Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thankful Times 7

1. I'm quite thankful that I got a chance to see the world through the lens of a girl with perfect eye sight the first ten years of my life. I'm quite fortunate to have seen exquisite paintings, marvelous sculptures, the mastery of an ant bed, the coolness of the color turquoise, the breathtaking ornaments that decorate the day and night sky, the broad array of human physical characteristics, a sleepy crocodile, the lapping waters of a massive river, and countless other visual masterpieces that I’ll be able to cherish for a lifetime. #thankful

2. I'm thankful that I can brush my teeth, use the toilet, bathe my body, perm/wash/flatiron/style my own hair, and dress myself, without the assistance of others. #thankful

3. I'm thankful that I got a chance to climb a tree, ride a bike, go horseback riding, jump from a swing while in motion, dangle from monkey bars, write in cursive, draw and paint an award winning piece of art, thread a sewing needle, light a firecracker, play Monopoly, catch a fish, and play video games before losing my sight. #thankful

4. I may not have all the $$ I feel like I want and need, but I'm so thankful that the money I do have has afforded me with a roof over my head, a mattress to sleep on, several sofas and chairs to sit on, two refrigerators to store my food, a washer and dryer to keep my clothes clean, a stove to cook my food, computer to type on, internet access to surf the web with, software to make my computer do the special little things it does for me to be able to use it, nice enough clothes and shoes, and food that I actually like to eat to keep me full. #thankful

5. I'm so thankful to b my mother's and father's daughter. I can't imagine what my life would look like if I didn't have both of them in it. Both of them truly are the reason why I am who I am today. I can never repay them for what they've done for me. I love you, Thurman and Margie Braden!!!!! #thankful

6. In 2008, I created a bucket list with 101 goals on it. Tracing my family history back to emancipation was #27 on my list. I'm so thankful that I achieved that and more. I've traced six branches of my ancestry to 1870: Wyatt, Grayson, Boyd, Dunn, Bacon, and Tillery. And I hit the jackpot with my Braden research. We've now been able to trace my Braden roots all the way back to the 1600's. Remarkably, I have ancestors that participated in the colonization of Jamestown. Because Dudley Braden had white ancestors, we've been able to trace our family history back to Scotland and England. I won't stop researching until I hit the banks of Africa. So, I forge ahead. #thankful

7. I'm quite thankful that I have the ability to remember, imagine, brainstorm, problem solve, analyze, criticize, and make decisions. #thankful

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Confrontation (Part 3 of 3)

Next we headed to the stables to embark on what was to be the first horseback ride for many of us. I held
Christie’s hand as we hiked on the dirt trail away from the lake and towards the horses. When we arrived at the stables, I was delighted to see the large, gallant horses that stood proudly as we walked towards them. Their brown coats were so thick and beautiful. Several of the horses were stamping their feet, trying to get the flies that were landing on them to fly elsewhere. I was totally disgusted by the sight of those huge, flying pests.
“Before we take our friends for a ride, let’s feed them a snack. Who wants to feed the horses?” Miss Lisa asked.
Several girls volunteered. I figured I should wait to see what did feeding the horses entail before I shouted meeeee.
A husky man with a gray mustache, dressed in distressed, blue denim overalls, an orange, cotton shirt, and a straw hat, grabbed a small metal box from one of the shelves in the stable and handed it to Miss Lisa. She grabbed three sugar cubes and put her hands up to one of the horse’s large mouth. That’s when I got a glimpse of how huge the teeth are in a horse’s mouth. There was no way I was going to feed one of these big teeth beasts one of those sugar cubes.
When the girls finished feeding the horses a couple dozen of the sweet squares, Miss Lisa announced that it was time to saddle the horses. She explained that she and the stable keeper were going to take two of us at a time out to the horse trail. I rushed to get in line, but I managed to somehow be towards the back of the line. Miss Lisa ignored my place in the line and motioned for me to come forward where she and the horses were standing.
She explained that I would be one of the first two girls that would ride, being that my parents were there to pick me up. I figured that someone must've informed her on the walkie talkie when I wasn't paying attention. I was so glad my parents were being patient, giving me a chance to ride.
I watched Miss Lisa help Sylvia, a petite, dark haired, Latina girl, mount her horse. It seemed easy enough when Sylvia did it. So, I figured it would be easy for me too. When my turn arrived, Miss Lisa held my waist as she instructed me to slide my foot into the stirrup and to hoist my other leg across the horse she affectionately called Benny. As soon as I had my leg hiked up to straddle the horse, the large animal stamped his massive hoof to shake off a huge, black fly that landed on his nose. He nearly sent me flying to the ground.
“It’s alright.” Lisa said.
“I got you.” Gripping me tighter around my waist.
I held tightly to the saddle as I mounted the horse. I looked down at the ground, quickly taking notice how far away I was from it, and also realizing how badly I would hurt myself if I accidently fell from the horse. I gripped the saddle tighter that circled Benny's waist.
“You don’t have to be scared. Benny's a good boy.” Patting the horse on its back.
Miss Lisa grabbed a leather strap that was attached to the harness of each horse’s neck. As she pulled forward, each horse started trotting to walk along each side of her. Fear crept up my back and tension gripped my shoulders. I felt so uneasy on that horse. I felt like I was getting dizzy, unable to keep my balance, and about to fall off the horse’s back at any moment. I kept looking down at the ground instead of ahead of me. Before I even recognized what I had done, I parted my lips and loudly blurted, “I’m scared! I need to get off.”
Miss Lisa stopped the horses from trotting and walked over and rubbed my back.
“You’ll be alright. Trust me.”
“No, I want to get off now.” Tears filled my eyes.
I’m not sure why I was crying. I’m not sure why I was so afraid. I just knew I wanted to get off that horse right then and not a second later.
"Please now!" I screamed.
Miss Lisa grabbed my waist as she directed me to safely get down from the horse. I tipped over to the side, nearly falling as I tried to catch my balance. I blinked my eyes over and over, trying to focus my eyes through the tears.
“We better get you back to the main office where your parents are.” Mixing the salty tears and sweat as she wiped my face.
Next, she used her walkie talkie to call someone and ten minutes later, Miss Tina arrived to the stables. She grabbed my hand and told me she was going to take me to my parents, who were waiting for me in her office. More tears entered the corners of my eyes. Miss Tina squeezed my hand and asked me why I was crying. Instead of answering her, I held my breath to try to get the disappointment to back out of my system.
I looked at all the girls, who were looking at me with puzzled expressions. I waved a sad goodbye towards them. I then spotted Christie, who was standing at the end of the line. Her reddish brown skin almost matched the red dirt Where she was standing in her blue and white Addidas. She had on a snazzy, red, white, and blue short set that I hadn’t really paid attention to before that point. Sadness filled her brown eyes as she waved goodbye to me.
“Bye Angela. See you at school.” She said.
I released the air from my lungs and offered her a somber goodbye as I wiped the remaining tears from my eyes.
Miss Tina and I slowly walked to the office where my parents were waiting on me. When we arrived to the air conditioned building, I was relieved to feel the coolness of the air and to also see my smiling parents. Daddy informed me that my things were already in the car, ready to go. And the only thing they needed to get back on the road was me. I pulled my hand from Miss Tina’s hand and went to grab my mother’s arm.
Miss Tina and my parents exchanged a little conversation about the weather, the campgrounds, the traffic in Houston, and the mosquito problem in the woods. Twenty minutes later, we were riding on 59 South, headed back to Houston. My daddy asked me if I enjoyed the horseback ride.
“It was okay.” I replied.
“Just okay?” Mama asked.
I didn’t tell my parents how scared I was and that I demanded to get off the horse. And even though my parents were very perceptive when it came to each other and their four daughters, they had no idea that I had been crying right before I met them at the office.
I did, however, tell them about my fish victory. Daddy laughed and laughed when I told him how Christie threw the fish back in the water. My mother didn’t think it was quite as funny. That caused Daddy and I to laugh more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Confrontation (Part 2 of 3)

After about five more minutes of walking on the winding trail through the East Texas woods, we finally made it to the lake. I spotted the other girls in my camping group sitting on a large wooden pier. Each of them had small fishing poles in their hands. I couldn’t wait to get my chance to throw a line into the water.
As we stepped on the pier, someone tapped me on my right shoulder, nearly startling me. I looked to the right and it was one of the girls from my group.
“Oh, Hi Christie.” I said.
“I’ve been waving at you, trying to get you to come and sit on the pier next to me, but you were igging me. Are you mad at me?” Worry filled her large, brown eyes as she tried to figure out why I was acting the way she thought I was acting.
Christie was one of my best friends in the third and fourth grade. We were separated in the fifth grade when the fifth grade teachers did a lottery system to assign the students to the classes. We very seldom got a chance to play together since her school bus picked her up less than ten minutes after the dismissal bell would ring. So, any opportunity we got a chance to hang out, we anxiously grasped at it. I guess that’s why she was confused to why I didn’t respond to her waving at me.
“Christie, I didn’t see you waving at me.” I informed.
Her eyes looked puzzled as she studied me to discern if I was being honest. I grabbed her hand and smiled at her, trying to reassure her that I would never ignore her.
“Oh, you know I want to sit next to you on the pier.” I said.
I turned and thanked Miss Tina for walking with me. She tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me to be very careful. Before walking away, she told me that she would come and get me when my parents were back.
“Have fun!” She commanded.
I trotted down the pier, telling Christie about the squirrel and bird fight I witnessed on the way to the lake. She laughed and started acting out the fight scene, one minute pretending to be the bird and next the squirrel. Her twisted pony tails danced as she flapped her arms and jerked her neck, pretending she was pecking the squirrel. By the time we got to the line of girls that were sitting on the edge of the pier fishing, both of us were bubbling over with giggles. We sat down, and our team leader, Miss Lisa, brought us two small fishing poles. She then offered us a plastic bag that had about a dozen brown worms in it.
“Ew!” I yelped.
“Yes, we’re going to use live bait. I’ll put it on the hook for you.” Taking one of the worms out of the bag.
I looked at the squirmy creature as she slid the thin metal hook through his body. My mind raced back to the book I read in the third grade, How to Eat Fried Worms. There was no way I could ever eat a worm. I would eat dirt first. I thought.
She handed me the fishing pole and I dropped the line in the water, often pulling it up to see if I had caught anything.
“You’ll know when you catch something. Stop pulling your line out the water. Be patient.” The team leader said to all of us.
Christie and I continued to talk about the squirrel and the bird fight, our anticipated horseback ride, and the marshmallow roast that I was going to miss later that night. Suddenly, I felt a tug at my line. Excitement ran from the back of my neck, down the center of my back as I gripped the fishing pole with both hands.
I caught a fish!” I screamed.
One of the other girls quickly told me that I was lying. I ignored her accusation, knowing that the truth was hooked on my fishing line. Miss Lisa told me to pull my line out of the water very carefully. I slowly rose the pole in the air, lifting the line out of the water, and at the end of the string was a small, orange and white fish, wiggling and flapping its scaly body.
Christie and a few of the other girls clapped and celebrated my catch. I flashed the other girls a wide smile as I boastfully held my fishing pole.
“Good job, Angela.” Miss Lisa said.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
“We’re going to take it off the hook and throw it back in the water.” She informed.
Confusion accosted my smile and I shot Miss Lisa a bewildered look.
“Back in the water?” Christie asked, obviously just as confused as I was.
“Yes, we don’t want the fish to die do we? We have to hurry?” She insisted.
Miss Lisa grabbed my pole from my hand and asked me if I wanted to take the fish off the hook. I looked at the flapping, wet fish and quickly declined.
“I’ll do it.” Christie fearlessly volunteered.
Without any fear, Christie carefully slid the hook out of the fish’s bleeding mouth.
She proudly held the orange and right fish up to give the group a good look at the fish, who was obviously gasping for water. Without any warning, she tossed the fish in the air ahead of us like she was throwing a baseball across a grassy field. The orange and white fish soared in the air until gravity took over, causing it to plunge into the lake and disappear from our sight
“He’s probably for sure dead now.” I laughed and said.
”Why did you do that?” Miss Lisa asked after letting out a horrified gasp.
“You said the fish needed to go back in the water, right?” Christie said with a sheepish grin.
Walking away from us with frustration on her heels, the group leader replied, “Yes, we were going to drop it in the water, not send it flying in the water like a cannonball.” .
Christie and I giggled as we continued to sit on the edge of the pier. I noticed that some of the other girls were sniggling when the team leader wasn’t watching. After about five more minutes of fishing, Miss Lisa blew a whistle and told everyone that the fishing activity was over. I was the only girl in our group to catch a fish.

**Special thanks to Aunt Thelma, Frances, and Shirley for giving me feedback on part one. Stay tuned for part three. I'll post it tomorrow.**

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Confrontation (Part 1 of 3)

While in the fifth grade, I was afforded the very exciting opportunity to go on a week-long camping trip in East Texas with my classmates. Upon arriving at the campgrounds, I immediately noticed the towering pine trees that guarded each side of the dirt roads, the crystal clear sky, and the strange yet beautiful flowers that grew like vines around the massive trunks of the trees. There was something else that became strangely apparent to me after arriving at the camp. As I cautiously hiked along the muddy trail to the log cabin that I, along with nine other ten year old girls, would call home for the week, it seemed that the clarity in the colors of the leaves and wildflowers was not as defined as I expected them to be. Low hanging branches were discovered only when my face was being scratched up by the bristly leaves or pointy edges of the twigs. My ability to discern dry ground from puddles of muddy water was inexplicably impaired. To say the least, my ability to independently navigate, without incident, had been seemingly altered overnight. However, I didn’t know why.
With good reason, I experienced a great deal of trepidation when traveling throughout the campgrounds. No matter how careful I tried to be, I stumbled into one accident after the other. I was either stepping my brand new, white sneakers into a puddle of murky mud, getting clawed in the face by hanging limbs, or tripping over large stones and fallen branches.
The mystery of why I was having trouble seeing was outright baffling. Fear, confusion, embarrassment, and anger took turns visiting me while I was at the camp. I was scared and concerned for my safety. Likewise, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t manage to take a step without stumbling or losing my balance.
Children being the cruel, little people that they are so capable of morphing into tormented me with their jokes and ridicule. The more they laughed, the more I stumbled, and the more I stumbled, the more they laughed. The kids managed to keep my embarrassment heightened. I grew angry at the children for laughing and taunting me, rather than being concerned. Even my classmates, who knew me all of our school-aged-years, were laughing and making jokes about me the entire trip.
After three days of observing my unusual clumsiness, Miss Tina, the director of the camp, contacted my parents to tell them about the problems that I appeared to have with my sight. My parents did not hesitate to travel to the out-of-town location of the camp to come and rescue their child from whatever was happening.
When my parents arrived, I was a little disappointed that they were there to pick me up, being that later in the morning we were going to get a chance to go horseback riding. I pleaded with my parents to please wait a few hours to allow me to finish the morning activities. My father, who was always a stickler about time when he was traveling outside of Houston, reluctantly agreed.
“Margie and I will go grab something to eat while you ride the horse. And try to be careful. We came to pick you up to take you to see Dr. Jeffrey about your eyes, not to go to the emergency room because you done broke your neck.”
I hugged both of them and offered them a hearty thank you for giving me the chance to go horseback riding for the first time.
Daddy asked Miss Tina where they could find a Denney’s in the area. The nerdy, yet athletic looking leader of the camp pulled out a map from her desk, drew a line from the camp to an intersection on the map with a red marker, and assured him that he wouldn’t get lost.
Before leaving the director’s office, Mama pulled out a purple brush that had thick black bristles rising from it. Being the mother of four girls, she always kept a brush in her purse. She grabbed my face with one hand and started brushing the wavy strands of hair that crawled restlessly out of my pony tail back to a submissive position on my head. She took her hand and rubbed my hair back as she continued to brush.
“Margie, the girl looks alright. Let her go ride this horse she was talking about so we can get back to Houston.”
My mother kept brushing until my hair met her level of satisfaction. When she finished, she adjusted my clothes, rubbed my hair again, and then she looked down into my eyes.
“Promise me you’ll be careful, Ann.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I promise.”
“Yeah, at least wait until we get some more life insurance on you first.” Daddy laughed as he poked me in the shoulder.
“Stop it, Thurman.” Mama said.
Miss Tina left me in the small office as she walked my parents back to their car. All four walls of the office were covered with pictures of elementary school age kids of all races, smiling and waving at the camera. There were several boy scouts and girl scouts posters also hanging on the wall to the left of me. On the wall behind Miss
Tina’s desk was an eight by ten framed picture of a small, ruddy face girl with crystal blue eyes and golden blonde hair pulled into a pony tail on top of her head. She was dressed in a green and white shortset, white socks, and white shoes. She flashed a wide smile as she boastfully held a large, blue ribbon in her right hand. The little girl kind of sort of looked like our always smiling, overly energetic camp director, Miss Tina. I decided I would ask her was she the little girl in the photo when she came back into the office. When Miss Tina returned, I looked at her blue eyes and compared them to the blue eyes of the girl in the picture.
“Is that you?” Pointing my right index finger at the photograph.
“Yep, that’s me. I was ten-years-old in that picture. About your age.” She admitted.
She next announced that she would walk me over to where my group was fishing at the lake in the middle of the campground.
“Fishing?” I asked as I hopped out the wooden office chair.
“Yes, fishing got added to today’s activities since you guys missed it on the second day because of the rain. Let’s go.” Motioning me to follow her out of the air conditioned office back into the clammy, hot outdoors.
I was excited about getting a chance to go fishing and horseback riding. Two firsts in one day was pretty good. I thought. I was so glad Daddy and Mama agreed to let me stay for a few more hours.
When Miss Tina and I were walking to the lake, I was met with the same problems I had been experiencing the three days before. I stumbled over large rocks and broken tree branches. My steps slowed down as I looked down at the ground to make sure my feet wouldn’t continue to betray me. I looked over at Miss Tina, who looked nervous as she intently watched me. Her ocean blue eyes poured with concern and even pity.
“Be careful as we go down this hill up here.” She warned.
The dirt trail narrowed as we trotted down a decline in the ground. I turned my head and looked to each side of me. There were tall trees that stood closely together, making it difficult to see if some wild animal was lurking within the foliage. Suddenly, the largest brown squirrel I had ever seen darted down from one of the husky trees into the middle of the trail directly in front of us. Next, a small, blue bird with gray and white streaks splashed in its wings flew from the same direction and furiously dove its pointy beak into the top of the squirrel’s furry head. The squirrel quickly turned around and took a bold stance to defend itself. The angry bird landed about two feet in front of the squirrel and the two animals squared off.
My eyes popped as I watched the squirrel and bird challenge each other. Even though the squirrel was much larger than the bird, I quickly concluded that the bird definitely had the upper hand, being that the bird could fly. I rested on my heels and watched to see if I was going to be right.
The squirrel jerked his large, muscular body towards the bird, obviously trying to intimidate the small, feathered creature. But the bird didn’t fly away. Instead, the bird locked its tiny pupils on the squirrel and raised its wings in a seething motion, indicating it was ready to attack once again.
Miss Tina stopped and held her slender arm out in front of me to prevent me from walking further down the trail. There was no need for her to worry. I wasn’t going to take a step forward until the path was clear again. I didn’t want the squirrel and bird to realize we were there and then join forces and attack us rather than each other.
Miss Tina pulled me in closer and whispered to me. “The squirrel must’ve invaded the bird’s nest. Mama birds are very protective of their nests. I need to stop them from fighting.”
The camp director, who looked to be in her early twenties, bent over to grab a gray stone from the dusty ground. When she stood erect, her blonde hair swept across her narrow face. Next, she pulled her hair back behind her ears with one hand and tossed the round stone towards the squirrel and the bird, hoping she would startle them and cause their attention to shift off each other.
When the stone hit the ground, the squirrel snapped out of his fight trance and looked at the rock. Suddenly, the bird lifted its small body into the air, swooped down towards the squirrel, and pecked the furry enemy in its head three more times. The squirrel twirled hysterically as he tried to dodge the bird’s air attack, but the bird continued to swoop down and successfully strike the wobbling target. Finally, the bird flew up into the sky and back towards the trees, leaving the squirrel battered and disoriented in the middle of the dirt trail.
“Oh, my God! You think he’s okay?” I asked.
“I’m not sure if it is a he or a she.” She corrected me, rather than answering my question.
As she took a step forward, the squirrel realized we were present and it bolted into the brush within the wooded borders of the trail we were walking on.
“I guess the squirrel is scared we’re going to try to fight it next.” She giggled.
“So, do you think the squirrel will be okay?” I asked again, without the gender description, hoping she would go ahead and answer my question this time around.
“Yeah, it’ll be alright. I bet it won’t mess with another mama bird again.” She declared as she continued on the trail.

I'll post the other two editions of this recollection later this week. Please let me know what you think!**