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The Angel and the Tree

“We’ve got to move. You need to find some boxes and start packing”.

The statement and demand had become familiar.

I hated the emptiness of it. I hated hearing it. But this one was really awful, the timing couldn’t have been worse. We had less than six weeks before Christmas. Our children were ages eleven and nine, they didn’t deserve another disruption. With each move, even with moving out of the school district, I had insisted they stay enrolled in their school. It meant getting up earlier, arriving home later, driving them to and from, and changing my work schedule to make it happen. But that was better than the alternative… a frequent upheaval in their curriculum. It was my attempt at keeping things normal.

Then he said, “We have to be out of here by tomorrow. I’ve rented a trailer.”

I didn’t see the place for myself, until we began moving in. It was a single-wide mobile home. Old and rusty. Parked at an odd angle in the landlord’s yard, it looked like it was on its last leg.

A few years prior, we had built a 5,000 square foot, five bedroom home. Most recently, we had been living in a large log cabin on the Etowah River. How would we get all of our stuff in the trailer?

How had we managed to lose so much?

The odor in the single-wide assaulted me as soon as I stepped inside. It smelled of wet dogs and mildew.

“Did you come in here before you signed the lease?” I asked.

The floors sagged. Cold air seeped past loose window seals. Holes in the bathroom floor had been carelessly patched with old linoleum. The toilet wobbled and “gave” a bit when used. I was always afraid of going through the floor.

There was one bathroom and two bedrooms. The largest bedroom was barely big enough for a set of bunk beds; the kids shared that room.The smaller bedroom substituted for a closet. Our bed had to go into the living room.

The whole place was dark and gloomy.

My children accepted the move without complaining. And that broke my heart more than anything. They were good kids. They never asked for toys, they never asked for candy when we were in a store. They didn’t have tantrums in the checkout line. And here they were, accepting this situation without grumbling. It was life as usual by then.

I felt they had a right to complain about the chaos in their lives. But they didn’t. And that was heartbreaking.

Every time I looked at a new house, visited a possible rental, or viewed houseplans in a magazine, I looked for the best spot for a Christmas Tree. (Still do.) A quick walk through the narrow trailer, and I knew there would be no Christmas Tree that year. We would be packed into that place like sardines in a can. There was no room for a tree.

But in years past, no matter how bad things had gotten, we had always had a Christmas Tree. The kids loved them and I did as well. This would be more heartache for my children. More guilt for me.

On the morning of the last day of school before Christmas Break, Garrett said to me: “Mom, I’m going to have a surprise for you after school today. But first I have to go into the woods. Ok? Don’t be worried when you see me going into the woods with a saw. I promise you’re going to love my surprise.”

I don’t think I found words, my throat was too tight. I just hugged him. And felt like the worst mom in the world. Undeserving of my two beautiful children.

That afternoon, he was very excited on the way home from school. As soon as his backpack was put away, he announced he was going for the surprise. “I won’t be long, I already know where it is.”

Watching that little boy enter the woods, wearing a navy blue stocking cap on his head, carrying a saw half his size… I was filled with gratitude for God’s blessings. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

Before long he emerged from the woods, dragging a Cedar Tree behind him. His saw was in the other hand, and a smile brighter than the Georgia sun on his face.

Our ornaments were in storage, so we decorated the tree with ornaments he and Lindsey had made in school that year. I had rounded up a couple strands of lights, so those went on the tree as well.

I declared it the best tree we had ever had. And it was.

But Garrett said it needed one more thing to be perfect. Our tree needed a Star.

So he gathered some supplies: an empty toilet paper holder, aluminum foil, and a piece of cardboard… and he made a Star for the top of the tree.

I still use his homemade Star to top my tree. (I would post a photo, but I don’t have a tree this year).

On that Christmas morning, there weren’t many gifts under the tree. It never occurred to me that there might be a gift with my name on it beneath the tree. After both kids had opened their presents, Lindsey went to the tree. She leaned in, then stood up holding a small, sweetly wrapped package. I could tell her little hands had done the wrapping.

She held the gift forward, toward me. And in the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard, she said, “Here Mom, this is for you.”

She waited patiently while I opened the gift she had for me. I could see from her expression, that whatever was in the box, it was something she had put a lot of thought into.

Inside the wrappings, was a beautiful “diamond” angel pin.

“I wanted you to have this mom. So you’ll always have an angel watching over you.”

I hugged her, thanked her, and wept silently.

How was it that I had been blessed with these two thoughtful,caring children? How could they both be so good and kind, when their lives were in a perpetual state of instability?

I wore the angel pin daily. Until I was afraid it was too fragile, then I put it up for safe keeping. I still have it though, and tonight I unwrapped it once again.

I remembered the gentle determination of both little ones. And wondered again, why God had loaned me such wonderful gifts.

I pray you have a

Merry Christmas. 🎄

Sugar Biscuit

I didn’t put a tree up this year. My Nativity is still in boxes.

I had planned to decorate, but it just didn’t happen. I really didn’t “feel it”.

Oh, I’m not completely devoid of Christmas bling. I set out a couple of Santas and a table top tree. Some Holly and lights, but that’s about all.

All season, my lack of Christmas decorations have reminded me of a Christmas past. Almost daily, I’ve thought of an elderly woman and her little granddaughter that lived near me when I was a kid. The Wilsons.

They had very little in the way of material things. Their house was always drafty and cold.

And one cold Christmas Eve, I visited their home. I don’t remember for sure, but most likely I took them some of my mama’s Christmas candies… Irish Potato Candy and Chocolate Drop Cookies.

I remember walking from my family’s humble but warm home, to theirs, trying carefully not to disturb their dog, Smut. I was terrified of him.

It was Christmas, and in the naivety of any eight year-old, I assumed the Wilson’s home would be different for the Christmas Season. Different than it was the rest of the year. In our house, we had a beautiful evergreen tree, standing tall and fat, twinkling in the front window. Our tree made the entire house smell like Christmas. It was covered in red garlands, silver tinsel and bright, wintry lights. Colorful packages waited beneath the evergreen branches, reflecting the lights of the tree. Even our front door was decorated. So when I knocked on the Wilson’s door, I expected to find the same warm Christmas lights filling their living room.

My brother and I spent a lot of time trying to guess what great surprises were being held by the gift boxes under our tree, all while anticipating bikes and a Red Kiddie Kar from Santa. I assumed Mrs. Wilson’s granddaughter was enjoying the same Christmas excitement that we were experiencing.

When I knocked on their door, Mrs. Wilson opened it and invited me in. She was old, frail. Waif like. But she was physically strong. Or maybe she just pushed herself forward, because that was her only option. Summer and winter alike, I had watched her working in her yard, hauling water buckets from her creek’s well. Even a kid could see that she was a hard-working woman. I was aware that she was at least as old as my own grandmother.

That Christmas Eve, I accepted her invitation to come inside. As soon as I entered their house, my eyes went to their tree, and my heart dropped. A lump formed in my throat as I attempted to prevent tears from choking me. Their Christmas tree was a skinny branch of a Georgia Pine, and I knew Mrs. Wilson had cut it from a tree in her yard. There was a strand of lights woven through the “tree”, but only one bulb burned. It was a frosty cobalt blue bulb, it was the prettiest Christmas light I had ever seen. And the saddest tree I had ever seen.

Mrs. Wilson’s granddaughter was younger than me. She had beautiful brown eyes, full of curiosity, wonder and a hint of sadness. I wanted to cry again when the little girl pointed to the scraggly little pine branch, and with a huge smile asked, “See my tree?!”

I smiled back at her, and said, “It’s pretty. I like your blue light.”

To this day, blue Christmas lights are my favorite.

Mrs. Wilson told me she had biscuits in the oven. Would I like a sugar biscuit? I had never heard of a sugar biscuit, but I gladly accepted a warm golden mound of bread, sprinkled with sugar. She silently nodded yes, when she saw that I liked the dessert she had offered. The dessert of a poor woman.

That Christmas Eve, I left their little house changed… older. I left feeling sad for them. Grieved because there were no gifts under their tree. Fearful that Santa wouldn’t visit them.

I went home and shared a heavy heart with my mom. I was worried, I was afraid I had unwittingly eaten part of their dinner, when I ate that biscuit.

My mom explained that Mrs. Wilson had offered the bread because she wanted to… that’s what she had to give, all she had to give, and she had wanted to share.

I love Christmas trees and Christmas lights. I’ve enjoyed looking at your photos this year. And driving up Main Street at night, no other purpose than to view the holiday lights.

But this Christmas, I’ve been acutely aware of the people that a commercial christmas overlooks.

This year, may we all remember it’s not about spending money and putting out lots of decorations. It’s about remembering a Baby who was born to be your Savior. Christmas is in your ♥️, not your wallet.

If you have nothing more to give than a sugar biscuit and an innocent, heartfelt greeting, “See my tree?”

Then know that what you have to give, is what matters.

Merry Christmas 🎄

The Alexandersen Boys

Photo courtesy of Lauren Alexandersen

Joe and the Christmas Chicks 🐥

Below is a story my cousin Joe tells every now and then. Joe is actually my mom’s first cousin; my grandmother and his mom were sisters.

Joe is a memory keeper and a story teller. And he’s a good man.

My written words won’t allow you to hear the warm southern comfort of his voice, nor will they reveal the mischievous twinkle of his eyes as he retells this story of a time gone by. But I hope you see the heart of a little boy, a poor boy… who was pained by the great sadness and mourning he witnessed all around him. He asked himself what he could do to bring cheer to his friends. He figured it out, the answer to his own question, and set out to make it happen.

The world needs more Joes.

Merry Christmas 🎄

“On November 22 1963, I was 10 years old and went to Canton Elementary School (Canton, Georgia). I was in Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston’s 3rd grade class.

On that day, I walked home for lunch, for I lived on Hill Street in downtown Canton, about 300 feet from school.

When I got home there was a news bulletin on the TV that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas,Texas. I ran back to the school and told Mrs. Johnston. She went to the other teachers and found out that it was true. All of the teachers were crying in the hallway. The following days, through the time of the funeral, and even into December, there was so much sadness. And I wanted to cheer everyone up. So I thought to myself, “what would make me happy?”

The answer was “a baby chicken”!

I lived just up the hill from Gold Kist Poultry. So I went to work collecting every Coca Cola bottle I could find around the “chicken plant” (Gold Kist), and sold them at Mr. Frongberger’s store, which was down the hill from the school as well. Not far from Gold Kist. I went strait to the hatchery with my bottle money, and knocked on the big door of the plant. The door opened and there stood two men. One of the men asked, “can I help you son?”.

I said, “I want to buy some baby chicks!” One of the men said, “we don’t sell to the public!”

I lowered my head, and when I did, the other man asked, “what are you going to do with the chicks?”

I told him that I wanted to give everyone in my class a present for Christmas.

He turned to the other man and said, “get the chicks for him”. When they give them to me, I handed the money to him. But he said, “keep the money, those chicks are free”.

The next day at school was our class Christmas party. And when I brought those baby chicks into the room, I saw that I was right, they liked baby chicks just as much as I did!

Jenny Holbrook put me in the school paper and titled her article, Joe and The Christmas Chicks.

I found out that day, how special giving is.

PS … by 6pm that same day, I got most of the chicks returned back to me.”🐥

Joe Daniel

Joe

Joe’s other Christmas Chicks, his beautiful daughters.

December 1995

One year in December, when my children were 8 and 6, I took them to Washington, DC for the National Tree Lighting Ceremony. In the afternoon, we situated ourselves up close and personal to the Nation’s Christmas Tree, naively believing we would stay in our perfect spot throughout the service. But prior to the Clintons emerging from the White House, Secret Service Agents forced us to a faraway distance. We were disappointed, but didn’t complain. We were in our Nation’s Capitol after all, and it was Christmas.

After being relocated, we were some distance from the activity of the White House. Yet even with all that air and city street noise between us, we could hear President Clinton speaking. And as we walked away from the National Tree that evening, we heard the children’s choir sweetly singing Christmas Carols. I knew it was possibly a once in a lifetime event, and I relished the experience.

Earlier that day, my children and I had taken a Christmas tour of the White House. It was spectacular, like nothing I had ever seen. I wasn’t a supporter of old Bill and his First Lady, but I had immense respect for their title roles as my nation’s leaders. I respect the home of our First Family. It’s got some history… not all good, you know? Still, it’s their home, our house.

So when given the opportunity to view the interior White House Christmas decorations, I was thrilled, knowing my children were experiencing something special.

My two little ones and I walked through those history laden halls reverently, and in awe. Not once did we criticize First Lady Clinton for her decorative style. But six year old Garrett did question why, if the White House belonged to the People, we couldn’t just sleep there for the night. It was a reasonable question.

From the published photos, it appears Melania has decorated our house beautifully.

I like those red trees.

I love the green trees.

Thank you, Melania. You’ve done a beautiful job. 🎄

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Victory

“Just getting through the Holidays will be a victory.”

Several years ago, someone said this to me…

That year, my divorce was finalized the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Then came December. I had no income, everything about my life was up in the air. I didn’t know where I would be living in a few weeks, much less how I would purchase Christmas gifts for my kids. A Christmas Tree was out of the question. Christmas, usually my favorite time of year, had become a heavy weight on my back.

When those words were spoken to me, by a 19 year old girl who had recently experienced her parent’s divorce, I felt the Earth shift just a little. I held onto her encouragement, and at the end of each day, I quietly declared victory.

I remember breathing a deep sigh of relief, the morning after Christmas Day. My kids had survived the Holidays. And I had too.

And so will you.

One day you’ll wake up on the other side of all of this.

Until then, count each day as a victory.

Another Last, First Day

My Sweet Cooper,

Your big adventure begins today. It’s a momentous day for the little girl who loves shoes, jewelry and all things girly. (Even your guinea pig is named Sparkles.) You’ve anticipated this day all summer long, maybe longer. Your first day of Kindergarten.

You call me Aunt Diffy. I call you my Sweet Coop-A-Loop, a name Carter and your dad came up with before you were born.

But I never know exactly how to reference you, when I’m (frequently) telling others about you. You’re my nephew’s baby girl. My brother’s granddaughter. Are you my Grand-Niece, my Great-Niece? You’re both grand, and great, in my eyes.

Do you see these First Day of Kindergarten photos your mommy and daddy shared? Just look at the joy in your eyes, the mischief in your grin, the sweetness of your countenance and the confidence of your intellect. You are truly grand, and really great, my sweet Coop.

I’ve also looked forward to this day, because you’ve looked forward to it. But I’ve felt some apprehension, too. And not just because your great-granddad, Papa Grady, says “Cooper seems to be having birthdays faster than the rest of them”.

It’s because you’re leaving a safe environment and stepping into a world that doesn’t always include the rest of us.

You’re ready for it. I’m not.

School is a magical place. But it’s also a brutal place.

One of my prayers for you Coop-A-Loop, as you begin your educational journey, is that no one ever steals your joy. Already, you know you are surrounded by an army of people who love you. And we’ll always be with you, even when you don’t see us. Even when we’re gone. But will you remember how much you’re loved, on the days that aren’t so lovely?

I hope so. I pray so

When the day comes that you encounter a “mean girl”, and you will encounter one… probably before you finish kindergarten … I hope you dig deep, and allow the defiant spirit of your great-grandmothers to rise up in you. You have some tough, strong grandmothers.

On the day you encounter a bully, I hope you feel the love of your family, your warriors, surrounding you, encouraging you to march on. Head up, eyes focused, face forward.

I hope you understand that the meanness of others has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with jealousy… and the insecurities of the one hurling the dart. I pray those word-darts never hit their target. But if they strike, I hope they slide off like hot butter on Teflon.

I pray you’re able to see past the mean exterior of anyone who may be lonely or unloved, and extend a hand of friendship.

My prayer is that you, Carter, and children around the world, have a safe school year. Every year.

May lifelong friendships begin today.

PS, let’s check back here thirteen years from now. #touchdownGeorgia! ♥️🖤

Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24

Mountain Creek

 

From the first year of her life, she made the trip up the mountain with her Mama and Daddy. Every spring they traveled up the dirt road to Mountain Creek, riding in an old car of questionable dependability. Windows rolled down, they arrived at the cemetery with their best, and only, Sunday dresses covered in the red dust of a dry Alabama dirt road. They arrived early, long before the church singing began, to clean up, and decorate with freshly picked flowers, the graves of family members.

When she was a toddler, she made the trip one winter, with her mama and daddy, to bury her baby brother. In the spring, they dressed his grave as best they could, and lingered long after the church grew silent.

In the winter of 1967 and ‘68, she made the trip up the mountain twice, exactly two months apart, to bury her mama, and then her daddy. She was only twenty-four years old. After that, the trips up the mountain took on a deeper sadness. A heartbreak for her that will never fully recover.

In the fifty years since leaving her parents there, she has never missed a spring trip to the Alabama mountain. Presently, it’s difficult for her to get around, but she cleans the granite, gently removes the old flowers, and reverently sets about “decorating”, with the new flowers she has brought from Georgia. Beautiful sprays of spring flowers are set upon the gravel covered graves. The dark granite vase is lovingly filled with a burst of colorful blooms. During the prior weeks, she’s put a lot of thought into the flowers she gives her mama, daddy and brother. This year, rather than pinks and yellows, she chose deep red roses, the same color she placed on their graves that first Christmas, in 1968.

She’s in her final years now, and she knows this. She’s worried about who will care for their graves when she’s no longer here. Her concern makes me so sad for her.
I’ve promised her I’ll make sure it gets done, as long as I’m still around. 

 

 

He Still Loves Me

 

 

Looking back, I have a clear image of what God was trying to do for me. But on that day, all I could see was despair and uncertainty.

Surrounded by packing boxes, I sat on the floor of my master bathroom and slowly moved the contents of my cabinets, into the boxes. I had no idea how long it would be before the boxes would be unpacked. I didn’t know where I would store the boxes. All I knew for sure was that I had to be out of my house in a matter of days. Where I would go and what I would do, once I left the house, was part of the uncertainty.

Months before, I had divorced after twenty-four years of marriage. It had been an abusive, dysfunctional marriage and leaving it was a relief. But loss of any kind is painful. Letting go of a dream is difficult. The unknown can be exciting, but at that time, in this situation, it was daunting. I had no income. The year prior to my divorce, a mystery illness had forced me to end a career with a major airline. During the dismantling of my marriage…I had been awarded our home. But I soon learned the house was not mine. The home we had built years before, the home I had planned to pass on to my children someday, had been transferred to my former in-laws. And there was nothing I could do about it. Realizing and accepting this, was devastating. Agonizing acceptance of the inevitable, was what had me on the floor, packing soap and shampoo into boxes.

That day in the bathroom, I was more uncertain of my future than I ever had been before. Life felt unbearably heavy and frightening. I berated myself for making so many poor life choices. How had I gotten to this place in life? Overwhelmed with life and the task in front of me, I stopped packing and leaned against the cabinet. Through large windows, I watched as trees moved slightly in a soft breeze. Sun filtered through leaves and branches, casting shadows across the white tiled floor. I had always loved this view of the field and trees beyond the bathroom windows. It was all so familiar, and inconceivable, that these things would soon become accessible to me in memory only.

I was deep in thought, but not really thinking, when my phone rang. The voice on the other end was a friend from childhood. We had recently reconnected on Facebook but had not seen each other in thirty years. “Listen”, she said, “I can tell you’re struggling. I know things are tough. But I have an idea that can change your life, get you back on your feet”. She went on to tell me about a new company she had started working with. “It’s founded and created by the two women doctors who created Proactiv”. She gave me a few more details, but I said I wasn’t interested. I told her I didn’t think her business was for me. In truth, I was deeply interested, for various reasons. There were a few things about this girl that I knew for certain: 1. She was intelligent. 2. She would never align herself with a company unless it was one of integrity. 3. She was wise, not one who could “have the wool pulled over her eyes”.  I knew, without doing the research myself, that what she said about her business was true. But I didn’t believe I could be successful in a direct marketing business. My self-esteem had been battered for two decades, I felt worthless, undeserving and inadequate. I could not see myself selling skincare to my friends. Honestly, I really didn’t want to link arms with a bunch of women who had life all together, because that would only amplify my copious shortfalls.
So, I thanked her for thinking of me, wished her well in her new endeavor, and went back to packing up my life.

The next week, I drove away from that house, that life, and set out in my car to visit my son in Chicago. After that, what I would do was anyone’s guess. I had no plan. I lived the life of a vagabond for the next four years. Traveled from stated to state, staying with family and friends. My former sister-in-law let me sleep on her sofa. I lived in one friend’s basement and another’s guest bedroom. At age fifty, I had become dependent on everyone else. When I grew weary of asking people if I could stay with them, I slept in my car. It was difficult. It was humiliating. (To be clear, no one made me feel that way. I did it to myself.) During those years, I would frequently remember what my friend had said to me that day on the bathroom floor, “….it can change your life….get you back on your feet…”. I had tried different things to earn money during those years, but nothing panned out. I wrote and self-published my memoir. I hired my time and my car out to drive people to the airport. This kept a few dollars in my pocket, but nothing I could depend on. Occasionally, a customer would fail to pay, and my 140-mile round-trip to the airport became a loss of time and money. It was on one of those occasions, that I cried out in frustration to God.

A call had come in from a rental car company in town. A customer needed to be driven to Atlanta. I gladly accepted the job, even though I had just enough fuel in my car to make it to the airport, not enough to get back home. But the fare would be enough to fill up my car, with $30 left over. I would come out in the positive. I told the caller I would accept cash only for the fare. He confirmed with the customer, and I was on my way. As I pulled curbside in front of the airport, the customer began searching through his pockets. And my stomach began to knot. “I’m sorry”, he said, “I don’t have cash on me. I thought I did.”

Leaving the airport, a guttural cry escaped my throat, “God, I need another way! I’m so tired of living like this. I’m tired of depending on other people! I can’t do it anymore. There must be a better way!” Immediately, I felt a strong Voice deep in my spirit, “I’ve already given you what you need, but you keep backing away”. I knew what He was referring to. Four years had passed since she had first told me about her business, but I didn’t hesitate this time. I picked up my phone, and I called my school friend. I told her I was ready to learn more about her business and her products, and partner with her. I ended that call with more hope than I had felt in a long time. I had a sense of calm and peace that had been absent for many years. Inexplicably, confidence that I was about to get on a different trajectory began to well up in my soul.  Then, I exited onto a service road near the airport and counted the loose change in my car’s cup-holder. I had just enough to purchase fuel to get home.

It’s been four years since I made that call. God has shown me over and over, that even with my flaws, my perceived inabilities, and despite my poor choices…. He loves me. He’s shown me I’m not inadequate. I can do all “the things”, but first I must close my ears to the whispers of deception. And these days, just as I was helped, I help other women find their way back from lost places. My help isn’t only for those who are devastated by life’s circumstances. I partner with busy men and women who want to do more, who desire to live a full life, and leave a legacy of abundance and philanthropy.  I partner with students who want to graduate, debt free. I partner with childless women who want to earn adoption fees. I show single moms how they can build a beautiful life for their children and themselves. I work with couples and individuals who don’t need the extra income, but who wish to give more.

When we pray, even in the form of a loud cry, and ask God for help, He listens. Because He loves us. He may not plop your prayer request into your lap, fully assembled, though. He wants us to use the things He’s given us. He desires for us to put our gifts and talents to work. I’ve found that’s how He answers my prayers. God gave me a channel, a means of helping myself. He pointed me in the right direction, and it took a while for me to hear Him. Still, He has allowed me to pull myself out of the ashes of my life. He’s replaced despair with peace, ashes with worth. Yet, with all that, I believe, more than helping myself, He brought this business model to me so that I can help others. Perhaps, even you.

Isaiah 61: 1-3DRF

If you would like to learn how you can partner with me, please contact me:

Cell Phone # 770-881-1007

email: DanitaAble@yahoo.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanitaClarkAble/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanitaClarkAble

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Rodan+Fields: DanitaClark.myrandf.biz

 

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Be True to Your School

Three years ago, I woke up to a post, made by a friend from my childhood. It was a simple line from a song, a song made famous by Joni Mitchell, back when this friend and I were in elementary school. Her post read, “They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” Along with that ominous sentence, she shared a link to our hometown newspaper. If the article in the Cherokee Tribune was true, and I had no reason to doubt that it was, we were about to lose a big piece of our childhood history. Our town was about to lose two beautiful works of architectural art. Our wonderful old school building, (most of us called it “the school house” back then, because that’s what our parents and grandparents called it…) had a date with a demolition ball. That graceful lady of a building, was sitting square in the eye of a sniper’s scope. The old Canton Textile Mill Office building (built by the family of our hometown golfer, Bobby Jones… you know him, the one of Augusta National fame), was also going to see the wrecking ball. The two buildings would be replaced, according to the artist’s depiction in the Tribune article, with a parking lot, and a blocked-style, modern building. The replacement building looked very similar to a large CVS or a Walgreen’s Pharmacy.

Privately, I contacted my school friend and inquired of the details. She shared with me some of what she couldn’t share publicly. Yes, it was true, the building was going. The fate was almost certain. She knew, because she was an employee of the Cherokee County School System, and they were the entity responsible for the future paving of Paradise. It was all but a “done deal”.

The news hit me hard. It was akin to knowing in advance, that a loved one was going to be in a fatal fight, but unable to reach them. Incapable of stopping the oncoming slaughter.

I had spent all my elementary years at Canton Elementary School. I was a Canton Greenie to the bone. We all were. We didn’t really know what a Greenie was, but we knew it was us. The What of a Greenie just didn’t matter. We wore the Green & Gold proudly, even as, often enough, kids from other schools, those with tougher sounding mascots, poked fun at us. Sometimes they were kinder, genuinely curious, and phrased a conversation starter with the inevitable question: “So, what is a Greenie, anyway?” The CES girls usually responded with a shoulder shrug. The boys generally had a different answer, “That’s for us to know and you to find out!”

One year, probably in an attempt to stall the “what is a Greenie” question, the cheerleaders dressed six-year-old Patrick Bishop in a Greenie get-up, and called him Canton’s Mascot. He looked like an Irish Leprechaun in the costume. But he put a brave and adorable face to the Greenie. To this day, he is the Greenie I see in my memory.
We were the Canton Greenies.

All the others were the…

  • Woodstock Wildcats
  • Holly Springs Wildcats
  • Macedonia Wildcats
  • Hickory Flat Devils (Green Devils)
  • Buffington Blue Devils
  • Clayton Rebels
  • Free Home Rockets
  • Ball Ground Indians/Braves
  • North Canton Tigers
  • R.M. Moore Braves
  • Ralph Bunche

And in that old Canton Gym, our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, at one time or another, showed all the others, what it meant to be a Greenie. Even if we couldn’t tell them.

Once we made it to Cherokee High School though, we were all Warriors. Everyone of us. Until the late 1970’s, Cherokee was the only 9th-12th grade school in the county. And at some time in their lives, almost every CHS Warrior had walked the grounds of Canton Elementary. They may have attended one of the other schools, but they had sat on the iron and wood Merry-Go-Round, eating ice-cream, or drinking a Lime Freeze from Landers or Canton Drug, while their mama shopped downtown. They had played, cheered, and attended a basketball game or a Fall Carnival, in the old gymnasium. They had eaten fund-raiser chicken dinner plates, and the best Yeast Rolls in the world, all made by “the lunchroom ladies”, in the school’s cafeteria.
Without doubt, the old Canton Elementary building, and her red clay grounds, held memories for most of us.

And so it was, that Greenies and Tigers, Blue Devils and Wildcats, Rockets and more…. all Warriors, took to the streets of Social Media in a March to Save Our School, save our history….our cotton mill, poultry grower, foothills history…. our childhood school home. Our Classic, Southern, Neoclassical Beauty of a building.

Randy Saxon talked to everyone about our fight. I wrote a blog article and called news agencies. Others shared the story of our impending loss. Soon, Canton Alum, locally and from other parts of the world, began joining our fight. Historians took notice. Meetings were called. Words were spoken. Prayers were said.

Outwardly, the situation appeared hopeless. My son, usually optimistic in his support of my endeavors, attempted to prepare me for the worst. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to save it, Mom. But you can say you’ve tried. You’ve all tried. You’ve done your best.”

We didn’t give up. We came together as a community, even though many of us no longer live in Cherokee County. Randy Saxon was not about to give in without a battle. His mother had led a fight to save the old Canton High School (Building #2, or the Big Building, as we called it when we were elementary students), and he was determined to carry the legacy.

To be clear, our group’s effort wasn’t simply to save our school building. We wished to preserve the historical integrity of downtown Canton. And we did.

Soon enough, you, and we, will be able to shop and dine where little feet used to scurry about. The memory triggering fragrance of old books won’t be there, the dust of chalk will not be visible. But I hope to see some remnants hanging about, in honor of the educators and students who loved their time there.

Principal Shault Coker’s wooden paddle, though it terrified me when I was a first grader…. I would love to see it on display in the hallway, near where his old office was located.

Recently, I commented to Randy, “and to think we could have had a modern building and a parking lot there instead.” He replied, “Yes, I guess we’ll have to put up with this old thing for another hundred years or so”.
Yes, we will Randy. Because of your hard work and love for your hometown, we will. Thank you for your diligent work and outstanding progress. You’ve been the force behind the preservation.

For those unfamiliar, below is a link to the article I wrote in 2015.
I’m also including photos I’ve snagged from Randy’s Facebook page. And a video he posted today, it shows the progress being made on the school.

I’m also including a couple of photos of that Greenie I mentioned.

Go Greenies!
Sincerely,

Danita

Bully in the School Yard

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