AN EXPERIENCE THAT CHALLENGED ME: THE LAST DANCE WITH MY DAD
My body stiffened throughout, as a cold draft of sadness penetrated my body like icy chills. I began to utter my words like the chimes in the alcove near the garage clapping on a windy day. In my home, my dad's bedroom window was near those melodic chimes. He often remarked it was the essence of his peace. The room reeked of the smell of Fall; which always gave the room an aura of outdoors and my dad's favorite sweet potato pie. It was my way of giving KING EDWARD (as I affectionately called him) the ambiance to enjoy the day with a flickering fireplace and scents of late October. As I presented his morning breakfast tray he gave me. His usual gracious smile and a Laurel Mississippi " (his home town) Thank you mam. " It wasn’t the usual " Peggy Boo " which I didn't much care for, but I loved to hear it spouted from KING EDWARD's lips, as any Daddy's girl would. His! glare was pensive. A calm and stillness vibrated throughout the air. Soothing elevator music kept us all in a serene state. His slight smile had us reminiscing for a short while. Time was in place ... I dressed him in a snow- white shirt, navy blue jacket, navy blue pants, dress socks and spit shined shoes. The last to adorn the King and most important was his regal Crown (his favorite fedora). How handsome and debonair he was. This. was my “Last Dance with My Dad"! Luther Vandross’ song was a broken record playing in my head. Now, King Edward presides in majesty on his throne. To quote my son, "He was the King of Life "! As for me he was and still is my Hero and so much more.... P.S. Custom Postage stamp exemplifies infinite memories of “King Edward” for the rest of my lifetime!!
Margaret Collier Chambers DKG Nu State Beta Chapter
Falling in Love with the Theater
How can one incident leave a lasting impression on a child’s life? My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Mary E. Harrison, never knew how she changed my life forever. She was elderly, gray-haired, smelled of Avon™ “To a Wild Rose” cologne, and wore beige support stockings on her swollen chocolate legs. Her hands and feet were always puffy, but her silk-laced, sensibly-heeled oxfords were always freshly shined. We did not ever see her wear high-heels, and her dress was always conservative, what we came to think of as “teacher clothes.” For some reason, she took a special liking to me and to my seven younger sisters. We were a poor family in money and material things, but we desired to be the best at whatever we chose to do. There was no public assistance when I was a child, so very little was left over to pursue “frivolous” pursuits such as going to the theater. The only theater we had ever attended was the segregated Strand, and we attended it only when we could save up enough money to pay twenty-five cents each to cover our admission, a soda, and a bag of popcorn or a chocolate candy bar. Thus, we went to the movies in twos or threes and did not get to go often. My teacher decided to ask my mother for permission to take my sister and me to see This Is Cinerama, a new kind of Technicolor, three-screened movie at Washington, D. C.’s newly desegregated Warner Theater. My mother consented, and my sister and I rode with Mrs. Harrison on the U-4 bus downtown and walked down to the theater. What a wondrous sight! Gold, filigreed ceilings, maroon velvet seats, the smell of popcorn, and the rush of being in a place of such opulent beauty took my breath away. I saw her smile when I exclaimed, “WOW! Oh, WOW!” as I turned around in circles and pointed at first one beautiful thing and then another. Three movie screens were placed so that the left and right screens were slightly curved and touching the flat center screen, giving us the feeling of being captured in the picture. I remember there was a lot of action, but not any of the content. However, I shall always remember this movie’s Technicolor extravaganza. That experience opened doors I never knew existed. It was then my love of the theater and performing arts became cemented in my soul. As I graduated from elementary school, I carried memories of Mrs. Harrison’s love of teaching and the desire to do for my students one day what she had done for me. She spent her own time and money to take me on my never forgotten theatrical journey. I had known since before I ever started school that I wanted to be a teacher. She let me know what kind of teacher I might be. She touched not only my brain but also my heart, my very soul.
Dr. Barbara Parks-Lee, Alpha Chapter
“Good, Gooder, and Gooderest”: Teaching the Comparative and Superlative
English classes can present teachers with priceless and memorable classroom moments. Such was the case as I worked with a class of ninth graders who seemed to be having challenges using comparative and superlative adjectives. The class consisted of thirty students, half of whom were males. One young man, in particular, had never volunteered a response to any lesson.
After I explained the –er and –est endings for regular descriptions, I also explained that some comparative and superlative words were irregular and did not conform to the rules and just had to be memorized. We practiced examples using cold, hot, and small. The class then began to offer other regular words with which to practice.
Once I could see that the –er and –est endings were beginning to make sense, I introduced the irregular words. Looks of puzzlement crossed some of the students’ faces, and I heard a few muttered, “This does not make sense,” and “This is crazy,” comments as we looked at the irregular word “good.”
Before I could introduce any other irregular adjectives, the young man who had never openly participated started to jump up as he raised his hand. He exclaimed, “I got it. Let me answer!” He was so enthusiastic that I stopped the lesson and let him give his input. He stood up, eyes sparkling with his understanding, and gave the comparative and superlative for good. When he proudly explained, “Good, gooder, and gooderest,” the class erupted in laughter.
Though I wanted to laugh and did not, I had to explain that his was one of the words that did not conform to the rules—like some of his classmates who dared to laugh at his mistake! I went over good, better, and best again and then asked him to give the comparative and superlative for smart. He said, “I was smart yesterday, and I’m smarter today. Tomorrow, I may be the smartest boy in your class—even if you do give us crazy words.”
He had gotten the right concept of the –er and –est endings, but had not remembered the exceptions to the rule. Thereafter, he renamed the irregular adjectives the “hard-headed ones, because they won’t do what they are supposed to.”
Whenever I think the word good when something is better than good, I catch myself saying, “gooder,” and if it is really, really gooder, all I can say is “gooderest.” I will never forget that day’s lesson, for it showed me that a formerly quiet student was taking in the lessons. The last time I saw him, we both laughed as he said, “Mrs. Parks-Lee, yours was one of the gooderest classes I ever had.”
As I said before, teaching English can provide teachers with priceless and memorable moments. That student’s enthusiasm—and his mistakes—provided me with moments both memorable and priceless. It also enriched my vocabulary when I around family and friends who know I know better.
Barbara D. Parks-Lee. Ph.D. Alpha Chapter
You want me to make A pillowcase…what?!?!
I decided to join the Nu State Humanities and Arts Committee (HAC) on a whim. I saw the HAC display at the 2015 DKG District of Columbia Nu State Holiday Luncheon; I thought, “this looks like a fun committee to join”. At one meeting, Mrs. Peggy (Margret) Chambers, the HAC Chair, said we would be working on a global initiative (“hmmm that sounds interesting”) and that we would be making pillowcase dresses for little girls in Africa.
I thought, “pillowcase dresses, what are they??” Peggy explained how we were to make the dresses; she even had a guest who briefly explained how to make the dresses. A committee member’s daughter was kind enough to model one of the dresses. I thought, “ok; mmm, I’m not feeling this too well.” The next thing I know, Peggy says, “Twanna would you spearhead this effort.” “SPEARHEAD! What….??” I thought I was paying attention; my mind had not wandered, I asked Peggy to repeat what she said. Then Peggy said, “Twanna, I want you to spearhead this effort to make pillowcase dresses. Nu State’s goal is 6 dresses per chapter. Here are patterns for the dresses.” Of course, there was further committee discussion on how to get the other chapters involved. (I’m still thinking, “pillowcase dresses!?!?”)
I went home from the meeting thinking, “What have I gotten into.” The last time I did any sewing was in the 19xx’s and I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since. I did some Internet research on pillowcase dresses and found a bunch of information and pictures of the cutest dresses for little girls in Africa. Next, I went to the fabric store, “Gosh, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve set foot in this store.” I looked around and wound up purchasing few supplies and materials, just to get started. I took one of the patterns that I got from Peggy and the information I found on-line about how to make the dresses and I began to sew.
A week or two, I attended a Nu State Executive Board meeting, Peggy pulls out a garment bag and shows off the most darling pillowcase dresses she made. After the meeting I asked Peggy how she made the dresses, learned a few shortcuts, and saw how she customized each dress. Well, now I had gotten some fresh ideas about how to make the dresses look pretty. I went to the Salvation Army and brought several pillowcases in pretty patterns and colors and then went back to fabric store again. Ribbons, thread, rick-rack, lace, seam bindings, now I was really cooking with gas!
I enjoyed making the dresses. I along with another HAC committee member conducted a couple of workshops with Nu State members on how to make the dresses. One of my Alpha Chapter members attended one of the workshops and reminded me how our seventh grade teacher taught us how to sew aprons and how much fun we had in Home Economic class. So X number of years later (just don’t ask me how many years), I sat down at a sewing machine and fell in love with making pillowcase dresses for little girls in Africa. So from “what did I get my self into” became love of a forgotten, but resurrected skill.
Endnotes: The District of Columbia Nu State members and other volunteers made over a 100 dresses. Our initial goal was 24!
I along with a couple other members still make the dresses and we also are learning how to make quilts!
For more information on pillowcase dresses for Africa, check out their website at littledressesforafrica.org