Well as the rain has remained tucked in tight to our little coastal city this week, and I was just getting to the point of growling at the clouds, I woke this morning to a little break in the weather, and an even bigger change that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Call it a premonition, or just a gut feeling, but somehow I knew…things were going to get brighter.
I had a quick coffee, got my stuff together, headed downstairs, and just before walking out, I decided to look in my mailbox, and there it was. A simple enough looking white envelope, if peculiar at all, only in it’s size, being too large for a letter, and too white and friendly-looking to be a bill, or from the government. And then it hit me, and the smile that spread across my face for the first time in days, hasn’t left it yet, and as far as I’m concerned, it can rain for another whole month if it wants to.
You see, a while back I had the distinct pleasure of reading Linda Bethea’s (whom you may know better as everybody’s favorite “Nutsrok”) first book, “Everything Smells Just Like Polk Salad”. It was a read that I thoroughly enjoyed. How much did I enjoy it? Here’s the review I wrote for Amazon.ca and Goodreads:
“The wonderful collection of tales presented to us here in this beautifully covered book, would by themselves, and with no embellishments at all, make for a treasure-chest of valuable historical information, wrapped in older cultural norms that without books of this kind, could easily be lost to the generations soon to come after us. Those of us born even shortly after the years of the Great Depression, and most certainly the newest generations of young people who now live in these ages of such relative prosperity, rely on exactly these types of first-hand, and second-hand recollections of those times, to remind us that people lived in a much different manner in those days.
What Linda Bethea has done is brought these recollections of her mother’s, and presented them to us in the manner that in my opinion, is Linda’s, and Linda’s alone.
Killing bears single handed one moment in one’s childhood imagination, only to be soundly flogged by an angry chicken a moment later in a hasty return to reality is the type of story that Linda tells in that manner that only Linda can. And yet a moment later, as you’re still rubbing your sides that hurt from laughing, the author will give you cause to pause and think about what a huge deal it was to her mother as a little girl when she sat hoping, that when Daddy got back from one of his infrequent trips to town, he might actually have with him, “a pound of bologna, or can of mackerel to satisfy our hunger for meat.”
Linda Bethea will keep you laughing, and she will keep you thinking. Linda will also warm your heart.
The author transitions smoothly from one story to the next, one emotion to another. The amazement of a little girl (Linda’s mother) as she discovers for the first time -on her first day of school- that she will have more than one special woman in her life to guide her along this wonderful journey she is on, which for her was just beginning. I felt wonderful for the child then, and cringed for that child when she told her first lie. Later, it was like we felt guilty together, and even later, wonderful knowing we both had different fathers, but that they shared the same forgiving attitude.
Linda also manages to deftly handle the far more serious aspects of Mrs. Swain’s life, when as an adult, this woman who had so much charm and character as a little girl came face to face with her own personal Devil, and discovered that his name was Drunken Gambler, and though he terrorizes her for a time…well you should read it for yourself.
Ms. Bethea’s book is truly an emotional roller-coaster sailing smoothly along, solidly anchored between the twin rails of historical and cultural facts that made up the early 1900’s American South. A great read that I only put down finally, with great reluctance, and hope for a quick sequel.”
Well in the course of reading that wonderful book, I also got tremendous enjoyment out of Kathleen Swain’s (Linda’s Mom) illustrations, which not only brightened the book visually, but truly brought the stories, and the characters portrayed in those tales, to amazing life. As each story unfolded, to see the pictures alongside each particular tale was like a little glimpse right inside the incredible mind of the woman who had actually lived through these things, and when Linda started highlighting a few of the illustrations on her blog, I inquired as to the possibilities of purchasing a picture or two from her mother. I was thrilled when Kathleen sent me a video saying she was working on something along those lines.
So by now you’ve guessed what was in the amazing white envelope that has done so much to put the sun back in my life today. And I have to tell you, that even having these pictures in the book, is nowhere near the same as looking at these wonderful prints, where the colors are so much more vivid, and the clarity is so amazing, that even after running out and getting frames for them, and mounting them in a place of honor on my wall, I’m still not tired of looking at them. So I took a picture of them so you could see what they look like on my wall, and now I just have to come up with some way to really say thank-you to Linda and Kathleen, because I certainly don’t know any other author/illustrator team that would go to the extremes these two have gone for a fan as troublesome as me. Believe me, it’s got nothing to do with my looks or my finances, and with those two gone, I’m down to my humor.
So, now for the huge unveiling (at least I think it’s the unveiling). The Illustration titles are as follows:
Top Left: Hen and Indian Princess
Bottom Left: Whooping Mama
Center: Shirley Temple Hat
Right: Toe On Fire
(Please feel free to click on the picture more than once to see Kathleen’s work up good and close.)
Now I don’t know exactly what I did so right in this world that I deserved this wonderful gift, but I’m certainly not going to refuse it. What I can do is tell you all sincerely that when I asked Linda about purchasing some prints off Kathleen, I had every intention of paying for them, and it never even occurred to me to ask the price first. Whatever she had asked, I would have worked out because I truly am impressed with her art. So now when she tells me if any of my friends are interested, I can tell them that her prints sell for $10.00, I can only shake my head, because I know from past experience with this sort of thing that she could get substantially more. But, this is art, and that’s just my opinion for whatever it’s worth.
For now, everyone have a great week-end, hopefully your weather’s a little dryer than mine, stay healthy, and stay safe. Bye for now.