May 10, 2010

Fifty two years worth of Mothers Days

My mother was born on the fourth of April in 1935, the youngest of ten children. Her parents were William, known as "Buddy", and Fannie West. My grandmother's maiden name was McGee, so Irish descent was a given... Everyone called my grandfather Buddy, but to all of us he was Pa, to his wife he always known strictly as William. Pa was a farmer when my mother was born, but later on was hired by the county to build bridges. Granny was a homemaker, a stern woman, well known for her soft and tender emotional side (just like mom). They lived on what is now known as Buddy West road. Their house is still there, a subdivision was built next to it a few years ago and the turning lane is cut into the front yard, developers are so nice that way. Every time I drive by there I look at that little yard and think about how vast it was when I was a child and we went over there every Sunday for dinner. Granny never cut her hair, but always wore it tied into a meticulously tight bun. My mother told me that she would take it down and comb it every night and that it "nearly touched the floor." Granny passed away when I was a child in the first or second grade. We came home from school one day and the house was full of people, I wanted my mother, but nobody would let me go see her. My cousin Syble took me and my brother out on the front porch and told us that mom was lying down, then told us that granny had passed away, the look on her face as she told us is one thing I will never forget, one of the tenderest moments in my life. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood for the rest of the day in that strange daze that follows such tragedies.

My mother was christened Trudy Dean West as a baby and set off on a life surrounded by four boys and five other girls. She never went in for anything too girlie and spent her time playing cowboys and indians with all the boys around the house. "We played whatever we saw at the movies on Saturday for that entire week, until we went back the next weekend..." She would get dropped off in town by her dad at a relatives house down near the bridge on Lagrange street and all the kids would walk to the Alamo theater to see a movie, and then spend the rest of the day riding bikes around Newnan until Pa would come by to pick them all up. Mom told me once that one of her favorite times when she was a kid was when the cotton would come in and the barn would be packed with bales of the fluffy white stuff. They would spend countless hours jumping from the loft door into the cotton piled all around before Pa had it shipped off to market.

In school mom played on the basketball team and was a member of the beta club. Sports allowing girls were limited at the time and mom always went in for any sport she could... Every year that she played on the basketball team they went to the state tournament, she is always good at what she does. She has bowled and played golf all of her life. Even after a stroke in recent years she still goes bowling and plays golf. Her vision was damaged by the stroke a bit but as she says, "I can still see the marks on the bowling lane, even if I can't see the pins like I should...." Every year she played on the church softball team, earning her the the moniker "Mama Dean."

They attended Happy Valley Baptist church, also on Buddy West Rd., just as my fathers family did, Buddy and Fannie West were good friends with Doc and Zeddie Perry. Mom's brother William, Uncle "C" to me, was friends with my dad and they ran around together as kids... It was a fateful night when uncle C had a date with Annie Jo, one of moms friends. Annie Jo suggested a double date... Uncle C tapped dad to go with them and my parents were together from then on. They graduated high school in June of 1953 and got married that December. Mom and dad lived on Savannah street in Newnan for a while then lived in an apartment on Madison street until they bought a little house on Martin street where they lived for the next nineteen years, bringing five children into the world. When I was in the second grade they built and moved into the house where mom still lives on Doc Perry road. Mom and dad were married for 54 years until dad passed away a couple of years ago.

Mom worked for Royal Molded Products in Newnan from the get go, she was in charge of inventory control in the office. Royal molded made toilet seats... the sawdust pressed, unpainted toilet seats made good kindling for the fireplace in the winter, and mom would periodically bring home a truckload... I think we were some of the few kids that could actually say, "We had to bust up toilet seats for the fireplace.." when asked what we did over the weekend... We also discovered that they slid great on ice during a huge winter storm when I was a kid...

My mother worked full time, no small feat when you have five children. She hired a woman that helped raise us, Mamie Steagall, an older black woman that couldn't read or write, and didn't know how old she was, she didn't even know when her birthday was.. But she could cook like you wouldn't believe.. Mom would leave in the morning and go pick up Mamie and bring her to the house then head off for work. Each evening she would take Mamie home or to town or wherever it was Mamie needed to go. For years mom paid Mamie half of her salary she made at Royal. When we moved out here to Doc Perry road Mamie was older and had part of a foot removed because of diabetes, but still barked orders to us with her usual gusto. "Ya'll go play outside, my program is coming on.." was a favorite order she gave. Three things about Mamie will stick with me forever, she always had me a glass container of ice water ready in the refrigerator when I got home from school (it was an old coffee cup from the hospital, that now resides in a place of honor in my cabinet), she always put an ice cube in the soup she made us for lunch so it wouldn't be too hot (I think of that every time I see a can of campbells chicken noodle soup), and she made the best fried pies...

My mother has always been the type of person that is active and level headed, a meticulous record keeper. She never has taken much crap from anyone and will simply tell you what you've done wrong and expect you to correct it immediately, yet her heart is as loving as you can get. Several years ago she had chest pains, turned out she had to have a quadruple bypass... They put her in the hospital and then took her to Piedmont in Atlanta for the operation. The worry in my dad's eyes as we waited for hours while she was being operated on sat pretty deep with me, all that time together to be faced with such a crisis, I couldn't imagine. He walked around with her x rays rolled up in his hand and paced the floor nonstop. When she came out of recovery and was asked how she felt she said, "I dreamt about toilet seats, of all the things in the world to dream about..." When she got home she began her recovery almost as soon as she walked in the door... She's always been a fighter. The occasional tearing up here and there is when I knew she was emotional, she's the queen of keeping herself in check. When my father passed away she was standing next to his casket the funeral home and said, "He drove me crazy, but I do love him so, now get up old man and lets just go home..." That was the hardest thing I think I have ever witnessed, but it is a testimony to the amount of love that her heart can hold, five children, and a husband with a love for the unexpected (and huge explosions) could tell on a woman over the years, but with mom, her stoic nature wouldn't allow it to make her waver from what she had to do. She's always encouraged us to do what made us happy and to keep our feet on the ground at the same time.

Growing up there were always people in the house, my brothers and sisters friends when they were in school, our friends when me and my brother were in school. Family and friends on Friday nights playing cards and people over for cookouts almost every weekend for years and years. I've seen her handle guests in all manner, and she never wavered once. She loves a big crowd of people milling around the place, a product, I'm sure, of her childhood. But then, thats what a home is all about... Loud noises, mess, kids playing, scrapes, bruises, and an endless fountain of love...

From the silent eye roll and deep breath she let out as we stood on the porch and looked at the brand new convertible my dad just bought spur of the moment on the way home from work to the pride of a great grandmother as she watches my nephew's son play baseball, she has touched more lives with her ways than I think she realizes. We spent yesterday with her for Mothers Day, and I told my brothers I wanted a picture taken with her... She then ran to town with my wife to get coffee and hit a few stores. While they were gone I sat on the porch and watched my son play in the yard as I thought about the life my mom has lived. She has been surrounded by people that love her, people that count on her, and people she feels deeply for.. I just hope she realizes how much she means to us all. I love you mom, happy Mothers Day...


Deb said...

This has to be one of the most beautiful write ups I have ever seen for a mother. Wow, this totally reminded me of my parents. And your mom with her toilet seat dream while recovering. She sounds like such an amazing woman, you're very lucky to have her! I hope you get to read this to her!

Thanks for sharing this!

Rob Cole said...

Brother bear, for those that just know you through your writing, you are a great son and have a wonderful mother... for those of us that have been fortunate to have shared some of those milestones and know each and every "player" in your memories... we know that the family you write about is truly a "family". Beyond the cordial gatherings, past the shallow flattery... a true family, with memories filled with happiness, tears, success and failures... but, all of it revolving around a never ending love... Biblical, spiritual, resounding love.... and as much as I know and love you, it amazes me how you can put into words the very essence of your mother. She's blessed you know, with you, Stuart, Alyson, David and Michael... I wanna go home, Clay. Thank you for getting me damn close.

Junebug said...

As we get older we find family to be dearer to us.We reflect on memeories of the past.
We hold our loved ones closer to us.
Meeting your family the night before you abd Julie got married was a blessing to us.
You know that was quite a nice memory and story you wrote about your mother.I hope she gets to read it.
You also know how much we your in-laws love you and your family.
I love your mom!She is a true lady.I like that she speaks her mind and then it's over and done with.
The things our parents leave with us is what we pass on to our children.
Love you son-in-law.

Leon & Betty said...

Clay, what a touching story of you, your family and your Mother. You certainly have a "way with words". I really enjoy reading your posts. I remember your Mother from the years she worked with Royal Products. My older brother, J>B> Hand worked with her. I met her at his wedding and also on several social occasions. She is a wonderful person and you are blessed to have her as your Mother.

Just me... said...

What a lovely and touching tribute to your mother!!!
And God love her for having the patience to put up with you all... :):)~

Eve said...

great pictures!

Matt-Man said...

Your family history posts are always so well written. Nice job yet again, Clay. Cheers!!