Well, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. My own little popkins are very much looking forward to giving me the corsage they’ve already shown me. . .and encouraging me to stay in bed until they come into my room. They amaze me, these two children that I carried for a total of 82 weeks, 19 1/2 lbs., and 9 days in the ICUs of two hospitals here in Houston. They have left their mark on my temples and forehead and most certainly on my heart.
It makes me think of the women that brought me into this world–my Granny, my Nanny, and my own Momma.
My Nanny, Cleavie Millicent Johnson was born in Bastrop, Louisiana and died there at the very young (I now know how young it was) age of 58. She was a severe diabetic and had several massive strokes around the time I turned 3. I never got to know the woman she was before that–just the sick version. But I have heard the stories, and I’ve read the letters that she and my Grandaddy wrote when he was drafted during World War II. He had to leave her at home with her diabetes and two small children–my Daddy being one of them. She was responsible for the livestock, the garden, the produce trees, and taking care of anything that should arise. I grew up right across the pasture from the place she struggled so hard to keep. I didn’t know until I read those letters how close they came to losing it. In one letter Grandaddy wrote, “Try as hard as you can to keep the place, my love, for it’s a pretty little place and just right for us. But if you must let it go, I will know you have done your best.” She went to school again at the age of 30 something to get her LPN degree so she could nurse at the hospital in town. She was a faithful wife to my grandfather, who adored her, and the mother of three children. She loved jonquils, irises, and tulips, and was a fabulous artist as well as being able to sing.
My Granny, Rubye Mae Williamson was born in 1911 in southern Arkansas. She was very proud of the fact that she graduated from high school. She was the oldest girl of 11 children who survived being born during that era and did her part as the sister-matriarch of the family. Her mother and daddy were dirt farmers. . .and sometimes that’s all there was to farm. She and my PaPaw were married for 3 days short of 50 years. She buried him on their 50th anniversary. When she died we found 88 wash cloths in her linen closet–the only remotely selfish and non-frugal thing I ever knew her to do. She had that many because as the oldest girl in the family, all the kids had to be washed before she got her bath. Sometimes she was left with cold, dirty bath water and a filthy wash rag. So she decided when she got old enough and had her own money, she would use one rag for her body, and one for her face, and one for her feet if she wanted to. And so she did. She mopped her kitchen floor EVERY DAY except Sunday, wore Merle Norman makeup and Oil of Olay face lotion, and loved my cousins and brother and sister and me within an inch of our lives. Her favorite color was purple. She had horrible arthritis in her fingers and hands, so she sewed every day, and used her sewing to supplement the income she and PaPaw had. She has been gone for nearly 21 years and I still miss her.
And my Momma, Glenda Sue Bawcom, was born by c-section in the Lake Village hospital in Arkansas September 7, 1940. A remarkable birth at that time. . .and she and my aunt are the only children Granny ever had. (My mom and dad were both born during “summer”–Daddy on August 5, and I’ve often thought how hot and uncomfortable it must have been to have babies before air conditioning in hospitals. There is so much we take for granted.) She and Daddy have been married for 43 1/2 yrs. In that time she has had three children, two miscarriages, worked full time, taken care of EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything) that has to do with hearth and home, and survived my Daddy. He is quite a character. She is what is known as a hunter/fisher widow. She says when a man asks you to marry him while driving through the game reserve looking for deer, you know what you’re in for. They went to Colorado to hunt on their honeymoon. She taught school for 37 years and retired last May to spend more time with Daddy. It’s a good thing, because he’s spent a lot of this year in the hospital–and is currently there. My Daddy lost his left leg in an accident in the paper mill where he worked just one month before I was born. I have never heard either of them complain or bemoan the change in their lives this brought about. That’s just the way it was, and we were lucky to have Daddy at all. My momma always smelled like Gloria Vanderbilt perfume and her hand was always soft and cool when I was sick. She had a bad temper sometimes. She didn’t always fold the socks. She was, and is, my hero, however. She taught me how to take care of a sick child or a sick in-law. She taught me how to get dinner on the table with all of it still hot. She taught me how to handle a crisis. We have never fought. She has supported me 100% in any decision I’ve ever made because she says she taught me right from wrong and she depends on me to use my “good common sense.” She never told me she didn’t have the time when I needed her–and I needed her a lot. We talk at least once each week–sometimes more–and we still stay up late and talk when I go home for visits.
I hope that as Victoria grows older I am able to impart some of this to her. She will have her own set of women to look to, to learn from, to be like or not like. But she will be loved, as I was and am loved, no matter what.
I come from good stock–not perfect–didn’t ever claim to be–but hearty and solid and full of common sense and make-do attitude. I am blessed in many ways, and these women were and are part of that blessing.