Daddy should have been a polygamist the way he laid out work for the whole family. His list for Mother might start, “Take the power saw by the shop in Springhill (22 miles away) on your way to the tractor place in Magnolia (24 miles beyond Springhill) pick up a magneto. It ought to look like this. (He’d dangle two broken pieces) On your way home, stop at Rusty’s and get some Catfish to fry tonight. Eric is coming over after work to help me and I told him you’d fry him up some catfish. Oh yeah, don’t forget to stop at the feed store in Cotton Valley and get a hundred pounds of grain. That red cow is looking poor and I want to fatten her up.”
The entire round of errands was more than one hundred miles. Mother would do what she had to at the house, grab her two preschoolers and start her day. Of course, she still had to “fry fish for Eric” at the end of this little jaunt. Mother was a “good wife” and would never told Daddy to take care of his own business. He was completely demanding and thought she was lucky to be married to him. Add Mother’s regular routine to this and it was a mess.
Well, on the proud occasion of my brother Bill’s high school graduation, he was miraculously gifted with a suit. The whole family was thrilled. My parents had been worried for months how they would come up with the necessary graduation suit. A regular suit would have really stretched their budget, but Bill was tall, more than six feet-four inches. West Brothers wasn’t going to be much help. About two weeks before graduation, a box came in the mail, a beautiful blue suit. It came with long, long unhemmed pants. All the pants needed was hemming to make them perfect-the answer to a prayer. Immediately, Daddy pronounced, “Kathleen, you’ve got to get busy right now and get those pants hemmed.”
“I’ll get it done, but not right now. I’m cooking supper.” Daddy liked his food. He couldn’t argue with that.
The next night at exactly the same time, “Kathleen, did you get those pants hemmed today?”
“No. Connie was sick and I had to take her to the doctor. She threw up the rest of the day. I didn’t get anything done.”
Now he was clearly not pleased. “Well, you better get it done tomorrow. Graduation is only a week and a half off.”
Mother was mad now. “I know that as well as you do. And I know he has to have a suit. I would have done it today if Connie hadn’t gotten sick!”
Disaster fell that night. Granny Long died. Mother had to help at the house and cook food for the funeral. Mother and Daddy had to “sit” a shift with the body at the home that night, when they were asked if Billy could be a pall bearer. “Of course,” said Daddy. “It would be an honor.”
“Oh No! He’ll have to have a suit and I didn’t get it hemmed!” thought Mother. It was after 2:00 A.M. when they got home. The funeral was at 10:00 A.M. It never even occurred to Daddy the suit was not hemmed and pressed just like he’d delegated days ago.
“Come Hell or High Water.” breakfast was the first order of business. Mother wasn’t about to mention the suit before she had to. By the time Daddy was out of the way, Bill learned he’d been pressed into service as a pall-bearer. With a yet-to-be hemmed suit, tensions were high. Every minute counted. Mother told him to try the pants on so she could measure them for a hem. Furious as only a hormone-ridden seventeen-year-old pantsless pall-bearer can be, he held them in front of himself and snarled, “Just cut them here.”
Sick of the attitude, Mother didn’t notice he was bending as he pointed. She cut. He ran for the shower while she hemmed and pressed faster than I’d ever seen her move, glad to have dodged a bullet.
Minutes later, he strode down to hall where we all were waiting, Daddy included. Complete with jacket, tie, cufflinks, and beautifully shined dress shoes he made an entrance. His new suit pants ended four inches below his knees, revealing six inches of hairy, white leg above his black socks. He looked like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence. His expression was unreadable. There would be no saving his beautiful suit. I was sure somebody would have to die! Mother looked from him to Daddy and pronounced, “Well, it couldn’t be helped!” We all exploded and laughed so long and hard a tragedy was averted. Billy went back and put on his old black dress pants to do his pall bearer duty. I don’t remember what happened to the graduation suit. I guess it didn’t matter that much after all.