Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Some Gave All - My Confederate Soldier

Twenty-five years or so ago, my mom presented me with a family heirloom.  Though we’re not exactly sure when it was built, we believe it was crafted in the early 1700s, or perhaps maybe even a little earlier.  It’s a beautiful blanket chest with two drawers along the bottom.  Constructed with the dovetail technique, it is complete with a little “secret compartment” inside.  Legend has it that early on the tradition was begun that the chest would be passed along to the youngest daughter of each generation.  As my good fortune would have it, I have fallen into that lineage.  When my grandmother received it, it was in a sad state of disrepair, and spent many years in storage.  My mom wasn’t that interested in restoring it for herself, but because I was fascinated with it from a young age, she surprised me, and had it restored for me.  The tradition is safe for two more generations following me, as I have a daughter, and she also has a daughter.  I hope that when I’m gone, they will both love the chest (and its heritage) as much as me. 

When my grandmother inherited the chest, inside the “secret compartment” were found some brittle hand-written letters, a Bible, and some kind of medical booklet.  The letters are fascinating.  They were written using the quill-and-ink method, and the characters were written in a very fancy font.  The spelling, grammar, and punctuation were atrocious (leave it to the Grammar Nazi to notice that), but the document was pleasing to the eye, what with the fancy font.  Tattered and worn, some of the words were illegible, and the paper so fragile that we only took them out on one or two occasions that I remember.

The letters were written by an ancestor, a confederate soldier in the Civil War – the son of the woman who was, at that time, in possession of the blanket chest. She kept them all tucked safely inside the secret compartment, and I like to imagine she would read them each day, perhaps holding them close to her heart, burying her face into the folds, washing the ink with her tears.  There is no love and devotion like that of a mother, and this we know - the mother of a soldier in battle fights her own war with fear and dread every second of every day until her child is safely home.  The letters told about “hiding from the damn Yankees” in a ditch, and about drinking bootleg whiskey smuggled in by another soldier.  He spoke of his love for her, his siblings, and his home, and longed for the day that the war would be over, and he would be reunited with them.

One day the dreaded news arrived that he had been wounded in battle.  His mother, weak and frail from having delivered a baby just a few weeks earlier, was determined to go to him.  When she found the name of the hospital where he was being treated, she persuaded someone to drive her in a wagon to be by his side.  (I always think of the scene in Gone With the Wind of Mellie and baby Beau in the wagon fleeing Atlanta as it burned.)  Their journey lasted for days, but finally they reached the hospital.  Only to learn that her son had died a day or two before. How tragic a loss! 

Our family has been very fortunate with regard to KIA losses during my lifetime, which must also include my dad’s stent during the Korean War.  Though obviously before my lifetime, I wouldn't even be here without his return from duty.  There have been many conflicts and battles since then, and countless soldiers have died in distant lands, far from the arms of their loved ones... but thankfully my family has been spared from death or injury.  That is somewhat miraculous, considering the roll call of soldiers among us.  My dad Luther Carroll, my brother Michael, Uncle Bill, Uncle Billy P, Uncle Gene, Uncle Billy W, and Uncle Ricky.  So very thankful for their service and their safety!!

There are so many others, though, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom – standing tall on the Lexington Green in Massachusetts, shivering in the snow on a cold German country road, on a ship in Pearl Harbor, landing on the beach at Normandy, crawling through a rice paddy in Viet Nam, or in the hot desert sands of the middle east.

This is the only story of battle casualty in my family that I know for sure, though.  Today I’d like to honor the memory and the life of that young soldier, my ancestor, hardly more than a boy himself, who hid from the Yankees and drank bootleg whiskey.  His blood stained the dirt of a country divided, and he gave his all. 

Today we honor those who gave all. We remember the fallen.  Those who are buried in a foreign grave, or who returned home in a flag-draped box, or whose bones lie unmarked and forgotten, here on our own soil, or in faraway lands.

Memorial Day 2013.  Hopefully, for a while yet, Freedom Will Ring throughout the land.  But it comes at a very high cost.  Thank You, God, for those willing to pay the cost.  As we enjoy a holiday filled with parties and barbecues, may we never, EVER forget the lives lost, the families ripped apart, all in the name of purchasing and securing our Freedom. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


SES Alma Mater

The bells of our dear school
Ring out far and wide
To call to her loved ones 
As we leave her side
When out in the world 
As our fortunes we seek
We know her pride in us
Will never grow weak.
The bells of our dear school
Ah, hear they are calling
The old ones the young ones
Who've come from her halls
And so my dear school mates
When school days have past
The school bells will ring out, ring out
For you and me!

Statham Elementary School.  Formerly Statham High School.  The roots of these halls run deep in our little town.  It was built in 1906, with its first graduating class in 1909.  All three graduates were female.  In 1940, the gymnasium construction project was begun, but was halted because of WWII.  The gym was completed in 1942.  In the school year 1956-57, the outlying county schools consolidated with the high school in Winder, resulting in one high school for the county, and six elementary schools scattered throughout the county, grades 1 through 8.  My mom graduated in 1957, which meant that she was in the first county-wide graduating class of 57.  Kinda sad - to be pulled away from the school she knew all her life, and to which she felt a great loyalty, for the last year.  At any rate, for the next 15 years, there were five county elementary schools, 1st through 8th grade. (The Winder schools were different, and I'm not sure how they were structured.)  Yours truly walked the halls of SES from the 64-65 school year until the 71-72 school year.  We were the last to graduate 8th grade.
1972.  Last Graduating 8th grade Class from SES
Click on photo to enlarge, and see how many you can identify!

Beginning the 72-73 year, the county consolidated 6th, 7th, and 8th  grades into middle school.  There were advantages to doing it that way, but I truly wouldn't trade my eight years at SES for anything.  I don't remember an awful lot about my earlier years in school, but I do remember 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and can honestly say those were probably the best years of my childhood.  There was a cohesiveness among my classmates - these were the same kids we played with outside of school, went to church with, and our parents were all friends or acquaintances.  We were a less mobile society back in those days, and many of us only "went to town" on Saturdays for groceries, and stayed pretty close to home the rest of the time.  I'm sure there are a lot of things we missed by not going to middle school (such as the band program, since we didn't have a band instructor in the outlying schools).  But I wouldn't trade it for the experience of growing up with my friends for anything.  Once we hit high school, though we all remained friends, there were hundreds of other kids to meet, and new friends to make.  Those of us who went 1st through 8th grade remain more closely knit, even after all these years, than the kids who leave after 5th grade.

My mom attended SES, as did I, as did Whitney, and now my grandchildren can be found learning and playing within her walls.  What a wonderful privilege!  Generation Four.  I know for sure there are other students who share the same "pedigree", as no matter how wonderful the world outside our zip code may be, there are those of us who love our little town, and choose to stay.  Some of my mom's teachers were still around to teach me, and some of my teachers were still around to teach Whitney. Some of Whitney's teachers are still at SES, so perhaps the pattern will be repeated.  How I love my small-town life!!!

This past Thursday was the last day of school for Barrow County.  It was a busy week with activities, award ceremonies, field trips, and last-day-of-school festivities.  Thankfully, my job allows me a bit of flexibility with my schedule, and I was able to attend many of the events.  Wednesday, the kindergarten kids were recognized as promoted to first grade, and each class performed a song . Leyland received an award for Art, and received a nice certificate for completing kindergarten.  And of course, she was adorable through it all.  After the awards ceremony,  her class took a walking field trip to downtown Statham, two blocks away.  There they visited a few local businesses, the police department, city hall, and the post office, where they sent themselves some mail.  They met the mayor, and other city officials, and saw up close and personal the things they had been learning about their community.  After a picnic lunch at the Veteran's Memorial Park, they walked back to school.  What a great way to combine learning and fun!

There's this thing they do at SES for the graduating 5th graders.  I don't know when they started it.  I've never seen anything like it - it was amazing!  It's called The Catwalk.  All the "undergraduates" are allowed to leave their desks and line the hallways throughout the school.  At the appointed time, the fifth graders form a line and walk through the halls, to the sounds of the younger children clapping and cheering for them.  (Corey's class had little jingle-bell thingies - so precious.)  Because I didn't understand what "The Catwalk" was, when mom, dad, and I arrived at school, we went straight into the auditorium to get a good seat.  When I heard the announcement for the younger kids to line the hallways, I decided to go check it out.

Oh. My.  Talk about a lump in my throat.  Before I could leave my seat, the PA system starts playing "that graduation music".  You know the music of which I speak.  Hearing that music always makes me teary-eyed anyway, so I knew I was in trouble. Seeing all the children, parents, and grandparents lining the hallways waiting for the 5th graders, hearing that music... yeah, I was pretty much a mess.  Finally, from far away down the hall, you could hear the cheering begin, and like a wave, the cheers and clapping spread throughout the building... and soon the confetti-covered students began walking by.  Teachers were  wiping tears, a few students were sobbing, and many parents were too (and I'm such a softie - I can hardly see the screen to type this, as even the memory triggers a few more tears!)  I think I'll need a sedative by the time she graduates from high school....  After The Catwalk, they presented the 5th graders with awards and certificates, and then we went to their classrooms for photo ops.  Mary loves her teacher and classmates so much, she decided to hang out for the rest of the day, instead of going home early.

Mary (Second from left on the back row) and her class

Go Mary!!

Mary and Ms. Gamble

It wasn't quite time for Corey's party, but I happened to find his classroom in the cafeteria, so we got to have lunch together.  Soon it was time for his ice-cream party on the playground, and photos with his teachers, Miss Amanda and Miss Denae.  How we love these women!!  They are truly angels, and we will miss them so much.  More photos, more tears.  Each student came home with a Summer Fun Bucket with all kinds of fun things inside, along with a framed cap-and-gown photo of the kids.  Corey's is awesome!

Picture of the picture.  Too adorable for words!!

Waiting patiently for the ice cream bar
Ice Cream!!!

Miss Amanda.  Best Teacher Ever!  We love her so much!

Miss Denae!  She totally ROCKS!!

Leyland's class had a blow-out party as well!  After enjoying lots of goodies to eat, her teacher, Ms. Lefebvre, shared a DVD that she had compiled with music and photos throughout the year.  I happened to glance over at her several times while the DVD was playing, to find her quietly wiping her eyes, while smiling bravely.  Afterwards, she handed out a goodie bag to each child, with a copy of the DVD inside.  YAY!  On the outside of the bag was a poem, and knowing the kids wouldn't take the time to read it (yes! they can read!), she read it out loud.  While sobbing.  Oh dear.  I should have taken a hanky for the day.  

Ms. Lefebvre, Leyland, and Ms. Edwards.  Teacher Love!!

Leyland waiting patiently for the party to start.

Leyliebug and Gigi!

Leyliebug and LillyAnn.  BFFs!

Something happened to me that day.  It reminds me of the scene in 
The Grinch movie where the Grinch's heart grows and grows until it finally bursts the seams of the "x-ray box".  Not that my heart has ever been too small where my grandchildren are concerned - quite the contrary. It has always been full and overflowing with Greemaw love.  Which is why it surprised me so much that it seemed my heart grew and grew even more that day.  I suppose it was just the emotions of the day, the gratitude for being able to participate, and seeing with my own eyes how much other people love these babies too.  And what a blessing that the kids were excited and proud for Greemaw (and Gigi) to be there. The little ones wanted to be by my side the entire time, and would tell others "This is my Greemaw."  There was nowhere on earth I'd rather have been than once again inside the walls of my beloved school, holding their little hands, seeing my grandchildren excel in the education process, and knowing that the foundation of their future is on solid ground in the hands of Statham Elementary School.