Lyrics to funny songs often get stuck in my head. Sometimes this dilemma works to my advantage. Especially in moments when I need to phone a friend and I realize the person I really want to call has left the planet. Conversations with my friend Donna always began the same. “Hey Woman!” she would say. “What’s going on?” she would ask. We would exchange trivia, trauma, or tirade and then plan our escape from it all. The next thing we knew one of us was on our way across the country and for twenty-three years we each enjoyed affordable, dependable, therapy.
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So I decided to do something different to see if I could get the same result as calling my friend. To test my theory I started writing and discovered a passion worth pursuing and a whole new world of possibilities. But wait, there’s more! I have connected with some like-minded, kindred spirits I would never have expected to meet if not for this decision. Is this theraputic? As they say about Tiffany knock-offs and Elvis impersonators in Thailand, “Same Same but Different.” I miss Donna.
Donna knew String Theory: How a smart mouth with poor job prospects first found herself in Texas.
In 1987, a savvy recruiter in Cullman, Alabama had a quota to fill and one conversation with me about how no one was going to get me to spend my life barefoot and pregnant was all it took for the Staff Sergeant to sell me on a career field that had just been opened to women. Before I could say hear me roar, he banked his next promotion and I didn’t know what hit me. In San Antonio, Texas a red-headed drill instructor named Candy noticed I had attitude and chose me to be a squad leader. As the oldest of five children I had extremely raw leadership ability but the military whipped me into shape and by the time I went to tech school in Rantoul, Illinois, I was student leader material.
Donna also knew Chaos Theory: How hormones and husbands landed me in Texas. TWICE.
A few months of training and I had thirty days to burn before leaving for my first duty assignment at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. So I went to Sheppard AFB for a last hurrah and ended up standing under a tree at the county courthouse in Wichita Falls, Texas. I don’t know where we scrounged up the money for a marriage license or a justice of the peace but my little bouquet of white flowers was lovely and before I knew what was happening I had orders to Scott AFB in Belleville, Illinois. I was married and divorced in less than two years. Somewhere in there I turned wrenches on jet engines beside some of the best and worst men I have ever known, and made Airman of the Month wearing maternity BDU’s, (Yes, cammo pants with a big elastic belly panel). I served as a pall bearer and firing commander for military funerals, had the worst details (washing aircraft with caustic soap & picking up trash in the freezing rain) and the best opportunities (world class education, discipline, self-respect, I could go on) I have ever had in my life. I attended NCO Leadership School where I met the person who gave me a demerit for my crooked nametag and after some serious convincing, I took his name. We have sometimes struggled and other times savored the sweetness of amazing grace together. For nineteen years we have stayed afloat in the midst of swirling corporate nonsense and played follow-the-leader from coast to coast all the way to Texas where at the moment we have a nice life.
Donna would laugh at Conspiracy Theory: How the two Chamblees crossed my path in Texas.
I love my family, friends, and flowers. The three often unwittingly conspire to bring me happiness. A fellow gardener recently forwarded an article to me written by Steven Chamblee who is a horticulturist in Weatherford, Texas. In the article, Steven writes about the memories of his first garden. He muses about people, plants, growing, gathering, and sharing. In true horticulturist fashion his love of gardening blossoms as he lists the names of flowers and vegetables that have given him joy over the past 33 years. He says, “The time in between has been a blur of sweat, blood, cuts, bruises, backaches, headaches, schoolwork, homework, busted trucks, fixed trucks, good times, hard times, lean times, fat times, cheap beer, good beer, champagne, lousy gardens, fantastic gardens, mean people, sweet people, rich people, poor people, hurt people, helping people, feasts, famines, plane trips, road trips, snail mail, e-mail, typewriters, laptops, and all the rest.” The best advice he has heard? … “You’ve got to love your garden. Spend time with your garden, he says and get to know it. Plan, plant, and culture intelligently, for sure, but take a risk now and again just to broaden the experience. You will either savor your serendipity or learn from the lead balloon. Spend time with your garden (or dog or horse or child) and you will know it intuitively. You will grow together, entwining your hearts, your histories, and your memories.”
This article made me feel connected to Mr. Chamblee but I only thought I knew who he was. You see, last year I purchased eight fluffy delicious Belinda’s Dream rose bushes from Chamblee’s Rose Nursery and had them shipped to my father for his birthday/father’s day. Chamblee’s is in Tyler, Texas and is owned by Mark Chamblee. I have driven there several times to purchase roses. The two Chamblees (Steven and Mark) share a name and they are friends but they are NOT the same person. I share their passions for gardening and roses. (Once again, Same Same but Different) In my world people and places are connected. I am grateful that my hunger and heartbreak have entwined with the fruit and fragrance of gardens I have cherished and the musical laughter of the people I have loved.