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Alyce Faye Bragg column: A little dumplings’s birthday

By By Alyce Faye Bragg

CHARLESTON, w.va. — We are now crossing the bridge from summer to autumn. On one side is the hot summer sun, gardens at their peak, rose of Sharon bushes in full bloom and cool swimming pools. On the other side are cooler nights, turning leaves, katydids hollering and dwindling gardens.

The view from the bridge is stunning. The late summer flowers are in full bloom — bright orange day lilies, pure blue chickory blossoms, bright yellow wild sunflowers, black-eyed Susans and jewel-like touch-me-nots. On the other side the purple ironweed, Joe-Pye weed, sunny goldenrod and the many varieties of lovely wild asters are awaiting us.

We are leaving behind summer barbecues, school vacation, pool parties and family picnics. We are heading for class reunions, football season, bonfires and institutions of learning. It’s goodbye to cold watermelon slices and icy slushies and hello to hot cocoa with marshmallows and fudge brownies. It is the changing of the seasons.

That is one of the pleasures of living in a region where the seasons change. Before you get tired of one season, another takes its place. West Virginia has something special to offer in every season. Mom always declared that if a person drank a cup full of our clear mountain water, they would always come back for more. I never did get away.

***

August seems to be a birthday month in our family. My baby sister Susie chose to be born in July, and she just passed another milestone. I was reading a letter she wrote a couple of years ago, telling of the birthday gifts she received from her husband Charlie. He had presented her with a new sink stopper, a gasket for her pressure canner, an iron and some fence posts. She says she is blessed with such a romantic husband!

I am wondering what he got her this year. They had planned an intimate evening, and then spent it at home canning 21 quarts of green beans. How lucky can a girl get?

Our youngest child, Crystal, has a birthday this month. Hers was the easiest birth that I had. (She was adopted.) She was eleven months old when we got her, and weighed 33 pounds. I remember vividly the day she came into our lives. Her grandmother, my Aunt Eva, was taking care of her, and she was physically unable to handle her. Patty and I started to the grocery store, and Aunt Eva’s home was on the route.

Criss had admonished us not to get her until we had the legal papers signed, but we couldn’t wait any longer. She was a fat, little dumpling and was stuffed in a dress printed with watermelon slices. Oh, how blessed we felt as we gathered her belongings and took her on to the store with us! She had yellow curls that dotted her head like shell macaroni. Patty cuddled her close and reveled in the fact that she finally had a baby sister.

When we got home, the baby began crying. Of course, we were strange to her, and her surroundings were strange. We rocked her and tried to comfort her, but nothing worked until Patty lay down on the bed with her. She quit crying so abruptly that we thought she had passed out. From then on, she was Patty’s baby.

It is wonderful how God can put a mother’s love in her heart for a baby she didn’t birth. I have often told Crystal that she wasn’t a child of my body, but she was a child of my heart. There is no difference in the love that we have for her and the love for our natural born children. We have been so blessed, and she has matured into a gracious young mother with three young daughters.

She home schooled her daughters, and they excel academically. She and her husband Jeff have brought up their girls in the way of the Lord, and they are growing into exemplary young women that would make anyone proud. Happy Birthday, our daughter, Crystal; we are so glad that God put you in our lives.

***

Here is a poem that Ross David Fortner wrote me on my birthday last year.

“On Your Birthday”

By David Fortner

Here comes another one,

Better hold on tight.

Seems as we have more of ‘em,

The faster is their flight.

Coming at us with

All the dreads and joys,

Finding each and every one of us,

As we are still girls and boys.

Younger folks look at us,

Mostly with dismay,

“Just what is it they got,

To make them feel so gay?”

Like, we don’t deserve to be

Happy as we are,

And surprised I am to be here

And glad to know you are.

The Old Folk look at us

Like the kids they think

We will always be,

And wonder if we’ll ever grow up,

Not if we can help it, Glory Be!

Let’s fight the good fight,

Be faithful to the last,

Be not in any hurry

To be oldest in the class.

Here we are celebrating,

This milestone in our lives.

Take heart, a drink, a song,

And remember how we got here,

And our many friends, so strong.

Treasure each one dearly,

And hold on firm and tight,

For another birthday cometh,

As a thief in the night!

***

Some time ago I received a letter from Mrs. Gladys McQuain Carper, and she enclosed a clipping that she had saved from one of my old columns. She had carried it with her until it was tattered and yellowed with age, and asked me to reprint it. She was 78 years old on Valentine’s Day, with five children and lots and lots of grandkids and greatgrandkids. This must have been her daily motto, and all us grandmas ought to adopt it.

“Please God”

My children are grown now, and I have wonderful grandchildren. I love them all, but please, God, let me remember that I have lived, loved and enjoyed this life. Do not let me take away from their enjoyment by complaining about every ache and pain. I have earned them all.

Please keep me from mentioning my swollen joints, stiff knees and poor eyesight and anything else that isn’t as good as it once was. Let me remember that I have enjoyed a full and wonderful life, and have been blessed in so many ways. Now is not the time for me to be complaining.

Please let my mouth be closed while my ears are open to hear the fun they are having. Let me remember I am still setting an example for them, and that if I keep quiet, they will forever think that I never had a single ache or pain in my life, and that I miraculously escaped the ills of old age.

They will, in later years, remember me with pleasure and say, “I wish I had her genes. She never had anything wrong with her!”

That, dear Lord, will be the best legacy I can leave them.

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.


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