Today, I give a shout out to birthday girl and Project Keepsake story contributor, Nancy Ratcliffe. Nancy shares a birthday with baseball great Shoeless Joe Jackson and comedian Will Ferrell of Saturday Night Live fame (the guy who parodied George W. Bush, posed as a cheerleader with Cheri Oteri, and starred with Christopher Walken in one of my favorite SNL skits, "NEED MORE COWBELL."
I got to know Nancy a few years ago when I began working with Habitat for Humanity of Gordon County. As she and I talked one day, I told her about my idea to collect stories about keepsakes. A few weeks later, she sent her story to me with a lovely photo of her keepsakes—two pieces of whimsical carnival glass.
Like some of my favorite writers, Nancy has a folksy, but polished, writing style and voice. Her story instantly won me over with mentions of the Goatman and reaching under a tablecloth to grab a stale biscuit cooked earlier in the day. Although Nancy is a few years older than me and although she grew up in a completely different region of Georgia, I share these memories with her—they connect us, in a way.
I vaguely remember sitting in heavy traffic on Highway 247 just south of Macon when I was about four years old (circa 1969), waiting for the Goatman (Ches McCartney) to pass through the area. He, his bizarre entourage of goats, and his junky wagon had stopped and slowed traffic that day. It was summer, and my mom and I baked in the oven-like car, even with the windows rolled down. Mom looked over at me that day and said, "I don't know why traffic has stopped. It's either a wreck or the Goatman." I was unfamiliar with the Goatman, and so I envisioned a mythological creature—a half man, half goat being—thirsty for the blood of a little blonde-headed girl. I was terrified—sweat rolling down my freckled face.
And Nancy's stale biscuits reference reminds me of visiting my Grandmother Lanier's house outside of Metter, Georgia. After breakfast, she, too, would cover the leftovers with a thick cotton tablecloth to protect the food from bold, black house flies. When my siblings and I got hungry, we ran into her old farmhouse kitchen, helped ourselves to whatever was under the cloth, then raced back outside to resume whatever we were doing before our break. On a side note, I was a really skinny little girl, and Grandmother Lanier was always pushing food my way saying, "I think you must have worms." Thanks for that, Grandmother! Your statement scarred me for life.
But back to Nancy's story—I also love the fact that Nancy's keepsakes didn't appeal to her at first. Some times the passage of time, and the passing of loved ones, transform simple objects into priceless keepsakes. I've learned this lesson in my own lifetime.
"Carnival Glass" starts on page seventy-three of the book. Here's an excerpt:
Happy Birthday, Nancy! I'm so glad we are friends! And thank you for sharing your story!