gut pile and drag marks. By the time I got to the cabin, the deer was hanging from the meat pole. He had dragged that deer himself probably 500yds that started with a steep climb to get out of the draw! I believe he was in his late 60’s at the time. He was one tough bird!

    • Don, he really was a tough guy in so many ways, though he was also Mr. Rogers in other ways. (Carla and I both see a lot of Mr. Rogers in our Daddy.) As your post reminded me, Daddy was the ultimate do-it-yourself guy, not unusual for an Eagle Scout, I suppose. I grew up thinking my Daddy could do anything as I had watched him lay brick, build closets, convert closets to bathrooms, sketch or paint fascinating pictures with oils, cast and load his own bullets, teach us all target shooting with both bows and guns, help Mama create all sorts of decorative things from Γ©tagΓ¨res to window cornices to costumes, and in his later years, grow or hunt a good portion of the foods he and Mama served at their table. Plus he knew the Bible and all sorts of literature almost from memory, and would quote poetry and sing to us — oh and I guess I should mention, he was also a pretty good pilot and we all had the fun of a few stunts in the old Aeronca. πŸ™‚ Thanks for giving me an excuse to walk down memory lane. I miss him most at this time of year. Daddy was really good at “decking the halls” with actual fresh evergreens when we lived at our East Point home, where our lot was full of natural Christmas foliage. He really knew how to celebrate the season.

      While we are at it, I must mention that I likewise have many happy memories of your Mom and Dad. What sweet people and wonderful examples for a lonely kid growing up. Your Mom was always there with a kind and generous word for me when I was feeling down and out. Please give my love and best wishes to her. She is truly one in a million.


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