Less is Enough

Most mornings, I crawl out of bed and walk to my closet. Once the door is opened, I stare at a long line of shirts and several pairs of pants and try to decide which of them I will wear for that day.
Sometimes, the process is much like choosing a show on television to watch. Plenty of options are available, but not a single one is appealing. I long for earlier times when making a wardrobe decision wasn’t a problem.

When Jim and I were boys, we received new clothes once a year. Mother dragged us downtown to the department stores. These new duds were for school...period. Each of us received a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts.

At home, we had our old clothes. We played in them and worked in them. New items were tucked away for other times. The knees of some jeans were threadbare. I never understood exactly how that happened, but I’d look down and my knee would be trying to escape from the hole that was forming. Mother would at some point take the jeans to her sewing machine. There she applied a patch, much like something that is placed on a flat tire. The quick fix gave those jeans a few more weeks of life. I hated patches because they always scratched my skin or stuck to it like glue.

Mother was an ace seamstress. She sewed for several women before taking a job as a teacher full time. She would sit at her machine and in no time put together shirts for Jim and me to wear. They outlasted any store-bought item and were just as nice looking. At that young age, however, we preferred shirts with tags on the collars. The last thing we wanted was to be different, a damnable curse to children.

The point is that all of our clothes fit in the three or four drawers and on the small rod of a chifforobe. That included underwear and socks too. We needed no more than that, and our parents couldn’t afford to buy too many things in addition to the few shirts and jeans that we had.

Now, I have a dozen pairs of dress pants. In fact, for some colors, I have two pairs. In addition, I have three or four pairs of jeans. On the long rod in my walk-in closet, I have as many as 25 shirts. Some are long-sleeved; others are short-sleeved. Others are tucked away in a drawer, and so are half a dozen sweaters. I waste time too much time looking for something to wear for the day.

In the hall closet hang too many jackets and coats. I own two or three winter coats and a bunch of jackets for cool weather. Some of them are worn once a year; the rest of the time they take up space. Hanging with them are three suits and two sports coats. They come out for funerals and rare formal occasions.

My wife says that many of my clothing items are out of style. I reply that they are comfortable and have plenty of life left. The truth is that I hate shopping for clothes. My happiest days were spent at Toyota of Knoxville. I had a uniform to wear. No one raised an eyebrow when I walked in wearing the same type of shirt and pants each day. No decisions were made: I reached in the closet and pulled out one of the uniforms. Dressing could have been done in the dark.


One of these days, I’m going to rid myself of all but a few clothing items. The rest will be delivered to second-hand store. Others can take my discarded clothes and get much more enjoyment out of them. I will once again enjoy the day when less is enough. My time won’t be spent on such trivial matters as choosing what to wear.

LIAR, LIAR

At some point in this country’s existence, things turned upside down. Black became white, up became down, and lies became alternative truths. The last one listed is something with which all of us have lived and in which we have participated during our lifetimes.  


Most of us grew up in households where lying was a major offense by a child. Moms and dads taught us to tell the truth at all times. Some children learned that the road to hell was paved with lies by young folks. In short, we were scared to death to tell a lie and shivered with fear if we were caught doing so.

If a child told a whopper and then was caught by his parents, the punishments were horrific. Sometimes, a parent would reward a lie by administering a spanking. The entire time that the child ran in a circle to avoid the swats to his fanny, he was regretting the way he distorted the truth. The pain from the spanking paled in comparison to the little one’s embarrassment over having lied or having lost his parent’s trust.

On some occasions, moms decided to clean up the lying mouths of their offspring. They marched the offenders to the bathroom and stationed them by the sink. Washrags were
soaked with water, and then Dial soap was lathered to the surfaces. With rags filled with suds, moms demanded their children to open their mouths, and they proceeded to wash teeth, gums, and tongues in symbolic gestures of removing the untruths from the mouths of babes. The after-taste often was enough to set tiny stomachs on edge to the point of throwing up. It also stopped the lying, at least until the memory of the terrible taste subsided.

Another punishment for being less than truthful was grounding. A convicted liar was confined to his room or to the house for an extended period of time. During that entire time of imprisonment, tensions ran high; children were angry for being stuck at home without friends, television, radio, or computers; parents were miserable as they endured the whining and fit throwing by their children. The hope was that young people would think twice before lying so that they could return to their lives and spare parents of any more agony.

Perhaps the worst punishment for lying was the parental lecture. A guilty child was summoned before his parents and quizzed about his reasons for lying. After a half dozen statements of “I don’t know,” mom and dad tag-teamed and talked to the young person. Preaching might have been a better term for what took place, and invariably, at some point in this long-winded speech came the most dreaded line of all: “We are disappointed in you.” The offender had no comeback for it, and parents never let him know when and if the disappointment ended. A quick beating was preferable to the lecture because although it hurt, the whole matter was over and done in short order.

Most of us learned our lessons about lying, not that we stopped doing it, but we did a better job of not getting caught. However, some folks never have gotten the hang of lying. They continue to tell outrageous tales and profess that those fabrications are true.

 Folks in the government are most proficient in lying. Politicians peddle loads of them to constituents without blinking an eye. The most infuriating thing is they think all of us believe the lies they tell. The truth is that some of us actually have working minds that have built-in “BS” detectors; we recognize when a person is shoveling loads of it in an attempt to pervert the truth.


Lying sometimes is acceptable, such as when doing so spares another’s feelings. The majority of the time, however, fibs aren’t necessary. The truth serves us better in the long run. Everyone, especially our leaders, should work to end the intentionally false statements that are presented as gospel. It’s just not worthwhile in the long run. 

LIKE A YO-YO

The holiday season took a toll on me. I’ve never been good at refusing sweets and other items that appear on kitchen the table. Holiday meals are times when I overeat, and not doing so is hard when everything smells and tastes so much better than at other times of
the year. As a result, the pounds have piled on, and my goal is to lose them before warm weather returns. It seems as if this is a never-ending battle.

Even as a child, I was “healthy.” Mother cooked plenty of food, and since I never wanted to hurt her feelings, I dutifully ate the fried chicken and biscuits and pancakes and pies. Before long, my body ballooned. My appetite grew ever stronger, and I kept cramming stuff in my mouth at meals and in between. My brother Jim developed a case of hepatitis in elementary school. Mother took us both to the doctor to make sure I didn’t have the illness too. The doctor looked at Jim, gave him medicine and prepared a B-12 shot because he knew Jim would lose weight as his appetite ebbed. He looked at me and told Mother, “This one needs to go on a diet.” How ironic that one twin was going to be too thin and the other was too fat.

Some of the weight disappeared while I was in high school, but not enough to make much of a difference. At the beginning of my senior year, I began my own diet. Each day for lunch, I ate a peanut butter, mayonnaise, and mustard sandwich. The rest of the time I substituted food with a coke and a cigarette. In no time, I’d dropped 30 pounds and several inches from my waist.

During college I managed to keep the weight off. Of course, a steady diet of bologna sandwiches helped. My sister-in-law cooked meals for me several times of week, but the walking across campus to classes provide plenty of exercise to burn those calories.

Marriage put some pounds on my frame. I weighed 145 when Amy and I said our “I do’s,’ and before I could blink my eyes, 10 pounds jumped on me. That was all right since it didn’t add to my waist size. However, as the years went along, I gained weight in the cold months, only to lose it when summer arrived.

With each successive year, the losing of extra pounds became harder. I discovered that more hours of work in the yard or on some project were required to melt the weight. At one point, I left the teaching profession for about 3 years. I sat in the car traveling to accounts or sat in an office and called clients all day. Before long, I looked as if someone had stuck an air hose in me and overfilled my body.

Not long ago, I worked at a job three days a week. During those days, I averaged between 10-12 miles of walking. I could eat anything I wanted and never had to worry about gaining an ounce.

It’s been several months since I worked at the place. Now, I do some walking, but much of the time, I sit in a classroom and watch students. That sedentary lifestyle allows the pounds to once again pile on. My clothes feel tight, and lethargy, aching hips, and creaking ankles only make exercising more difficult.

I’m back on the Weight Watcher diet. It works as well as anything I’ve ever tried, and I like
being in control of what I eat. I hope that by spring I will have once again lost the extra weight. One things for sure: I feel like a yo-yo with these gains and losses.  


JUST ONE MORE TIME

Mother Nature discovered that we humans were much too happy with the balmy temperatures occurring in January. She sent a surge of cold air back through the south the next month just to remind us what season it actually was and to dampen our spirits. It’s on these cold mornings that I remember life as a child. More to the point, I recall the breakfast menus that we had at home.


Mother had a job each day of making sure three boys were out of bed. Jim was not such an easy one to awaken, so Mother would speak to me and and instruct me to “wake up your brother.” During our early years, we ran barefooted across wood floors to the coal stove in the living room. There we would dress quickly because the house never warmed by that one stove.


We’d make our ways to the kitchen afterwards. Most mornings the only light that was on was the one on the top of the stove. The oven was warming, and we stood in front of it to thaw out just a bit. Before she went to the one bathroom in our house to get ready for work, she’d made breakfast of

some kind.


Oatmeal was always good to start the day. We dumped half a truckload of sugar and a boulder of butter into the stuff and stirred it together. Before long, the sugar rush hit, and we bounced around the house for the rest of the morning. Little did we know that in a short time the sugar would be gone and that we’d crash and burn.


Sometimes, Mother made cream of wheat for breakfast. No matter how hard she worked, the gruel always had lumps. We’d dish out a helping of it and once again add
sugar and butter. However, no amount of additives ever dissolved the clots in our bowls. We ate around them or held our breaths before biting into one of those disgusting things.


The best weekday breakfast item was cinnamon toast. Mother spread butter on each slice of white bread and the topped them with cinnamon and spoonfuls of brown sugar. After a few minutes under the broiler, the toast was ready. I still remember the taste, but for some reason haven’t been able to recreate it during my adult years.


On weekends, breakfast became a feast. Mother took the time on Saturday mornings to fry bacon or link sausages. Then she’d mix up a bowl of batter and cook stacks of pancakes. Even better, sometimes she pulled out a big, heavy contraption and make waffles for us. The taste of those waffles has never been reproduced anywhere.


We’d take our mounds of food to the table and “doctor” them. Sometimes, we turned the bottle upside down
and wait as a small river of white Karo syrup oozed over the pancakes. Not until a few years later did we ever taste dark syrup. On occasion, one of us would retrieve a jar of homemade blackberry jelly from the refrigerator. Globs of the stuff were dumped onto plates, and then they were slathered over every inch of pancake.


These days, breakfast is much healthier. Amy and I eat eggs with a couple of slices of bacon. On some mornings, we simply grab a bowl of cereal before heading out the door. Yes, on rare occasions, we even make a run to Hardee’s for something. None of it equals the wonderful tastes of things Mother prepared that remain in my memory. I suppose the dash of love that she added to breakfast items made the so good, and maybe one day, I’ll see her again and ask if she has time to make me a stack of waffle...just one more time.