Category Archives: Memoir

Monday Memoir: The Day I met Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards

Huge oak trees on the sprawling grounds of a downtown Baton Rouge historical home shaded the Civil War camp reenactment where peaceable uniformed men representing both sides and ladies dressed in period costumes mingled. I swished my bell skirts through the crowds, chatted  with friends, and met new historical reenactors at this event. I talked with school children who were there to learn about historical clothing, cooking, blacksmithing, and other living skills from that period.

People were still arriving as a few left early. On my way out the ornate gate, Governor Edwin Edwards approached me. His face glowed with his political charm. He smiled at my attire and handed me his campaign card. “I hope you will vote for me,” he said.

“Oh, sir,” I replied with my Civil War demeanor, “Women can’t vote.”

Notes: This picture of me portraying a Union soldier’s wife amid the tents was taken at a different camp, but it’s the same costume I wore the day I met Governor Edwin Edwards. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920 more than 50 years after the Civil War period I represented here.  

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My Father and Earth Day

Many years before the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, my father set gardening examples using biblical principles and the Farmer’s Almanac. The earth—a lot surrounding our modest two-bedroom home—was our responsibility, he said. He toiled the ground somewhat like Adam may have done in the story of that downfall in Genesis in the Christian Bible. Only my father had more modern tools like a shovel, a hoe, and a rake. Spring and Fall, he worked the ground behind the house and planted vegetables around the existing fruit trees. He grew a variety of berries to top our cereal when fresh or for Mama to can for fruit pies and cobblers in the winter. He also cared for the nectarine and apricot trees in the front yard that gave us fresh fruit in summer and canned fruit for winter. The black walnut tree responded well, but cracking those nutshells took muscles more toned than mine.

He revered the Farmer’s Almanac second to holy scripture and searched the worn pages for planting times to yield the best crops. He followed the guide and planted aboveground vegetables in the light of the moon and root vegetables in the dark of the moon. His garden flourished while others failed.

I stopped gardening when I downsized from a home on an acre of ground and moved into an apartment. Now I buy my vegetables from a farmer’s market or grocer and depend on NASA to tell me when to enjoy a full moon.

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Sci-Fi Story Feeds Hungry Families

Long before the widespread Coronavirus outbreak, an imaginary conversation between two people during a pandemic became the opening paragraph of my first Sci-Fi short story. Laura, a travel writer, wanted to leave a protected environment to photograph the Mississippi River, but she was declared terminal and denied government permission to travel. That made her more determined to accomplish her goal. Her wish beyond photographing her travels was to eat fresh blueberry pancakes again, but fresh fruit was absent during the seclusion because of restricted  trade with the outside world. Nathan, a governmental appointed live-in assigned to keep her quarantined, became Laura’s ally and planned her escape from a monitored world. Blueberry pancakes became Nathan’s code phrase when he had new information to share with Laura.  

The draft languished on my computer until the 2020 pandemic until the California Writers Club High Desert Branch announced a statewide anthology for members. My objective was to be published, but my entry was awarded first prize in Survival: Tales of Pandemic.

A major portion of the prize was a $410.00 donation from the anthology proceeds to Open Heart Kitchen in Livermore, California, my chosen charity, that provides groceries and nutritional hot meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blueberry pancakes may not be on the menu, but this contribution will help families in the Tri-Valley escape hunger.

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A Poet I Will Never Be

I’ve admired famous poets for years. Mostly the way they cram a full story into a few lines. After I retired, I dabbled in themed Haiku, a novice trying to create a masterpiece in three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Several of my contest entries were published in newspapers in the San Francisco East Bay Area. The theme for this February 2010 entry was Super Bowl Snacks Poetry in Motion.

 

Guacamole dip

Fritos and buffalo wings

Soothes pain of losing.

~Violet Carr Moore

 

My Haiku have appeared in Northern California anthologies, but my writing strengths are short stories, inspirational/spiritual, and memoir.

I was inspired when I heard Dana Gioia (pronounced joy-a), a modern poet, speak at a conference a few years ago. Gioia was the California Poet Laureate (2015) and the Chair of the National Endowment of the Arts (2003-2009). He received many national awards that propelled him to the top of speaker lists. His words reach writers of all genres, not just poets. Perhaps Gioia’s encouragement at that workshop was what prompted me to be one of the first to register to hear him speak at the Tri-Valley Writers Zoom meeting on Saturday, March 20, 2021. This is a free event, open worldwide to individuals who register by the deadline.

I hope Dana will have some wise words for writers like me who need a dose of inspiration to finish an ongoing project. Perhaps his presentation will resonate with you too. Click here to read about the event and register.

 

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My Father and Noah Webster

The neighbor kids had a method when asking permission from their parents to do something or go somewhere. The middle child said, “Don’t say no.” The youngest child begged, “Please, pretty please, say yes.” The oldest child said, “Maybe?” with a questioning lilt. After a few days, the reluctant parent relented.

My father was a strict, by-the-book person. The book being the family-size Holy Bible King James Version in our living room. His answer to my whimpering. “Couldn’t you just say maybe instead of no?” was Matthew 5:37. “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” If I pursued my quest, he said, “There is no maybe.” Then he quoted James 1:8. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I had to wait until school the next day to see what Webster had to say about maybe.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The unabridged tome perched on a stand guarded the center of the library like a sentry. I flipped the pages to the alphabetical M section.  Was it may be or maybe? My spelling skills might have been different than Mr. Webster’s proper English.  However it was spelled, I didn’t find it.

I flipped the pages to the preface. I didn’t know what that word meant, but it must have been important or it wouldn’t have been at the front of the dictionary. That’s where I learned that Noah Webster and my father agreed on one thing. They both quoted Bible verses to support their decisions.

 

 

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Groundhog Prediction Fallibility

Groundhog Day has given February 2 prominence since 1887. Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions of more winter or an early spring have averaged 50% accuracy, so why all the excitement?

My father called the tradition hogwash. “If you want to know the weather, look in the Almanac,” he said. My mother gauged spring by when she could hang the family wash on the clotheslines without wearing a coat. A bunch of hooey, one of my brothers said. I didn’t understand all the hullaballoo when flocks of birds flying north seemed a better prediction of spring.

Phil may have lost his sense of the wild, but his handlers have to know that spring, the vernal equinox, is about six weeks after Groundhog Day no matter what Phil’s shadow depicts. They will continue the charade in 2022 because it’s their day in the limelight and perhaps Phil’s only day in the winter air. The rest of the year, he lives in the climate-controlled town library with Phyllis, his mate.

 

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COVID-19 Ousts Father Time as the 2020 Grim Reaper

My thoughts of spending a quiet New Year’s evening restricted by the California Coronavirus guidelines brought vivid flashbacks from more than a half-century ago. Friends had invited me to ride with them to the Tournament of Roses Parade.  My soon-to-be fiancé had hitchhiked from San Francisco to their home the night before. When Katie (fictitious name) called, she said to be ready at 8:30 p.m. An hour late, she knocked on our glass-paned front door where my mother was pacing in the living room. Mama’s anxiety wasn’t because the group was late. Her pacing was from the anxiety of my long ride on a night filled with drunk driving accidents. “We’re here,” Katie said. “We’re running a little late, so they’ll wait in the car.” When Mama asked when they would bring me home, “We’ll see you when we see you,” Katie replied.

The driver was quiet on the road, taking his duty of transporting us safely on the 15-hour round trip like a mission assigned by his Air Force superior. The rest of us chattered with excitement until midnight ushered out Father Time, the Grim Reaper, and we welcomed January 1, the new babe under twinkling stars. When I dozed, I dreamed of my future as the wife of a Navy sailor. Tonight, I will reflect on the relatively few deaths from 2020 driving accidents compared to more than 25,000 Californians who died of COVID-19 and dream of coronavirus-free December 31, 2021.



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A Grateful Thanksgiving

I relish the memories of Thanksgiving Day with a houseful of family or friends from planning the menu, cooking, and the gentle soapsuds when I hand washed the china and silverware.  

Covid-19 has brought a new perspective to Thanksgiving 2020 in California. Many will continue their large gatherings. Others will scale down to the bubble requirements—a familiar small group of 12 or less. I chose to isolate with a quiet day at home. No grocery shopping. No cooking. No cleanup. Tomorrow, Black Friday, a friend from my writing group will bring me a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Only one place setting of Royal Albert Old Country Roses china will be on the table. The vintage silverware I have used for holidays since the 1960s, new back then, may wait until the next holiday.  

Afterward,  I will hand wash the single place setting of china in plant-based soapsuds and count my blessings of family, friends, and you, my followers on Violet’s Vibes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating the Red, White, and Blue

My elementary school teachers referred to today as Independence Day. My family called it the Fourth of July. Businesses closed for the day. Even then, the US flag with 48 white stars on a field of blue flanked by red and white stripes waved in the wind, or hung limp, on flagpoles depending on the presence or absence of a breeze. My family picnicked that day.

Our destination was random, usually beside a gentle river. The men fished. Ladies spread tablecloths while keeping a watchful eye on the children wading in the shallow water. Mothers were prepared with an iron skillet, cornmeal, and grease for a fish fry, but experience had taught them to be resourceful. About lunchtime with no sign of fish, they put fried chicken and potato salad on the colorful tablecloths. And, of course, a homemade birthday cake for my oldest brother’s youngest son. At home later that evening as darkness closed in, a few disobedient children in my neighborhood set off firecrackers. The rest of us waved lit sparklers with mothers chaperoning nearby.

One year, there was no family celebration. Among the many reasons, one of my married brothers owned a farm and another worked at a dairy. “We have to work,” they said. “Cows don’t take holidays.”

For several years, strangers have blocked my street at dusk, waiting for darkness. From tailgate parties to individuals in lawn chairs, they ate and drank and celebrated while waiting for the downtown fireworks to begin. Tonight my street is quiet. There will be no fireworks because of the coronavirus shelter-in-place order.

This morning, I thought of the cows when I tied red, white, and blue ribbons on my door beneath a computer-generated sign that proclaimed Happy Fourth of July. My own quiet celebration.

 

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Southern Greenhorn and a Green Ham

I grew up in California with transplanted southern parents. I didn’t realize they had accents because they sounded similar to dozens of other families in our small town that had migrated west from Oklahoma and Arkansas. They adapted to California words, as much as could be expected from folks in their mid-forties and fifties. My mother fried eggs in bacon grease and used lard in her flaky piecrusts. She made hogshead cheese, too, but that’s a post for another time. She baked hams, usually the shank portion because they were cheaper. I thought I had heard every southern cooking term, then I married a military man from the South. He spoke of foods I’d never imagined.

Jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo. Yes, foods but words from a song, but I didn’t know that, either, until years later when we relocated to Louisiana. There’s where this greenhorn first heard the words “green ham” one winter when I was preparing a Christmas menu. How would I find it if I didn’t know what it looked like?

“Just ask our butcher. He’ll know.”

Courtesy: Wiki Clip Art

Not a soothing answer, but I drove the few blocks to a full butcher shop where the meats were custom cut, never prepackaged. I plastered a smile on my face, pretended I knew what I wanted, and asked for a green ham large enough for eight with leftovers. Imagine my surprise when he brought an uncured ham from the cooler, a cut of pork my mother called a fresh ham.

And filé gumbo. That’s a seasoning powder made from dried, ground sassafras leaves, sprinkled over gumbo before it is served.

I’m thankful that wasn’t on the Christmas menu. One new southern cooking term at a time was enough for this California transplant.

 

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