A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Crooner: Memoir From Author Barbara Briggs Ward



          My special guest for this post is Barbara Briggs Ward.  As has often been the case of late, I first met Barbara through a writer's forum at LinkedIn.  When I visited her blog and looked at some of the work she is involved with I thought she would be a great choice for a guest post at Wrote By Rote.  The delightful piece that Barbara presents here confirms my supposition.   Enjoy her peek at the past and then be sure to visit her blog The Reindeer Keeper and say hello.  Barbara's author web page is http://barbarabriggsward.intuitwebsites.com/ .  The web page for her book is at   http://www.thereindeerkeeper.com/ .




The Crooner


         When I was young we lived out in the country surrounded by my mother’s side of the family. With four houses in a row all full of relatives, we were constantly sharing meals and holidays together. But many times at those gatherings, my father wasn’t there. Being a funeral director, he was at work, comforting families in their time of sorrow.  My father was very good at what he did. He also provided my cousins and me with a little fun.

         Ever so often in the summertime, he’d drive a big, black transport-of-coffins type van home at lunchtime. It resembled vehicles depicted as getaway cars for gangsters in a Godfather type film. We didn’t care. It made the vehicle all the more intriguing. So while my father was eating lunch, my cousins and I would take the van for a marvelous joy ride out amongst the clover and hay. We told him we’d be careful.  We told him we’d be right back but once we made it over the plank bridge spanning the creek and then up the hill it was a straight shot to the backfields and we went for it! I can’t remember how old we were. I don’t think that old because my mother had a fit.

      Once we were on the straightaway, the fun began. Down came the windows as I stepped on the gas. Our hair would be flying in the breeze as we flew over one bump and then another--turning in circles, dodging trees and shrubs and little creatures that may have been curious. We never wore seat belts but no one did back then. Our heads would hit the top of the van and we never felt a thing. We were free spirits. Nothing else mattered until screeching around that raceway we saw my father in the distance flagging us in. Lunchtime was over. So was our joy ride in the backfields--until the next time.

     Summertime also meant staying up and watching late night movies. I’d curl up on the floor. My father would curl up in his chair and fall sound asleep. He tried staying awake. Sometimes he’d almost make it to the end. This was when it was a favorite movie--meaning one that starred Henry Fonda or Gene Kelly or Rita Hayworth to name a few.  My mother never understood why we’d stay up so late. Looking back, I’m glad we did.

     When graduating from high school, there was a series of events before getting to the ceremony itself. One such event was Class Night. It was an evening of dressing up and mingling with friends. In my case, that included my father. I can’t remember how it happened but there I was in this establishment with my father by my side. But he didn’t stay by my side for long. He became the hit of the evening. You see, many of my friends really liked my father. If able, he’d take the time to talk to them and to listen. It was obvious he cared about what they had to say. Chaperoning was not the reason for his presence. He was there to celebrate the moment with young people he’d come to respect.

      In his day, my father had been a singing waiter. Pennies from Heaven was his song. It was that night too. A friend of mine’s mother once told her what a heartthrob my Dad had been. He’d been nicknamed Nookie by girls in the area. Whenever he was working at a certain restaurant girls would fill the place, including my friend’s mom. So this night when the party got rolling, this friend of mine got up and announced to the senior class that they were about to be entertained by Nookie, one hip crooner. The place went crazy. Although the Beatle-like band didn’t know that song it didn’t matter. My father didn’t need music. Once he started everyone got behind him. He had to sing his song more than once! When my father passed away many who’d attended Class Night stopped to pay their respects. In the course of conversations, that night of long ago was remembered fondly over and over again.

      My father was fortunate as were the families who sought his services. With an ability to listen and a genuine compassion for people, he’d found his calling early in life. Those attributes were spilled over to his role as a father, offering the four of us fortunate to call him Dad little bits of wisdom now and then. At the time much of what he’d say didn’t make much sense. Youth has a way of doing that. But now I realize he was right about so many things. I try not to waste good energy on tomorrow. All that really matters is that you have your health. And yes Dad. Funerals are for the living as I realized during your wake in your funeral home.

     Looking out into the audience that muggy June graduation evening of long ago, I saw my father crying. I understood from knowing him his tears were tears of joy. Graduation, as he’d say, is one of those markers in life just like funerals. For me, Pennies from Heaven has taken on a whole new meaning since his passing.




Barbara Briggs Ward is the author of the award-winning Christmas story, “The Reindeer Keeper”, chosen as Yahoo’s Christmas Book Club Group’s 2012 December Book Selection. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Books titled, “Christmas Magic” and “Family Caregivers”, McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Highlights for Children.
Find out more and follow Barbara’s blog at www.thereindeerkeeper.com.   Barbara’s Author Page is at www.barbarabriggsward.com.   










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11 comments:

mmshaunakelley said...

This is a really, really wonderful piece! I am going to have to go check out Barbara's blog.

D.G. Hudson said...

Enjoyed this post, and the touching remembrances. Thanks, Barbara and Lee.

Our parents can make a definite impression on us if that early bonding is present. You were lucky to have such a nice dad, Barbara.

The Reindeer Keeper said...

I agree D.G. I was very lucky to have such a nice dad who taught me about life while dealing with death every day. He always told me there is a thin line between the two and now I understand what he meant.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ahh... That was some excellent reading, down-home and... I don't know, it reminded me of so many of those types of stories I like to hear - stories with a narrator who looks back and relives the joys of a good, simple life.

'The Waltons', 'A Christmas Story', 'The Wonder Years', et al.

Some time ago it dawned on me that any story (movie, TV or radio show) that has a narrator speaking about something that occurred in the past, it has already halfway won me over. And I could see Barbara's story unfolding in my mind while I read her words, narrating in the present these scenes from her past.

Excellent! No foul words, no unnecessary violence, nothing to make anyone blush or feel embarrassed about while reading... just a great little story about some good ol' days.

My Pa was never a singing waiter, nor paid for his singing at all, but he too liked to strike up a song out of the blue very often. And some of the titles I remember him most often going to were 'Foggy Day', 'On The Sunny Side Of The Street', and, yes, even 'Pennies From Heaven' - all of those songs being found on two of his most often played record albums, 'The Call Of The Wildest' and 'The Wildest Show At Tahoe' by Louis Prima.

Anytime we were on a family road trip you could count on the fact that at some point my Pa was going to sing 'Route 66' (Nat King Cole was probably his all-time favorite singer.)

I quite enjoyed this blog bit! (Good guest host, BOIDMAN.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Lynn Proctor said...

oh how i loved this--and i am going to have to look for this book!

Dee said...

Dear Barbara, you are certainly a fine writer. You introduce us to your father and he comes alive for us. As alive as he must be within you. Thank you. I'll go to your site and find out about your book and order it.
Thank you. Peace.

The Reindeer Keeper said...

I want to thank everyone for their much appreciated input. I have so many great stories about my father. When I was in my teens we moved from the country to above his funeral home in the nearby city. My friends thought that was pretty creepy but I considered myself lucky because I learned what my father meant by not taking tomorrow for granted. This was drummed into me so many times-like the Easter he received a call that a little girl had choked on a jellybean and died; the rainy March evening when I was running down the backstairs to put a wash in and was stopped by the cries of a mother in the front room viewing her son who'd been killed in an accident. There were so many other examples encountered in that funeral home that put meaning to my father's words of not taking tomorrow for granted and each one only reinforced my father's many words of wisdom about life and living it.

Karen Lange said...

What a lovely tribute to your father, Barbara! Thanks for sharing it. Lee, thanks for hosting!

Patsy said...

What lovely memories.

The Reindeer Keeper said...

Thanks for all the wonderful comments!

Arlee Bird said...

Barbara, you were a delightful guest and I hope to see you again at Wrote By Rote. My thanks to all who stopped by and especially those of you who left your comments.

Lee