Friday, March 12, 2010

12 of 12 - March 2010

March brings a dreary, rainy work day for this month's 12 of 12. Head on over to Chad's blog for the 12 of 12 index and check out the entries from other 12 of 12ers worldwide.

8:10 a.m. - So, the city workers came around yesterday and trimmed the limbs of a lot of trees and shrubs along the sidewalk curbs and islands in our neighborhood. They butchered the beautiful crepe myrtle in front of my next door neighbor's house, and then they took all of the branches and piled them up on top of my mailbox and front steps. Thanks Dudes.

8:15 a.m. - Stopped by and picked up breakfast at the Woolman Cafe on the way into work. This is coming out the side door, looking across to where the old hangar and my building are.

9:36 a.m. - Bonus Photo: This year each month we are adding a bonus photo which is a repeat or recreation of a previous 12 of 12 photo. This one is a recreation of a photo from last month's 12 of 12 where I took a photo of my skylight as the snow fell. This time I took it cause it was hailing. Then I thought better of sitting under a skylight with hail raining down, so I fled to another part of the office until it passed.

12:47 p.m. - Slipping out to pick up lunch at Willie's with Cheryl. Steak Burrito in a bowl with extra rice and black beans - same thing I get every time. I'm way too predicable.

1:03 p.m. - Back at my desk, accidental photo of crap on my desk.

2:45 - Fire Ho.

2:46 p.m. - Cutting through the Delta Heritage Museum to get a Diet Coke from the break-room. Look - we have a totem pole! (It's in the Western Airlines section of the museum. They merged with us in 1986.)

2:48 p.m. - Still in the museum, this is the Monroe Cafe. It is a full-scale replica of the facade of Delta's former headquarters office in Monroe, Louisiana, which served as Delta's headquarters from 1934 to 1941 when we moved the company to Atlanta. We eat lunch there some days and have company celebrations there sometimes.

6:22 p.m. - Finally heading out for the day, and only an hour late. When your commute is 1/4 mile, after 3 years of 12 of 12ing, I've sort of been there, photographed that more times than you could imagine. So tonight, I drove out the back gate today and took the long way around so I could get some different shots on the way home.

6:25 p.m. - Air traffic control tower at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

6:26 p.m. - A couple of our planes at one of the maintenance hangars.

6:28 p.m. - Small plane taking off from the northern most runway. Oops - it almost flew out of the frame. :-)

10:59 p.m. - Sock Monkey Slippers are sad that we didn't win the Mega-Millions yet again. :-(

Friday, March 5, 2010


My grandmother Cleo would have been 99 years old today.

She had this fabulous way of pronouncing the word 'nine' where she drew the word out very long and exact way with a slight hint of Jersey in the accent (it works for 'five' also) and so I've spent half the day saying "Nohnty Nohn" to myself and then cracking myself up. Then I got home from work and called my Mom and now she's doing it too. Sometimes it takes so little to entertain us.

She was born in the North Georgia mountains, the second oldest of nine children. The story goes that when her mother was pregnant with her and trying to come up with a name, the neighbors had a 5 year old twins, a girl named Cleo and a boy named Clifford. My great-grandmother Ezzie told the kids if it was a girl, she's name her after Cleo and if a boy, he'd be named Clifford. When it was a girl, Clifford cried for days and Ezzie felt so bad for him that she named my grandmother after both children. My grandmother would end this story by saying that when she grew up and heard this story of her naming, she promptly "went next door and beat Clifford's ass!"

Baby Cleo Clifford Thomas - 1911

Cleo and her older sister Bonnie were only about a year apart in age, and they were incredibly close. Bonnie was stricken with polio as a child, so Cleo and their younger brothers Julian and J.W. would carry Bonnie around so that she could play outside with them. One time when they were playing in the field, a bull got loose and came after them. The 3 younger siblings could have ran and made it to the fence, but they couldn't leave their big sister, so their only choice was to push Bonnie up into a tree then climb up behind her. Their Papa found them about an hour later, still in the tree with the bull laying at the foot of the tree asleep.

Bonnie and Cleo - 1920s

Another great story involved the same four siblings finding the location of their Papa's still up in the hills and deciding to all take a taste of the moonshine (they were between the ages of 4 and 9 at the time). Again, Papa found them a few hours later, staggering across the field, giggling like fools and drunk as heck. (I seem to recall a similar story involving myself and my cousin Bonnie (named for the original Bonnie) that involved drinking and giggling like fools, but that was in Athens in 1991, and we were both of legal age at the time. :-))

Cleo and a drinkin' buddy - 1920s

Cleo eloped with my grandfather Ed on Halloween in 1932. He had been married previously, and so it was sort of scandalous that she had taken up with a divorced man. So, to get around her disapproving parents, she and her younger sister Lucille told them that they were off to a Halloween Costume Party dressed as a bride and bridesmaid. Of course, there was no Halloween Costume Party. Their first child, my aunt Charlsie, was born the following year, with my mother Maxine arriving close behind.

Ed, Charlsie, Maxine & Cleo - 1935

While my grandfather worked in the copper mines across the border in Copperhill, TN, Cleo got a job at the Bell Bomber Plant in Marietta, GA building B-29 Bombers. Since the plant was so far from home, she would sometimes leave my aunt and my mom with her mother for several days while she worked and stayed in Marietta. While she missed her children, her parents lived on a farm and her mother Ezzie was going deaf, so there was plenty for her girls to learn and many opportunities for them to help out. I really believe that this period of helping and learning from a grandmother they both so loved and admired led my aunt and mom to be the kind, compassionate and giving women they grew to become.

Siblings Bonnie, J.W, Lucille, Elizabeth, Julian & Cleo
Mama Ezzie, Papa Laurence & Toby

With her brothers off fighting in WWII, Cleo and Ed moved the family up to Rockaway, NJ where Cleo got a job working at the Picatinny Arsenal where they made bombs and artillery shells for the War. She was proud to be contributing to the war effort and helping to supporting her family.

Charlsie, Cleo & Maxine - 1940s

While they stayed in New Jersey for a few years, her home was in the South, so the family returned to Georgia after the War.

Cleo with her father Laurence and his mother Mattie
Dahlonega, GA - 1946

Shortly after returning to Georgia, the family settled in Hapeville, a small town in the Atlanta area. Ed went to work for Atlantic Steel Co. and Cleo began working at National Biscuit (Nabisco) where she would stay until she retired. After moving to Atlanta, they opened their home over and over to relatives and friends who wanted to move from their small home town in North Georgia to Atlanta, but needed a place to stay until they could find a job and place to live and be able to afford to bring with own family down to join them. They weren't rich by any means, but they would never turn down a family member in need.

My brother Steve with his grandparents Ed & Cleo

My grandfather died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1968, and Cleo was left on her own. But, she had always been a strong woman who could take care of herself, she had gone into the work force before it was common for women to do so, and she knew how to get things done on her own. She encouraged me to be strong and to always put myself in a position of being able to take care of myself without the help of anyone. (She also taught me my first curse word, but I think I'll save that story for another time.) I remember her being so impressed when her niece Sandy, at the time an unmarried woman in her 20s, purchased her first home on her own. For months she bragged about how "Sandy had gone out and bought herself a house without a man or anything!"

Bonnie, Cleo and Cleo's youngest grandchild Bonnie
Copperhill, TN - 1971

Cleo's father (we all called him Papa) came to live with her after Ed passed away, and she would care for him until he passed away in 1976. (Mama Ezzie had died in 1960.) I feel those years were such a blessing because I had the privilege of really knowing my great-grandfather and hearing his stories first hand.

Joni, Crazy Cat, Papa and Cleo - 1972

Cleo was a night owl - she would stay awake until 3:00 a.m. watching her beloved Atlanta Braves, reading books, doing word search puzzles, talking long distance one night a week to her sister Bonnie still in North Georgia. My brother would sometimes stop in and visit her at 1:00 a.m. on the way home from a college party or night out with his friends and would bring a Chick-fil-a from the Dwarf house to share with her. They were similar in nature and they could spend hours talking or hours in silence just enjoying being together. She always told me that Steve brought no drama, no hidden agendas when he visited. He just wanted to be with her and she loved that about him.

My sister-in-law Carrina, Cleo and Steve - 1990

Cleo also loved my Dad, her son-in-law, as much as if he were her own kid. He worked close to her house and would come visit her at lunch some days and bring her a Chick-fil-a. (I'm realizing as I write this that the way to her heart may have had something to do with who brought her the most Chick-fil-a sandwiches.) When Mom would get irritated with Dad over something, instead of taking her own daughter's side, she would simply say, "Now Maxine - Bullet is a good man!" and give her a look that said, "Nip It!"

Maxine, Cleo, Bullet & Joni
Christmas - 1991

Cleo got really sick in 1992 and spent most of that summer in the hospital. My mom and aunt would trade off staying with her each night, even though it was a hardship for them both. In early September, the evening before my birthday, the doctor came in and said that they didn't expect her to make it through the night. She had been unconscious for a few days and probably would never wake up, so the family all gathered to wait. As midnight came and it was finally my actual birthday, all I could selfishly think to myself was "Please don't die, Please don't die, Please don't die but if you have to, then please don't die on my birthday." She lingered on through my birthday, and the following day, she actually woke up. She was weak and couldn't talk much that first day awake. I stopped by on my way home from work to relieve my Mom and Charlsie so they could get a bite to eat, but she was back asleep by the time I got there. I sat quietly with her and got lost in my thoughts. And then I heard her voice through the quiet say, "Don't worry honey - I wasn't gonna die on your birthday." I actually thought I was imagining it, but no, she was awake again and opened one eye to look at me and smiled. Then she asked me how the Braves were doing.

She rallied for about a week after that, and then finally passed away in her sleep in the early morning hours of the 16th with my mother dozing by her side.

I was fortunate to recognize what a special woman she was while I had her, and so I have no regrets in how I treated her or how I expressed my love to her each time I was with her. I really only have one regret, and that is that she missed a special milestone in my life - when I bought my first house "without a man or anything!"

Love you Cleo - Happy "Nohnty Nohn"