Around these parts, the old folks used to visit neighbors and relatives’ homes around Christmas time just for the joy of sharing hospitality with one another. There might be an exchange of food, but there were no grand displays of conspicuous consumption. The simple joy of visiting was the luxury exchanged. Upon arriving at a home, the folks coming in the front door would shout, “Christmas Gift!”. Whether it was a not too subtle hint or no, the folks being visited knew to be ready with some sweets for the occasion. It just wasn’t done to withhold a tea cake or a warming cup of coffee from the visitors. The communities were small in Gwinnett County and eventually the visits would balance. I wonder if any of my cousins or long-time friends remember “Christmas Gift!”
The vintage family photograph from circa 1920 pictures my grandmother, Nellie Mae Mills Liddell with my Aunts Ruth Liddell Seay and Virginia Liddell Russell in the garden of the 1840 Homeplace which is now the site of much commercial development around Steve Reynolds Boulevard in Duluth.
These folks practiced hailing friends and family in the traditional manner. Do you remember this warm, Christmas greeting?
Created in 2007 from an unused bedroom, the office has become a place for recordkeeping, reading, collecting, and watching television.
A large partners desk anchors the space. Mary and I have shared the desk and have a “wall of fame.”
It’s apparent that we have collected family memorabilia throughout our lives. Liddell and Donley family objects are displayed or placed in archival storage. Some of the objects are over two hundred years old. Some are from the childhoods of Mary, our sons, and myself. The collection includes the original 1818 Gwinnett County land lot deed that my great-great-great-great grandfather, William Liddell, received as a perk of having served as a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. The wax seal of the State of Georgia that hung from the document is still on its cloth tape. Original tintype portraits of ancestors find safe storage in acid-free boxes.
I researched the genealogy of my mother’s family from an early age. When I started teaching at Duluth High School in 1976, I was lucky to have a gifted artist as a student in one of my English classes. Gregory Jarrell took my rough charts and created a large family tree that I have kept framed and displayed for over forty years. I made sure that each of my Liddell aunts and uncles received full scale copies of the family tree.
A weasel’s gear ratio is usually 40 to 1. The circumference of the reel is usually two yards. The weasel pops after 40 revolutions. An 80-yard skein is wound around the yarn winder.
The chest is a pioneer piece from the Liddell plantation in Gwinnett County. It may have been used on a horse or mule-drawn wagon for storage of valuables as the family traveled from the Carolinas into Georgia in the early 1800’s. It is constructed of hand-planed pine and has dovetailed joints, wooden hinges, and a hand-forged hasp and latch.
This working toy steam engine was purchased in Germany by William Donley Green while on a 2009 Stetson University Summer Study Abroad Program. It replicates an older version (missing parts) that was originally purchased for Michael Perry Green from Lenox Toys and Hobbies at Lenox Square in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1960’s.
The chair was probably part of a bedroom suite used in the 1840 Liddell house. It remained in use in the 1957 Liddell house. The chair was repaired, recaned and gently refinished in 1977. The original finish was not stripped.
The office holds artifacts from family history. Mary Donley Green and I have enjoyed preserving old and interesting objects from our families. Some of the pieces merit more detail, but that might best be done in future blog articles.
I began the garden in 2011. This part of the backyard had changed over the years with the removal of several pine trees and the construction of a swimming pool. Crab orchard stone stacked retaining wall and paving stones defined a walking path and sitting area, with steps down for a grade change. The elevation and slope of the area changed. I constructed a circular paved walking area with a central planting island and a site for a bench in 2011.
When our electrician Jay Norton installed landscape lighting, he christened the area the Serenity Garden. Plantings over the years have included perennials, podocarpus, osmanthus, aucuba , hydrangea, azaleas, and hostas.
My son Evan and I placed a large cast concrete urn on a short pedestal in the center of the circular planting bed. We have used various types of flowering and non-flowering plantings in the urn. Maples, pines, and an old, heirloom pear tree have provided partial shade to plant material in the garden.
This year the pear tree was in decline and the trunk had split; our tree surgeon removed it. Mary and I discussed some planning of the new garden and our son Will donated spare time to remove old bedding perennials, dead shrubs, plant new shrubs and prepare the new planting bed. He planted new shrubs: podocarpus, aucuba, camellias and osmanthus. Mary and I have removed some scraggly liriope. We are planting mondo grass to reduce the brown color that dominates from the use of pine mulch groundcover. Along the way Will moved a large azalea and relocated landscape lighting wiring that interfered with new shrub planting. Mary has ordered replacement landscape lighting as needed, and Evan and Will have installed them.
I have started referring to the project as Will Green’s Garden. I located a book in our collection, The Gardens of Williamsburg, for him to take home to enjoy.
As of April 21, 2021, the Serenity Garden tulips have not emerged. These were pre-chilled bulbs that were planted very late. It was a risk, but “you win some and you lose some” in gardening. The Terrace Garden tulips were planted in the fall, however, and bloomed well around three weeks ago.
The azaleas and snapdragons have added color lately to the Serenity Garden.
In June 2020 I wrote a blog entry about the seven year staging of my health status.
In this entry I reviewed the status of my multiple myeloma and its remission and treatment. You may recall that I received a stem cell transplant in 2013 to counteract the disease in my bone marrow. The transplant helps the bone marrow improve the blood chemistry and combat cancerous elements found there. Because multiple myeloma is never cured, the best that can be done is to maintain remission even though cancer cells will continue to be produced. I have been receiving some form of chemotherapy for nearly nine years and have maintained very good partial remission (VGPR) since 2013. The major side effect is a compromised immune system which leaves me susceptible to infections such as colds and flu. To help me resist illness, I have had a series of five monthly immunoglobulin infusions in cooler weather months. Another side effect to the weak immune system has been an annoying tendency for skin cancers to occur and need treatment.
Recently, a stubborn squamous cell skin cancer required three weeks of radiation treatment after two surgical removals. During radiation I could not continue chemotherapy. After the necessary follow-up CT scan and meeting this week with my oncology team at Emory Winship Cancer Institute, I received a surprise. The levels of myeloma in my blood did not increase, even though I had been without chemotherapy for three months. My oncologist suggested that chemotherapy and immunoglobulin infusions be discontinued until further notice. Labs and office visits will continue every two months. The team will monitor my blood chemistry and will evaluate medication or treatment needs.
That was a great Thanksgiving blessing. For the first time in nearly nine years, I have no chemo prescription!
Our “big oak” was a post oak that was about 150 years old. Macauley Properties wisely spared many trees in the neighborhood when our house was built in 1992. It was one of the trees that had sheltered the old home that had been on the property before the land was sold and developed into The Lakes of Enniskerry.
We have been keeping the tree maintained (pruning limbs, irrigating and fertilizing) for 28 years. It has been under the care of a licensed arborist for ten years.
The tree declined with increasing age. Over the years the beautiful bend became very pronounced and three large decay areas in the trunk worsened. With the loss of limbs, the old survivor began to appear rather sad. Even worse, it became a potential threat to our property.
Mary, our sons, and I came to the realization that the old friend and landmark in our neighborhood would have to be cut down.
Our HOA and the City of Milton arborist reviewed the permit requests and did inspections prior to approving the tree removal. We were very pleased that the city takes its tree protection very seriously.
The images below are of the tree and of the removal October 1, 2020.
Note the boot of the tree cutter in the lower left of the image for perspective.
When I was an assistant principal at Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, a secretary named Jeanne Knox shared an interesting plant with me. I took the plant home to Lawrenceville, Georgia and transplanted it in our garden. That was thirty years ago. It made the move with us to Milton in 1992. The perennial has popped up just about everywhere in our gardens since then. I have never seen it in a plant nursery nor in any other gardens. It is the Blackberry Lily. Some of my readers may be familiar with it. Below are some images and further information.
Iris domestica, known as Blackberry Lily or Leopard Lily is a perennial that is native to eastern Russia, China and Japan. The flower petals are speckled which has caused the plant to be known as Leopard Lily. The drying rhizomes are very similar in appearance to blackberries. The plant is hardy in zones 8-10 in the United States. The dried rhizome has long been used medicinally in Eastern Asia for a variety of ailments.
Red banana trees have flourished for years in our gardens. By the end of the growing season they are ten feet tall. Frost burns the leaves and the trees are cut down and composted. The trees return faithfully jn late spring and are a welcome food source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Our neighbor Marta says that the red banana fruit is available in grocery stores in Puerto Rico. Having been used to store-bought bananas only, I have managed a small nibble which was pleasantly sweet. I survived that sample last year and may attempt more tasting with the new harvest.
The Seasons Garden has two healthy stands that provide a pleasing tropical look.
This is the Cliffs Notes version of “Michael’s Adventures With Multiple Myeloma.”
Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that affects the blood plasma and is incurable, but treatable with varying degrees of success.
August 2011 Diagnosed with MM
August 2011 Radiation Therapy
September 2011 Spinal Fusion
November 2011 Pulmonary Embolism
January 2012 Chemotherapy begins
April 2013 Stem Cell Transplant
The results of the seven year staging post-transplant were good. The bone marrow biopsy revealed less than 5% myeloma in the sample. My condition remains Very Good Partial Remission. My treatment is successful and will be modified in some ways. Oral at-home maintenance chemotherapy in low dosage will continue and not be changed. Multiple Myeloma blood chemistry labs will be every three months.
The results indicate success in treatment of the cancer as a chronic disease.
Thank you friends for your comments, prayers and continued encouragement.
Now I return my thoughts and plans to enjoying life, as usual. The family will be celebrating Father’s Day 2020 Sunday and I am looking forward to hearing giggles from granddaughter Charlotte Jayne Green.