Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A British Invasion

 Ava, age 8, made special signs to welcome our friend, Kay, from the UK.  The Normanator got into the act,  as well! The signs read "You bet your BUM we're happy to see you"...Yes, Ma'am!" and "Welcome Home, Kay!"

We are "making nice" for our English friend to arrive on this side of the pond!  She'll stay in our guest room for about  three weeks!

We never meant to strike up a friendship with someone so far away...

We crawled out of bed at 1:30 AM to deliver the 150 papers on our route.  We had finished our route by 6 AM, thankfully, and could slip between the warm covers to catch a nap before beginning Act II of a chilly March day.

I had just settled in when the phone rang.  I raced to answer it and what I heard from the other end of the line was loud wailing in a strong British accent:  "I CAHN'T GET MAH-RRIED!  "I CAHN'T GET MAH-RRIED!

The awareness of what was happening washed over me.  Anita, a good friend of ours, was visiting at the prison and met a charming, gregarious young woman from England.  They exchanged stories and contact information.  Anita suggested that I "friend" Kay on Facebook, which I did.  I suggested that the 3 of us should have coffee when she came stateside and gave her our phone number.  I did not know  the details when all that wailing and crying came over the phone about why her wedding to Gary Frazier could not happen but I knew we HAD to help somehow.

On that fateful spring day this British traveler had landed at the airport in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The cab ride some 40+ miles to Beatrice, Nebraska, where arrangements had been made for her motel, had tapped  out her resources!  Because of the cost of the cab fare from Lincoln to Beatrice, she had no money, no way to pay for her stay and she was 35 miles away from the man she was to marry at the Tecumseh State Correctional Facility.  She was desperate and terribly afraid.

I said to her, "Kay, don't worry about a thing.  Norm and I will be there in half an hour!"

We pulled on clothes as quickly as we could.  We had to hurry because we had to make the 35 mile trip, collect our damsel in distress and return home in time to drive the neighbor girls to school!

When we pulled into the motel we could see Kay in the doorway.  She was so cute in her pink suit.  She looked almost as if she were pouting.  I opened the front door and invited her to put her luggage into the trunk of our car.  She looked at us as if she may cry and said, "NO ONE in England would DO this."  She probably worried that she had been connected to a couple who specialized in serial murders.  She may have thought we offered to help her so we could rob her or some other heinous thing.  In any case, she was at our mercy and fastened her seat belt for what she must surely have been concerned could be a roller coaster ride!

She chattered in her delightful English accent all the way to Tecumseh.  Norm could not understand one word but I listen faster than Norm and I was getting the  gist of the story.  We told her that the marriage between Kay Pilkington and Gary Frazier WOULD take place, because we would do whatever it took to get her to the "church" (aka prison) on time!

We showed her to our guest room, fixed her some breakfast and brewed fresh coffee.   Coffee for Kay is like oxygen to the rest of us.  She refers to coffee as "a brew" and we have learned to lay in a good supply of coffee  and cream for her visits!

Kay personified a beautiful bride.  She was positively fetching in the lovely simple dress she chose.  

On March 17, 2012 Kay Pilkington and Gary Frazier were pronounced man and wife by a clergy arranged .We were not allowed to attend these nuptials because we do not have visiting privileges for Gary and we are not on his telephone list.

As I recall, she stayed for a week.  We made sure Mrs. Frazier had meals and transportation and anything else she may have needed.  She did come to the conclusion that we intended her no harm and in fact we might even be considered to be decent human beings!

That same fall,  Kay returned, knowing that she could stay with us again sans the added expense of lodging. She knew she could enjoy all the comforts of our home and that I'd prepare a hot water bottle for her ailing back.  She could depend on having nutritious food served on her visiting schedule.  We had introduced her to those who sit in our circle and this darling new friend was embraced by everyone wherever she went in our little town.

You are no doubt keenly aware that globe trotting is not a low cost endeavor.  In order to finance Kay's travels she sold their love story to some English papers, who paid a handsome sum for the details of their romance and marriage.  Not only that, she managed to win a small lottery!  Kay gave up smoking, sacrificed her automobile and cuts back on every thing possible in order to save for travel to the States!

To ease her travels somewhat she has left some of her "bits" in the guest closet.  There is a shelf in the bathroom and she has "commandeered" a drawer or two in a dresser.  We refer to our guest room now as "Kay's room" and she is convinced that anyone else who sleeps there in her absence should pay HER a stipend!  Over the years we have had a great many laughs, some mighty good food and we have made some delightful memories with our dear friend...she really feels like family to us.

There is an ample supply of coffee and cream on hand; Kay's room has fresh linen as well as clean windows and curtains...and we have made plans for activities we hope will please her no end.

We are ready for a British Invasion!

Connie Baum

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This a file photo of our Book Lovers Club
Normally, since today is the first Wednesday of the month, our Book Lovers would gather round our dining room table and nibble on popcorn and Lois' home made cookies.  Not today.  Today we have giant flakes of snow filling the sky and piling themselves on our deck railing like elongated slices of angel food cake!  We are hunkered down, no doubt finding time to keep our noses in our books!

The cast of characters in our Club has changed, as our precious, aging members are moving on to the next world.  This is sad for us but we understand that death is part of life.  It's not the part we like but we must accept it and cling to the delightful, happy and wonderful memories we have made.

In the above photo, the lady in front, wearing polka dots and a sweet smile has left us.  She was ill for only a short while when she was taken from us.  What we will always remember about Marge is her famous popcorn, her unbelievably beautiful handwriting and her original poems.  Marge taught me how to knit and she was a dear neighbor.  She was 94 when she died.  We all miss Marge more than we can express.

The woman in brown slacks and jacket on the left of the picture is Gena.  Bless her heart, she has endured any number of health issues and seemed to be at death's door but with her daughter's faithful care and Gena's own will, she has weathered a good many storms in recent times.  It was my good fortune to encounter her as we delivered Meals on Wheels to a friend of hers.  I was so pleased to see her doing so well and looking so fine! Gena loves to read the works of Christian authors.  She is also passionate about tending to her flowers!

Gena is standing beside a lady in red.  This our local librarian, Susie Kerner. Susie was a special guest on the day this photo was snapped.  Since then Susie and I have become members of a Writers Group.   She has a wonderful sense of humor, loves books as much as our members do and she is a wonderful contribution to our little town!  We always enjoy Susie's book reviews in our local paper.  She tells us that Tecumseh library patrons prefer mysteries and fiction. Recently she shared a true story about the Holocaust.

Beside Susie, wearing a striped blouse, is Bert.  She left us too quickly after learning she had a serious health issue.  Bert doctored for this but during her treatment she took a bad tumble and in the blink of an eye she was taken from us.  We miss Bert hosting our meetings, showing us her art work and knitting projects.  I never pass Bert's former home but what I miss seeing her in the yard or walking to the grocery store, even at the tender age of 90. Little Bert was generous, caring and read voraciously.  She leaned toward fiction and biographies.

Judy, dressed in blue, and Lois, wearing glasses, are on the back row.  Lois is a member of the original group who chartered the Book Lovers Club.  She taught school before her retirement, lives on a farm and makes a fine President.  The teacher in her is apparent as she prepares for each meeting by sharing jokes, puzzles an bits of trivia with us.  Lois enjoys reading on a variety of topics; most recently she reads the newspaper aloud to her husband, who is plagued with eye ailments.  She manages to find a lot of how-to and home care volumes. We can always count on Lois to bring home made cookies to every meeting!

Judy lives in the country and serves us as Treasurer. She wears many hats: Advisory Board member for South East Nebraska Community Action (SENCA), officer for the VFW Auxiliary and President of the SE Nebraska Tourism group.  She is a community minded woman who appreciates books and takes a special interest in Native American culture and history.  It was Judy who invited me to join the Club, for which I am eternally grateful. Judy has a special interest in WWII as well as Barney Oldfield's career.

That woman with her hair piled up on top of her head is yours truly.  My reading choices are mostly biographies, and non-fiction. I own way too many books and I want more!  *my bad...

We have other members who are not pictured.  Little Elna is a faithful member; I cannot recall why she is not present for this photo.  She loves to read titles by Christian authors, historical books with a sprinkling of fiction.  LaRue is another original member of  the Book Lovers Club; she lives in an assisted living facility.  The last time I saw LaRue she was impeccably groomed, stylishly dressed and cheery as ever.  LaRue is a tiny mite; she is no bigger than a minute!  She says she enjoys receiving the minutes of our meetings in the mail.

Our newest member has not attended many meetings because we meet while she is in class at Peru State College!  She devours fiction and loves to read as much as any of the Book Lovers.  She is studying English and will graduate in August as a non traditional student.  She reports she is reading some heavy duty English literature!

You can tell we are a motley crew.  But we are bound by our interest in books, our devotion to one another and the fun we have at our meetings.  Not only are we Book Lovers; we are people lovers, as well.

Some clubs have one book that all their members read and then have a discussion at their meetings.  Our members read whatever strikes their fancy and report on their impression of their choice.  The rest of the meeting is taken up with a bit of business, snacks and coffee, and local news! There are hugs all around when it's time to go home.

When I think about the Members and those members who have made their transition, I am filled with gratitude that I was allowed to sit in this circle.

Connie Baum
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