Dicy McCullough: More gifts from a birthday story

  • Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 12:19 a.m.
Connie McCombs, a Title I reading tutor at Shive Elementary,  used a a newspaper article about Lonnie Holmes’ 100th birthday as a prompt for a writing lesson.
Connie McCombs, a Title I reading tutor at Shive Elementary, used a a newspaper article about Lonnie Holmes’ 100th birthday as a prompt for a writing lesson.

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of writing an article for the Salisbury Post about Lonnie Cruse Holmes celebrating her 100th birthday on Jan. 26. To celebrate this milestone, Lonnie’s friends and family managed to surprise her with a party at her Trinity Oaks apartment. Even though Lonnie’s apartment didn’t seem big enough to hold 40 people, no one seemed to mind because food, fun and fellowship were enjoyed by all.

Born in 1913 in Gold Hill, Lonnie eventually moved to Linwood, enjoying life as a wife, writer, organist and elementary school teacher. In her role as a writer, she often contributed to Senior Savvy, a local newspaper that caters to the senior population. While visiting with Lonnie at her apartment in January, I read some of those stories. One in particular caught my eye, titled, “What Makes Me Happy.”


After reading, I asked Lonnie if I could reprint the story for the Salisbury Post. With a smile, she said that would make her happy

What makes me happy

By Lonnie Holmes

Come along with me. You can help carry my chair, fishing pole and worms. We will ride to the private pond located on my old home place. It’s the place where I was born, with my five brothers and loving parents. It’s the place where I had a feeling of being loved and secure.

Placing my chair in my favorite fishing spot, I bait my hook with a big fat worm and throw my line out in the water and wait. I’m at peace with the world and myself. Come, sit down beside me, fish if you wish. I have another pole.

This is pure happiness ... I’m just as close to heaven as I can be, fishing where I was born years ago. Look! My cork is under the water and I feel a strong pull. I’ve caught a fish! What a happy ending!

While it’s easy to imagine Lonnie fishing along the bank, it’s also easy to imagine her in a classroom. Lonnie was an elementary school teacher for more than 40 years and loved teaching so much, many of her students came to think of her as a mother.

Although she retired many years ago, there’s no doubt Lonnie will be happy to hear children are still learning from her, as I discovered on a visit to Shive Elementary School a few weeks ago. I made that discovery when a teacher assistant and friend of mine, Pam Bloom, mentioned that Ms. Connie McCombs, a Title I reading tutor at Shive, had used Lonnie’s 100th birthday story as a prompt for a writing lesson.

Seeing Lonnie’s story in the Salisbury Post, Ms. McCombs thought it would make a great lesson to integrate with the 100-day theme. The timing was perfect because the 100th day of school fell about a week after the story was published.

Reading the newspaper article to her students, Ms. McCombs expanded the lesson by having a discussion about how things were different 100 years ago. The children were amazed that homes didn’t have indoor plumbing, and one little boy even asked if people used a jar when they went to the bathroom. Ms. McCombs laughed and said sometimes they used something like a jar at night, or when it was too cold to go outside. The children were also surprised families didn’t have television or in most cases even a telephone. They couldn’t imagine what life was like without cell phones or computers.

Most of the boys were sure if they lived to be 100 they would play Xbox all day. They also thought they would be bald and have a mustache or beard. The girls were afraid they would have wrinkles and walk with a cane. Both boys and girls thought they wouldn’t have any teeth.

After the discussion, the students were asked to write a story and draw a picture of what they would be doing if they lived to be 100. Here are some of their thoughts and ideas:

• Julianna Honeycutt: When I am 100, I will make outfits.

• Jasmine Scarborough: When I am 100, I will miss my mom and my family. I will have gray hair and glasses and wrinkly skin.

• Aden Brown: When I am 100, I will be living in Florida in a mansion and will have a bunch of games to play on my Xbox360. I will have a big basement.

• Abby Hardin.: When I am 100, I will eat yogurt.

• Kayley Null: When I am 100, I would like to take a nap.

• Connor Mikoski: When I am 100, I will meet someone in the barn.

• Brayden Cain: When I am 100, I am going to watch tv in my rocking chair.

• Brandon Grooms: When I am 100, I am going to McDonald’s and eat lots of cheeseburgers.

A writer never knows where a story might travel, but it makes me happy Lonnie’s story found its way into the classroom and not the bottom of a bird cage.

Thank you, Ms. McCombs, for integrating the real world of Lonnie’s life and times into your classroom. Your students put a smile on my face today and I’m sure on Lonnie’s, too.

Dicy McCullough’s books are available at local bookstores, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Call her at 704-278-4377.

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