My Pattern Pages Are Here!

My Pattern Pages Are Here!
copyright 2008 Laura Blanton

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Home And Hearth"


When we built our family home, my dad insisted on a “real” fireplace - none of that prefab stuff for him. It had to be all brick and very big. We cut cost on other things so we could have this fireplace. It has an 24” hearth, a railroad tie for the mantle and will burn a log almost 4’ long.

We couldn’t wait for it to be finished so we could build a fire. We three children had never had a fireplace and the excitement was high to say the least. At last the day arrived and Daddy got ready to show us how to build a fire. A little paper first, a few pieces of small kindling on top of that and, finally, some thin logs when it got started. We had to start small until we were sure the chimney was going to “draw” the smoke out. He explained which woods made the best sounds and smells and to never, ever burn pine logs because the creosote would coat the inside of the chimney and could cause an explosion. We could only use pine as kindling. He was part owner of a cabinet shop and we always had scrap wood for this purpose.

The fireplace worked and we were thrilled. It’s amazing how much joy can come from the simplest of things and even more amazing how hot it is with a fire burning in a new house in August. Yes, August, We just couldn’t wait any longer. Daddy would never admit it, but he was just as anxious as we were.

That fireplace has been the center of so many wonderful memories for all of us. I had never had a spend the night party before. That winter, I was allowed to have six friends over and we put blankets and quilts on the floor in front of this fireplace and slept there. I say slept, but you all know how much sleeping goes on at a spend the night party. We had so much fun and I was so pleased that I finally had a nice, new home to share with my friends. The den was very small and the kitchen cabinets still didn’t have doors, but I don’t remember that making any difference. Daddy even let us roast marshmallows in the fire which was high up on the list of things we couldn‘t normally do. It was right up there with not walking barefoot on the new hardwood floors which would discolor them.

When we had company, my brothers and I would argue about who would sleep on the couch in the den by the fire. Daddy taught us how to “bank” the fire so it would be easy to start back up in the morning. If we had a big, backlog burning well, it would last until the next day without any trouble.

Lots of times for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would move the dining room table into the den so we could enjoy the fire with our extended family. This was after we had enlarged the den to include the back deck. Now we have no deck, but a wonderful, large den.

Daddy loved his fireplace, and still does. He sat there in his grandfather’s rocking chair and watched the fire and listened to it crackle. He has rocked all of this grandchildren in front of this fire and I hope to rock mine there someday. He and Mother are in a nursing home now, and they both really miss home and hearth.

What made me think of all of this was when I was in the basement the other day and noticed the little door at the base of the concrete block fireplace support. I hadn’t thought of it in years. Daddy had them build a trap door in the floor of the fireplace. After the ashes had cooled, we just opened the door with the poker and shoveled the ashes down the shoot.. It occurred to me that we have never cleaned it out. We’ve been burning wood for 34 ½ years and it still isn’t full. This amazes me. All the years of sweet memories, happy times, warmth during a power loss, Christmas weddings, rocking babies and slumber parties contained behind that little metal door. All the trips to the woodpile, that’s after cutting and chopping the wood, mind you. Bringing in the kindling, and tending the fire during a storm so it won’t go out - and still it’s not full.

I guess this is just one more thing my dad did right. We had all those wonderful fires and not once did we have to carry out ashes. They are still here in the house, right along with all the beautiful memories they helped to build.

Laura Blanton
March 7, 2003

"Become As A Child"


Recently, on a late summer afternoon while I was resting on the back deck, I had the misfortune to drive a huge splinter into my heel – sideways. I have a very high tolerance for pain, but this thing was like the middle half of a round toothpick, only a little bigger and with jagged edges. It was one of those “hold your breath until you almost pass out” moments. I was home alone as my husband was working late and there was no one to help. Luckily, I had the phone outside and called the most obvious person – my dad. We never get too old to need our dads and moms. I’m so blessed and happy to still have mine. I knew he couldn’t really help, especially from the nursing home, but I had to call him. First I had to assure him that I was in no real danger, then it went something like, “Daddy I have a huge splinter in my heel and I need you to get it out.” To which he replied, “let me get my pocket knife and I’ll be right there.” Of course this was exactly the response I would have written into a script. It’s what he has always said. It is his theory you can accomplish almost anything with a good, sharp pocket knife.

I went from a middle aged woman to a little girl in the space of a few seconds. All I could think was that my daddy could handle this if he were here. I didn’t always feel this way. When I was really a little girl, the “let me get my pocket knife” line wrought fear and dread in my heart. Oh, such screaming and crying. He had to threaten me with a spanking to get me to be still and let him remove a splinter. After it was out, he became an instant hero – until the next time.

This all came to mind last night after our inaugural meeting of the Family Council at the nursing home. We were trying to establish some goals and taking suggestions for speakers, programs and activities. One of the things I discussed with a few of the family members was that we give the residents an opportunity to share their vast knowledge and experience with those of us still in need of so much guidance. I too often get lost in the roll of caregiver and forget that these are still vital human beings with a longing for purpose and accomplishment. Some of them are in no mind to participate in this activity, but many have sharp minds and are only physically debilitated. I learned this several years ago before my mother’s oldest sister died. I had been caring for her a number of years, all my life if the truth be told. When I could no longer accomplish this at home, along with Mother and Daddy and a full time job, we moved her to Lake Villa in East Lake. She had a beautiful room, if small, and received good care. It is a wonderful facility. I had neglected to visit her for longer than usual and was feeling very guilty in spite of the fact that I was about to lose my mind trying to cover all the bases of wife, parent, child, niece, aunt and employee. I finally could put it off no longer and had to face the guilt. I went into the room and she was so happy to see me. I started trying to explain why I had not been by. Suddenly, I just lost control and became the child she had loved and cared for so much. I fell on the floor, laid my head in her lap and cried like a baby. Her mind wasn’t very good, but she knew in her heart what to do. She sat quietly patting my head and started to sing to me like she did when I was little. It was such a comforting, cleansing experience – at that time. Right now it is breaking my heart just to tell it. I really miss her a lot. It just hadn’t occurred to me before that day to let her be the adult and me the child in need of guidance. I’ve tried to remember this and rein in my “bossy self” when needed.

Mother and Daddy are very dependent on me, but they are still my parents and need to be treated appropriately. Sometimes I just have to tell them my problems and let them handle it for a while. It helps them to understand what I’m going through and makes them feel needed and helpful for a change. We all reach a time in our lives, if our parents are blessed with long lives, where we change places with them and have to become the mother or dad. That fact can not, and will not be changed. But we don’t have to be locked into that roll 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s okay to slip back for a while and let them do what they did so well when we were growing up. I’m going to suggest that this be one of the family council’s first orders of business – forming an advisory group of residents. I’m sure many of them have a lot to offer in their particular areas of expertise. All they need is to be asked and given the opportunity. Even if the advice doesn’t turn out to be right or put into action, they will have been given a chance to feel needed and useful.

I really did need my daddy that afternoon. I ended up trying to remove the splinter myself and broke off the end. When my husband finally got home, we sterilized various implements and managed to remove most of the splinter. It wasn’t nearly as quick, painless or thorough as Daddy’s pocket knife.

Laura Blanton
August 29, 2003

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

"Freight Trains and Pot-Bellied Stoves"

One of my stories published in the "Birmingham Post Herald"


Granddaddy worked for Seaboard Coastline Railroad for 45 years. He had several different jobs during this time including Breakman, traveling work crew during WWII, freight conductor and passenger conductor. I came along during the freight conductor era. Lucky me – no really, it was terrific. He had the Birmingham to Atlanta run which was perfect since we had a lot of family there. Great excuse for a train trip. In the summer I would ride with him to Atlanta and one of my aunts or uncles would pick us up. Sometimes he had a little while to visit before he had to turn back around. I would stay for a week of two and play with my cousins and either ride back on the train or Mother and Daddy would load my brothers in the car and come over for the weekend and pick me up.

One of the best parts of riding the train was the trip to and through the Terminal Station. It was so grand and beautiful. I, like so many other Birmingham natives, miss this architectural marvel so much. In case you weren’t here at the time or don’t remember, it had a high, domed ceiling and lots of gold gilt everywhere. There were long wooden benches for people to wait and, as well as I can remember, some little places where you could purchase newspapers, magazines, cokes and snacks. I wasn’t allowed to wander around very much.

Riding on the freight train was the absolute greatest – one of the highest points of my youth. I have a sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t really supposed to be on the freight train, but that’s where I rode anyway. I’m sure everybody on the train knew I was there. They just overlooked it if you kept a low profile. Besides, everyone liked my Granddaddy. They called him “Doc.” I don’t know why – I never asked. Probably wouldn’t have gotten an answer anyway. He never had very much to say.

Granddaddy had Caboose # 5678. That was my domain for the ride. I loved the pot-bellied stove that heated the car and kept the eternally brewing coffee hot. You never threw coffee out. There was no such thing as bad coffee, no matter how thick it got.

My favorite place was up the ladder into the observation area of the car. It was great – like being queen of the hill. I wish I had realized at the time just how fortunate I really was. Not many children had this opportunity. My brother Steve got to make the trip only a couple of times. He wasn’t nearly as calm and quiet as I was. I can’t imagine him ever keeping a low profile.

I still love a train ride: the rocking motion, click-clack noise of the tracks and the scenery speeding past. I’ve never minded the side tracking for other trains to pass. Admittedly, a freight train in August can be less than pleasant when standing still. I still liked it better than the passenger train that he started working during the last few years of his career. I had no choice but to ride with the people who were mere passengers. Granddaddy would get me settled in and come check on me off and on. I still have his uniform and hat. He was so handsome in it as he walked up and down the isles. I was a very proud and happy granddaughter.

Sometimes Granddaddy would get “rolled” for his run by one of the men with more seniority. I don’t know who was the maddest when this happened – Granddaddy, my Grandmother or me. He was upset because of lost work, Mama was mad because they were mistreating her beloved husband, and I, of course, was mad for all of those reasons plus the depth of disappointment over a missed trip. When you are a child, waiting until tomorrow or the next day just isn’t seen as an option.

Laura Blanton
November 16, 2002

Sunday, September 19, 2004

"I Remember"

One of my other passions is writing. All of my stories and poems are about the things I have experienced since I was a child. Some are devotions, one of which was published in "The Upper Room", a United Methodist Church publication. Most of the others are "rememberings" from a precious childhood in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama from 1951 forward. A few are accounts of my nursing home experiences. I cared for two grandparents, one aunt, my mother and still have my dad in a nursing home. Many of these have been published in various media including the "Birmingham Post Herald" and "Senior Living", a monthly publication in which I have a column titled "I Remember."

I would like to share some of them with anyone who cares to read them. They might bring back precious memories for you!

Here's one with more to follow. Hope you enjoy it!


The house where I grew up next door to my grandparents and aunts had a breakfast room. Some of you will remember these, some of you won’t. I know the term is self-explanatory, but the particulars of the old ones are worth exploring. Today’s kitchens have “breakfast nooks”, often in a bay-window. That’s not a breakfast room. They were usually tucked in between the kitchen and the dining room, in varying sizes. My grandmother’s was larger, with room for a table and six chairs. She also had corner cabinets hung on the wall to hold some of her salt and pepper shaker collection. Ours was more compact. There was a table with built in benches on either side and a window fan on the end wall by the table. This fan was used to push hot air out of the window as we had no air-conditioning. On the other side were built in cabinets. The overhead ones had glass doors so that you could display pretty things. I think there was hope that they would get less dusty that way, but you know that didn’t happen.

I loved this room. We hardly ever ate in the dining room. In fact, I remember it being turned into a den with the dining room furniture moved into one end of the living room. We ate in the breakfast room – all of us – together – at the same time. I know it sounds barbaric by today’s standards, but that’s the way it was. We tried at times to talk our way into the den in front of the television, but it never worked. There wasn’t that much to watch on t.v. anyway. I can still close my eyes and remember so many of those meals. My mother was a terrific cook. We all had our favorites. Mine was anything with potatoes, didn’t much matter what else, just lots and lots of potatoes. My brother next to me loved Mother’s casserole made from sausage, cheese, and potatoes. She started out baking the potatoes, scooping out the middle, putting a browned sausage link inside, covering with the rest of the potato and topping with cheese before putting them back in the oven. As the family grew, and the appetites, she just started stewing the potatoes and putting it all in a casserole dish. My baby brother’s favorite was spaghetti. Mother’s spaghetti was different – very mild and all mixed together. I think Daddy preferred roast beef cooked with potatoes, onions, and carrots. I remember having my very first pizza in this room, having donuts and coffee, (milk for us), when my aunts and uncles visited from Georgia, and playing games as a family.

During most of these years, times were hard and Mother really had to work at keeping us fed. I know she pretended not to be hungry sometimes so there would be enough. One of the things she cooked the best was diced potatoes fried with onions. My oldest brother and I would race through our first helping to see who could get the little bit that was left on the platter. Yes, we used platters and serving bowls - none of this helping yourself from the stove. We always set the table properly with fork on the left and knife and spoon on the right. We had to use proper manners as well. We couldn’t even prop up one side of the plate with a knife or spoon to keep the turnip green juice from running into everything else. Daddy hated this. He said if we didn’t behave properly at home, we wouldn’t remember to do it when we were out. I’m sure now that he was very wise in teaching us this, but it sure seemed unreasonable at the time. Looking at people in restaurants today, I seriously doubt they were raised like we were.

We no longer have a breakfast room. There is a breakfast bar between the kitchen and the den, but we don’t usually eat there. Yes, I’m afraid the television has finally won out – except for early on Saturday mornings. I have an old English pub table by the window in the den with an antique lamp on it and a chair from my grandmother’s kitchen to sit in. I like to fix my breakfast or a cup of tea and sit there for a little while before my day starts. No television, no newspaper, just quiet except, for the echoes of past meals in my Mother’s breakfast room.

Laura Blanton
July 10, 2003

"I Remember


My father, Robert J. Slaughter, shared his marvelous talent with me and helped me get started carving. My first carving was done after the accidental death of my brother, Stephen D. Slaughter, in August of 1987. I just picked up a piece of wood and started carving what I was feeling. This became the catalyst which enabled me to reach a state of acceptance and peace with his death. I named it "Beside the Still Waters." I will post a picture of it when I can.

Meanwhile, I continued to carve and improve my art. I especially love to carve the Madonna and Child and will attach some pictures of a few pieces as soon as I learn how!

I have sold all but three pieces of my work! It is so satisfying to know others value what you do!

In The Beginning

I should have done this a long time ago... My brother Kevin in Florida is teaching me over the phone.

I will be adding things that I love to do and sharing ancestry information on the DeFoor, Mullinax, Reed, Dowdle and Moore families in the future.