Saturday, March 10, 2007


I've just returned from a visit with Mom in my hometown, Auburn, Alabama. She will turn 89 on May 4 and continues to live at 244 Woodfield Dr. in the house where I grew up. Born Vera Louise Harrison near Wilkes-Barre, PA, she had an older brother and sister. Her mother died when Mom was 13; Granddad, a school math teacher, told the children, "We'll be fine if none of you gets sick." And they never got sick. They lived in a duplex on Gates Street, a house built by my great grandfather, who was a contractor from Askum. They rented out half of the house to pay the mortgage. After Aunt Lois died a few years ago, Mom took us on a tour of her old haunts, including the house where she was born. The lady living there now allowed us to come inside for a look around.

Mom played the violin as a teenager. I had the bow restrung many years ago, but Mom never played it. She graduated from Mansfield State Teachers' College, where she was president of the women students. She studied home economics and became a high school home ec teacher in Dushore. She met Dad one summer when she went to take some grad courses at Iowa State. Dad was working on his Ph.D. in dairy science at the time. They met at a dance, and we still have Dad's diary in which he recorded the event. They were married in 1942, after Dad's graduation and before he took a job at University of Georgia. He wasn't there long before he joined the Navy. At that point Mom returned home to Wilkes-Barre, where I was born in 1945, 10 months before Dad got out of the Navy and came home to hold me for the first time.

After WWII ended, Dad took a job at Penn State for a brief period, maybe only a year. Then they moved to Auburn where they remained. Mom was the second woman to become an elder in the First Presbyerian Church. She taught Sunday School for years. She took a job in Pre-College counseling at the University for several years. Up until recently, she helped organize and sewed dresses for the annual church project to provide new school clothes for impoverished children in the county. She has played bridge at least twice a month for years. Each Christmas she makes coffee breads--something all her friends look forward to. One year she made over 40, but she's cut back to just a few each year. She was always able to tell a good story or joke. She has hardly ever been sick and has literally never been hospitalized for illness or surgery. She doesn't exercise, and she eats what she wants (th0ugh not much these days), yet remains in good health, taking only a small dose of blood pressure medicine daily. Her health and longevity are probably largetly due to her positive attitude, her refusal to worry about things she can't change. She's about the most laid back, unworried person I know. I hope some of that has rubbed off on me.


Terry Teachout on histories of jazz

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