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A Tech Homecoming Memory

When the phone rings close to midnight, it’s never good news.  “There’s been a fire.  Can you come help?” 

My friends and I wanted to, but we had a big problem.  We couldn’t get there.  Not because we couldn’t walk the half-mile there, but because we were locked in our Tennessee Tech dormitory.  In 1967, Friday night women’s dorm curfew was 11:00 p.m. and the doors were locked for the night.

At 10:59 we girls had stood on the well-lit steps of Meadows Hall and kissed our boyfriends good-night.  They left to put the finishing touches on their fraternity homecoming yard decoration which was to be judged early Saturday morning. 

The call for help had come on the hallway dorm phone. “The fraternity decoration has burned.  We have to help build it back!”  The message went from room to room along the hallway dorm.

Many of us had spent hours and hours that afternoon and evening stuffing 4-inch tissue paper squares into chicken wire.  In only a few minutes, the twenty-foot-tall Golden Eagle had gone up in flames.  Only the wire structure remained, but the fraternity brothers were determined to complete the decoration again..

Was there any way we girls could get out of the dorm and help? A loud siren alarm would alert the dorm mother, who was a graduate student, if we opened a door.  Climbing out windows that were covered with screens didn’t seem possible.  Besides, none of us were risktakers who were willing to break the rules and suffer the consequences.

What if we explained to the dorm mother what had happened and asked to leave for a few hours?  What if we begged? What were the chances she’d let us leave? 

Relying on the adage that the worst that could happen was that we’d be told no, a few of us donned our raincoats over our baby doll pajamas and knocked on our dorm mother’s apartment door. We must have looked desperate or frightened because she immediately welcomed us into her small living room.

I’m sure we poured out our hearts and probably shed a few tears, maybe from the nervousness of asking, as we explained what had happened and asked to leave the dorm to help rebuild the destroyed decoration.

Now, I wonder if our dorm mother confirmed the fire with the fire department? Did she call the Dean of Women to get permission for us leave?  Or did she trust us enough to take the responsibility herself to unlock the dorm front door and watch us pile in our boyfriends’ cars in the middle of the night?

Under the illumination of street lights on Dixie Avenue and the beams of cars’ headlights, we stuffed every chicken wire hole with tissue paper and the Golden Eagle stood to be judged. 

Neither Husband nor I remember if the decoration won, but we agree that it was the only time he picked me up at a Tech dorm after midnight.  

And it’s a happy memory.


A Clear Blue Sky October Day

search-1When I drove past the Putnam County Courthouse yesterday, I paused to remember an event that took place there on October 28, 1938. The day my parents married. I don’t have a single picture of them on their wedding day. Just pictures in my mind.

Mom was young, only 19. Dad was 26. Seems quite a gap in ages. But I’m sure Mom was mature for her age; she was the oldest of three sisters and had been forced to take the responsibility of her family’s daily home life when her mother became ill. Dad had completed three years of college and taught in the Pickett County schools and worked with his grandfather on the family farm.

One summer Sunday afternoon after Mom graduated from high school, she and Dad were among the many young people who gathered for a weekly pick-up baseball game in a farm field. After the game, Dad offered Mom a ride home and that was the first time they were in a car together. Mom’s sister told me that after that Sunday afternoon, Dad was always around their house.

With both their parents’ blessings, Dad and Mom travelled alone from their homes in Byrdstown to Cookeville on that October day in 1938. Mom worn a plum colored, knee-length satin dress that she’d made. When they arrived at the courthouse, they had all the paperwork in order and a judge agreed to marry them. All they needed was a witness.

It was suggested that someone from a store could be a witness. While Mom waited in the judge’s office, Dad walked across the street to Terry Brother’s Department Store (now the Lighthouse.) As soon as he walked in the store a sales clerk asked if he needed someone to ‘stand up with him and his bride.’ So their only witness was a woman who had apparently witnessed many other weddings.

Mom and Dad took a weekend honeymoon trip to the Smokey Mountain National Park. As they drove through Lenoir City late that Friday afternoon, they heard music, a high school band playing. Dad took advantage of the situation and told his new bride, “Listen, the band is playing just for us.” That’s the only event of the honeymoon that Mom shared with her younger sisters.

I wish I’d known my parents on their wedding day and during their early years of marriage. By the time I came along, they’d been married for almost nine years and they had my brother, five years older than me. Dad had served time in the army during World War II. While he was away, Mom divided her time living with her parents and her mother-in-law.

The best glimpse I have of my parents as a young couple is a letter Dad wrote to Mom on March 20, 1946, from Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was stationed as a solider. The first lines are, “This is the letter I’ve dreamed of writing. I’m on my way home.” And the last lines read, “Darling, I do love you. Right now I’m just so darned happy.”

I can imagine that on a clear blue sky fall day in 1938 inside the Putnam County Courthouse, a beautiful bride and a handsome groom were both just so darned happy.


Memory Games

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 8.27.35 PM“I wonder if that really works,” I said to Husband.  We’d just watched a series of television commercials that interrupted one of our favorite programs, NCIS. Husband, seated across the room in his favorite recliner, looked at me. He turned his palms up, tilted his head, and squinted his eyes.  I read his body language, “What?”

“That website.  Lumoisity.com.” I said.  Husband frowned.  It was obvious that he didn’t know what I was talking about.

“Did you hear that commercial?”  I didn’t wait for an answer.  “Lumosity is online games to improve brain function and memory. I wonder if it would help me remember.”

Husband shook his head.  “I don’t know.”  He’d turned his attention back to NCIS. I picked up the pencil and paper that I keep next to my chair and wrote ‘Look up Lumosity.com’ and lay the note next to my computer.

Two days later as Husband and I travelled in his car, we listened to NPR on the radio.  “The following program is sponsored by Lumosity.com,” the announcer said while we were stopped at a red light.

“Hmmm. Lumosity?  Seems like we’ve heard before,” I said.  “What was it?  Do you remember?”  Once again I read Husband’s body language.  He slowly turned his head toward me, barely grinned, and raised his eyebrows. “You think it’s something I should remember?” I said.

He nodded. “You will.”

“Did I ask another silly question?” I said.  He didn’t respond.

A few minutes later, I shouted.  “Lumosity!  Memory games on the computer.  That’s it, isn’t it?” I laughed at myself, and Husband, true to his nature, was so kind that he didn’t tease me.  “It’s a word we don’t hear often and it was a couple of days ago that we saw that commercial,” he said.

My forgetfulness was my sign that I should check out Lumosity.  I registered for the free version using my email address as my user name and I chose my password.  And for the next 20 minutes, I clicked bouncing colored balls on my computer screen.  I completed numerical and geometric patterns.  I identified objects from one picture to the next.  I felt pretty good about my brain function.  For three days, I played brain games and then over the weekend, I didn’t practice bouncing balls and patterns.

Monday morning, I opened Lumosity to log in.  I typed my user name and password.  And this message popped up:  Invalid email address/password combination.  I hate that message!  Three times, I typed both my address and password, trying different passwords, and I got the same response.  On the fourth try I read,  ‘Would you like to reset your password?’  NO!  I shut down my computer.

That afternoon my four-year-old Grand and I played a card game, Matching. We spread 24 cards face down on the table, and took turns turning over two cards at a time and hoped to match the pictures on the cards.  I quickly matched the pairs of hippopotamuses and toucans.  At the end of the game, we’d both made six matches.

Too bad about that online brain function game – whatever it’s called.  Playing cards will keep my memory going just fine and I don’t need a user name or password. All my Grand required was a lap and hug.