A Letter by MaryHazelUpton

Author: MaryHazelUpton
Created: December 16, 2016 at 01:50 pm
Upload Type: Letter, G (All)  
Category: Diary Entry | Nature | Personal
Upload Stats: 240 views



                                                                   DECEMBER 2, 1971 THURSDAY


                                                                          MARY HAZEL HENSON

                                                                   DECEMBER 2, 1971 THURSDAY

     Dear Mama & Daddy,
     I think perhaps I have reached the edge of the world. I drive on & on through this unchanging landscape of grotesque, twisted shapes of pines dripping with Spanish moss. When I started out this morning at eight o'clock--just barely light on a winter's morning--it looked like rain. It looks more & more like rain as I drive. The sky becomes more & more the color of lead & those dark pines are even darker against that sky. I drive miles & wearisome miles through this unvarying landscape. I think perhaps I am doomed to drive forever. I must have slipped through some unseen loop hole into another dimension.
     And still the pines wait. Wait. Indifferent to us, completely indifferent to us.
     I begin to realize how slow & small even the supposedly fast speed of cars is, in this immense emptiness.
     I stop once, panicking, that the batmobile has a flat tire, but it is only my imagination & the rough road. Pale blue water hyacinths grow in a pool of dark water surrounded by my moss dripping pines. I pick 2 of them for Anna Marie. It is not wrong to take only 2--I am careful not to injure their roots.
     Finally, after getting lost once & having to ask directions of the highway patrol I arrive at Charles & Anna Marie's house. Mrs. Gilkey is already preparing the Thanksgiving dinner. The dressing & pumpkin & mincemeat pies smell very good--warm & spicy. Mrs. Gilkey and Anna Marie are preparing slides & half way watching the Thanksgiving parade on T.V.
     Later after lunch Mr. Gilkey settles down to watch the football game. Mrs. Gilkey, Anna Marie, & I go outside & play croquet for a while. The sun has come out & the pines all around the croquet court glitter like green jewels.
     Charles gets home about six and we eat supper. After supper we look at slides he took at Disneyworld.
     The next day we go to Myakka Park. Charles will meet us for lunch. I take my car so I can leave to get home before dark. Anna Marie rides with me.
     The first impression of the park is Spanish moss. Spanish moss dripping from the live oaks & the palm trees & the pines, dripping from every available tree--trees made old by Spanish moss.
     After we eat, Mr. & Mrs. Gilkey go & hold seats on the boat for me & Anna Marie. She is scared to death it will take off without us. Charles takes us to see the dam--down a path with live oaks & cabbage palms on either side. Sun shines through the curtains of Spanish moss.
     The boat goes all around in a circle around huge Myakka Lake--it looks like a river. As usual, the guide talks too much. I don't want to hear the history of the Indians who lived on Myakka Lake--they are dead--or have each individual bird pointed out. The main impression of Myakka Lake is emptiness--that overwhelming emptiness of the South. Millions of birds live here & they don't fly away before you can see them. Blue herons & different kinds of white birds all standing around. Weird black anhingas or water turkeys (munch munch) drying their wings.
     The leaves turn in Florida if you know where to look--but it is a pale, washed out turning. Swamp maples make patches of pink in the dense walls of vegetation surrounding the lake.
     All around the boat the water hyacinths are floating on the lake. The sun catches their leaves & turns them silvery green against the silvery blue water--making an impression of emptiness, such emptiness.
     The last thing we before I have to leave is walk on the board walk--the bird walk beside the lake. Little black duck like birds are floating on the lake. There is a sideways growing tree & of course I have to climb on it & sit on it.
     Driving home I hurry rapidly--it is a quarter after 3 when I leave the park. I force the batmobile to speeds of 50 mph. Once past Arcadia I realize I am going to make it home before dark, though, & the distance seems much shorter going home than coming. Late afternoon sun coats the pines with golden light making them look warmer, more friendly.
     When I am almost home, I decide to stop at Pennies to get cloth for slacks & blouse.
     Dear, Mama & Daddy, I have tried to give you a little of my holiday to be an extra Christmas present for you. I love you both very much.
     Have just finished eating supper--steak, a hot roll & butter, milk & for dessert a tangerine. Tangerines are for Christmas & Christmas will soon be here. Mama, you should try packaged rolls (with the bread, already cooked)--you can put them in the oven for just a few minutes until warm & they are like fresh baked. Try A & C Italian bread dinner rolls if you can find them.
     Smile forever! I am off Christmas! So I will drive up to see Charles & Anna Marie Christmas Eve after work. I will take all my presents with me so I can open them there. Presents HAVE to be opened on Christmas Eve.
     Mama, pattern is because I was going to get it & all materials for your present to form a "lion kit", but then realized bags of stuffing would be too big to send through mail. Thought I would let you have pattern anyway as you may want to make him. Saw frog at Shell Factory & thought you would like him. This one is THE frog--others were pretty, but not as good. He makes me think of the crystallizing animals in "The Crystal World". Remember "the heraldic lizards"?  By the way, the Biscuit has a new book out, "Chronopolis", although haven't seen it at library or paperback yet. (Please decipher for Daddy before he goes mad. I can see him worrying a lot.)
     Have my white slacks finished & blue & red print blouse almost finished. Would already have them whipped up but forgot to buy zipper. Maybe finish them tomorrow.
     Will say good-by for now & Merry Christmas.


P.S. Enclosed poems are instead of Christmas card. Was going to make into little booklets but just too much trouble. the thought is the same anyway.

                                                                                        Mucho love,

                                                                                         BEACH POEMS


                                                                               MARY HAZEL HENSON

gulls wheel around the
fishing pier hoping to grab
an unguarded fish

the shrimp boats drifting
toy tiny along the line
of the horizon

bees drinking honey
from yellow goldenrod flowers
as wind sways the flowers

gray gull on gray beach
sound of the tide coming in
summer almost gone

bits of shell, mother-
of-pearl, rainbow shades, color
of oil on water

white dunes of lands' end
are slowly being taken
over by sandspurs

                                                                                  THE PINES IN ALL LIGHTS


                                                                                   MARY HAZEL HENSON

morning light coating
each separate needle of
the pines like syrup

the pines get that hot
dull dusty look that hopeless
look of deep South noons

a few Florida
pines masquerading as a
forest as night comes

misty gray and black
pines crowd the road closer as
rainy twilight comes

suns angles through the
moss draped pines making the moss
shine like spider webs

endless rows of pine
trees like black matchsticks with light
showing between them


From: Mary Henson
               1415 Fountain Ave.
               Ft. Myers, Fla. 33901

To:  Claude & Hazel Henson
          1025 N. Taggart Ave.
          Clarksville, Ind. 47130

Christmas Letter--Do not open until Christmas Eve. Open pkg. FIRST. RELUCTANTLY I will let you read poems on envelope.

                                                                        POEMS ON ENVELOPE


                                                                        MARY HAZEL HENSON

pink flower glistening
with dew like flower encased in
a diamond shield

water hyacinths float
on colorless emptiness
of Myakka lake

sea oats ripen on
the beach ready for harvest
by the birds not us

fantastically worn
shapes of driftwood like ancient
gaping mouthed monsters

This letter cost 16 cents to mail. I had an 8 cent stamp on it (first class postage then), and Mama received it 8 cents postage due.

                                                                                            -THE END-

Last Modified: December 16, 2016 at 03:17 pm
© MaryHazelUpton - all rights reserved

Author Notes

Author's Note by Mary Hazel Upton: This is a Christmas letter that I sent to Mama and Daddy back in December 1971. After Mama passed away and left her home and everything in it to me, I found this letter plus many more in her Sewing Room, which I now call "The Time Machine Room" because of all her old photos and memorabilia that she carefully saved there. I think she saved every letter that I and also my brother, Charles, and his wife, Anna Marie, sent her, not to mention more really, really old letters from other family members and friends. I am trying to get this material saved and published for her.
     This letter is an account of a long ago Thanksgiving I spent with Charles and Anna Marie and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gilkey, who were also visiting. Charles and Anna Marie were living in Arcadia at that time, and Charles was working as a ranger at Myakka State Park. I was working as a nurse's aide at Lee Memorial Hospital in Ft. Myers and lived in Ft. Myers then. The road going to Myakka Park is old Highway 72, described here. At that time Florida wasn't built up nearly as much as it was later.    
     Many years later, from 1999 to 2005, my husband, Gain and I were privileged to be able to spend winters in Florida on Pine Island and later in Ft. Ogden, about 10 miles south of Arcadia. Florida was still very beautiful then, mostly because land continued getting more and more expensive, and when Gain and I explored the area we saw abandoned land and houses everywhere, going back to the land, because the owners couldn't pay for them, and eventually the developers were running out of enough people who had enough money to rebuy them.  A lot of the reason for this was because, although there was still a lot of really cheap land, Gain and I quickly found out that you couldn't put a mobile home on it, just an expensive house, which let us out of buying it, and undoubtedly most of the working class. Most of the mobile homes were fancy expensive mobile homes, not just cheap house trailers, and many were only on rented ground, or even if the land went with the home, they were mostly in fancy subdivisions with a lot of rules and regulations about how you could use them. The first year Gain and I spent down there on Pine Island we rented a trailer at the Pink Citrus Mobile Home and Trailer Park. The second year we finally found an older 1969 trailer with its own land and a huge live oak tree and mature grapefruit tree. We bought that and was able to stay there for the last four winters before Gain died.
     I kept diaries of that period in our life and we took lots of photos. I will be typing them up for here as well as the old Florida letters Mama saved and some Florida diaries Mama kept when she and Daddy visited Charles and me back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. All of these entries will be titled NOTES FROM LAND'S END because Land's End is what Mama and I called a particular part of Ft. Myers Beach that we especially loved.
     The anhingas or water turkeys mentioned in this post aren't the edible kind, but protected wild birds. The "munch munch" I added was my idea of a joke then. The "batmobile" was my old car, and I ordinarily didn't dare force it to a speed of 50 miles per hour!
     The Shell Factory was a really neat tourist attraction in North Ft. Myers selling Florida souvenirs of all kinds. It is still there, greatly expanded, and even with a snack bar now. I took Gain there and we got fish sandwiches, French fries, and Cokes while we there. I think the frog I bought for Mama and mentioned here is now in one of Mama's doll cabinets. I am sure she wouldn't have gotten rid of it.
     The Crystal World, mentioned here, is one of my favorite books, a weirdly beautiful science fiction book by J.G. Ballard. Chronopolis is a collection of his short stories. J.G. Ballard has since died, but his books should all be available on Amazon, or some of them may be out of copyright and free to read online now. Mama and I referred to J.G. Ballard as "the Biscuit", one of our private jokes, referring to Ballard biscuits.
     I am publishing this letter under my maiden name of Henson. I hope someone enjoys reading it and seeing a glimpse of a long vanished Florida.

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