Children are full of surprises. And yet, if you've gotten a few things right and been lucky a whole lot, some of their actions shouldn't be surprises at all.

My college daughter Margaret, for example. She very quietly went about figuring out how to establish a scholarship endowment for someone else and did it. Even nicer, she named it in honor of me and my wonderful mother, her grandmother.

Embarrassed at looking self-important, I had to ask a staffer to do a little story about it because a much larger newspaper to our south was about to do just that. It wouldn't do to get beat by the competition. Absolutely not.

As these stories were being written, I was the one being interviewed rather than the other way around. Now I know how my subjects have felt.

In the midst of all this reflection, I reaffirmed the great fortune Margaret and I had in knowing my mother, Betty Dial Brumfield. In the photo that was taken to go with the story, our photographer figured out a way to use a lovely image of her, which was done when she was about Margaret's age during World War II at Camp Van Dorn west of her home in McComb.

My mother loved to dance, and the U.S. soldiers at Van Dorn needed dancing partners, so my grandmother, the beautiful and willful Rosalie Dial, would scoop up several lasses to boost the morale out there and keep the dance floor spinning.

About that image, my mother wrote me a most intriguing story. Seems her grandmother had sent a dress, which during war times was a real treat. It was a plain dress with a sash, and while my mother pictured herself in something much sexier, my grandmother firmly said "It will do" and that was that.

So off my mother went to Van Dorn, instilled with the belief that she was not going there for her own entertainment but to see that the soldiers had a good time. Smiling was crucial, my grandmother insisted.

A group of soldiers had gathered near the bandstand, intently watching the dancers. Mother noticed the girls all giving smiles and attention to some celebrity and were ignoring one fellow who was somewhat unattractive and certainly not famous, sort of standing off by himself.

My grandmother's words came to her and she smiled at him whenever she danced by, ignoring the more handsome and exciting fellows in the group.

As the music came to a close at the end of one set, it was announced that a young woman there had been chosen Miss something or other (whatever divison was there at the time), and the lucky girl was to have her portrait done by an artist stationed at the camp.

And so, my mother wrote to me, "If you'll check the signature at the lower part of that portrait you'll find it to be that artist and the girl chosen as the loveliest there was the one in the cotton print dress with that stupid sash."

It was a lesson well learned and used many times later in life, she said. The best surprises come from thinking of other people first.

May we all remember that.

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