Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I looked out upon a world that had become a bouquet of dogwoods, “snowballs,” thrift, cherry blossoms, pansies, violas, pinks (Sweet Williams), bridal wreath, snapdragons, wild crabapples, red-top, blueberry blooms, wild azalea (tree honeysuckle), Cherokee roses, Lady Banks roses, Seven-Sisters roses, wisteria (both purple and white) and even a few primroses, not due till May!

Dogwoods, bridal wreaths, “snowballs” and white wisteria have appeared this week in their glory, like brides prematurely at the altar. Azaleas, like bride’s maids, appearing at the door of spring, are coming down the aisle, after the bride, oddly, in one lovely gown of petals after another.

There is breathless beauty all about.

I lost a dear friend this past week, Gertrude (Edson) Nelson, 77, born March 30, 1933, died Fri., March 18, 2011, in a Pensacola hospice. She left her daughters, Loretta (Mrs. Phillip Mott) of Andalusia and Sue (Mrs. David Berthaume) of Mobile, as well as her son, Don Nelson, his wife Gail, of Fayetteville, Ga., seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, her brothers, Eddie Edson and Wallace Edson, and sisters, Agnes Craddick, Linda Gorum and Pauline Carter.

Visitation was at Foreman’s on Mon., March 21, the first full day of spring, a warm and sunny morning, 10 – 11:45 a.m., followed by a graveside ceremony next to the late Bill Nelson’s, her husband’s, grave in Andalusia Memorial Cemetery.

A picture of Mrs. Nelson stood next to her closed casket, which was covered with dozens of her favorite flower, the yellow rose, nestled amid baby’s breath. Beautiful floral tributes flanked the coffin.

The graveside service was at noon. Mrs. Nelson’s nephew, Larry Stewart, pastor at West Highland Baptist Church, spoke lovingly of his “Aunt Gertrude” and read scriptures about Dorcas, ending with prayer.

Mrs. Nelson had requested that a family friend, Joe Wingard, speak at her funeral. His eulogy follows:

“There’s a children’s book called ‘The Giving Tree’ that reminds me of Gertrude.

“A tree eventually gives all it has for a friend – leaves for playing, limbs for swinging, apples to eat and sell, companionship, shade, branches for a house, its trunk for a boat, till all that’s left is a stump for resting.

“Like the tree, Gertrude gave and gave and gave till there seemed nothing left to give.

“Even then, she gave the example of a Christian life and a lifetime of precious memories.

“Gertrude wore herself out, doing for family and friends and neighbors, cooking, cleaning, running errands, sitting with the sick and the lonely, you-name-it – Gertrude was there.

“If you needed help, she wasn’t too good to sweep your house and mop your floor. She took on herself the humblest tasks. She was a hard-working soul with not a lazy bone in her body.

“She was proud of what she had and took good care of it. I could call her ‘Miss Clean,’ because she kept her house just so.

“She loved the outdoors, too, and worked in her flower beds as long as she could get breath in her poor, ol’ body.

“I don’t think she ever turned anyone away from her home. It was a regular Motel Gertrude.

“Then she’d cook and cook and cook. I’ve never known anyone to match her potato salad and lemonade.

“The Gertrude I knew was small of stature but had a heart as big as all outdoors. She loved her family and loved life. She got every bit of joy she could out of it.

“I loved to see her smile and hear her laugh.

“She loved people and was ready to go every opportunity she had.

“If ever there were a heart that loved, it was her heart.

“If ever there were a heart that was kind, generous, sympathetic, encouraging, brave, optimistic, fun-loving, it was Gertrude’s heart.

“Gertrude’s love had feet. She didn’t just talk; she did.

“For her children, she was friend as well as mother.

“Near the end she said, ‘I’m ready to be with the Lord if He’s ready for me.’

“Well, He’s ready and mighty happy to welcome Gertrude into glory.”

After the funeral the family and friends met at Mrs. Nelson’s house for a meal, contributed by friends and neighbors.

Last weekend, I traveled to Birmingham, stopping in Greenville for lunch at Cracker Barrel with Mrs. Gotrocks at the Hopalong Cassidy table.

Taking the “Double Nickel” (55) north, I admired cascades of South Carolina yellow jasmine, hanging wisteria, both purple and white and roadside clovers, red, white and yellow.

At Greenville’s “clover leaf,” the Knock-out roses were already turning into blushes.

Above Montgomery I passed several familiar sights – the old water wheel and its sign, “America! Love it or leave it!” the sign of a devil and the words, “Go to church or the Devil will get you!” the large Confederate flag erected by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Durbin Farms roadside stand with its fresh produce and ice cream, the water tower that looks like a giant peach at Clanton and, just below Birmingham, the mountains.

In Birmingham, I turned onto the campus of my alma mater, Samford University (formerly, Howard College). As is usual with me, I burst into singing the “Alma Mater,” the old one, not the new one.

Samford is normally a beautiful campus. Last Saturday, though, it was especially glorious with beds of multi-colored pansies and cherry trees and wild crabapples in full bloom.

Sunday I attended services of Christ the King Episcopal Church, being conducted temporarily in Samford’s Hodges Chapel, arguably the most beautiful building in Alabama.

I walked around the campus a bit, noting that Pittman Hall, a dormitory, is being extended.

Another improvement I found in the lobby of the student-union building, a white, marble statue of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, third president of old Howard, 1865 – 1868. This statue had stood in Statuary Hall in the national Capitol 1908 – 2009, a hundred years! Recently, it has been replaced by a statue of Helen Keller. Each state is allowed only two at a time in the national Capitol.

Curry, 1825 – 1903, was an educator, Baptist minister, legislator, diplomat, soldier and orator. He was quite a fellow in his day, and I hate to see that he has lost his place of honor nowadays. It doesn’t seem quite right to take someone else’s honors away to make room for one’s own. We see this in renaming streets, parks, you-name-it. As Mamie said, “It ain’t fittin’! It ain’t fittin’! It ain’t fittin’!”

When the Portly Gentleman was in Richmond, Va., in the Hollywood Cemetery, to celebrate the 200th birthday of Jefferson Davis, he noticed that, near to the grave of Jefferson Davis, lay the ornate grave of J.L.M. Curry. It would be nice if Samford or any other college published the locations of the burial sites of all their former presidents.

Sunday afternoon I attended the performance of the Italian Donizetti’s opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, a tragedy in three acts, sponsored by the Opera Birmingham, directed by John D. Jones, staged in Wright Hall, the auditorium complex at Samford, named for Leslie S. Wright, one-time president of Samford.

The opera premiered in Naples in 1835 and is based on the novel, The Bride of the Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott of Scotland. The bride is Lucy Lammermoor, who goes mad. The most famous part is the “Sextet” in Act II when the six principal characters all sing at the same time.

The actors, accompanied by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, received thunderous, standing ovations.

The conductor, Andrew Altenbach, and the opera director, John D. Jones, chaired an enlightening, pre-opera talk with the audience.

The part of Lucia (Lucy) was played by Susanna Phillips.

While waiting for the curtain, I noticed in the lobby of Wright Hall a large, framed prayer, offered Jan. 22, 1976, at the dedication of the building, by Dr. Lamar Jackson, pastor at that time of Southside Baptist Church, Birmingham. Dr. Jackson, later widowed, became the husband of our own Caroline Cumbie.

Colonel Covington spoke of opera and music in one of his recent essays at the Andalusia Lyceum.

He said of opera that it was the ultimate, artistic creation of the five fine arts: literature (lyrics and libretto), music (vocal and instrumental), art (costumes, props, and setting), architecture (setting and stage) and dance (ballet).

Covington claimed that real music has melody, something one can sing and whistle. It is not rhythm only. He called much of what passes for music nowadays merely noise, which tends to be loud and unpleasant.

Covington explained that there are low standards for “music” today because everyone is a “wannabee;” so, the standards are lowered so that just about any Tom, Dick and Harry can call himself a musician. Screaming at the top of one’s voice while banging on a garbage can lid, though, doesn’t mean a person is a success as a singer or musician, as much as he and his fans wish it so. They, too, want to scream and bang and be acclaimed talented.

We live in a world where almost anything goes, especially in “music.” The garage bands rule, but they shouldn’t. Everyone wants to be a rock-and-roll star, a singer. This explains the popularity of karaoke, of low-class “taste.” The disease of “noisic” has spread even into churches where the congregation is influenced by the world and adopts its styles rather than being different from the world.

When I think of all the good music in the world that one could hear, I am grieved that I shall die without hearing all. Oh, all the music I shall miss!

Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo has been recommended to me as a good book about a boy who comes back from death to tell of Heaven.

Lenora Johnson recommends the historical fiction by Belva Plain for women.

The mystery person last week was Carrie Turner, identified by Mark Craig.

This week’s mystery person was pre-maturely grey, is a retired postal carrier, an elder in his Church, a husband and father of two children, a good, ol’ country boy, one-time resident of New York, believe it or not, also known as Elijah.

Today’s birthdays are those of Alfred Edward Housman, English scholar and poet who wrote “When I Was One-and-Twenty,” and Robert Frost, the most popular American poet since Longfellow. Four lines in Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” are probably the most quoted quatrain (four lines) in the history of American poetry, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep/ But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep.”

Next weekend is the 46th Eufaula Pilgrimage of Homes, April 1 – 3.

Bellingrath Gardens at Theodore near Mobile is open, too.

Seen at lunch at the Piggly-Wiggly “deli” were James Bristow and James Walker.

For our moment for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the War Between the States this week, I share that at this time l50 years ago, both North and South were waiting to see what would happen at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Now, gentle reader, let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Fare thee well.