Sunday at the Swain’s

Mother was a true Daughter of the Bible Belt. Daddy was a man of the “Old South. Mother’s regular days were demanding, but preparation for Sundays were grueling. There were five children in our family;two older girls, the “big” girls then my brother, each three years apart. When my brother was five, my parents got reacquainted and had two more girls about a year apart, known as “little” girls. I quickly noticed the little girls had made a better decision than I when joining the family lineup. Their role was to be sweetly precious while the “big” girls were promoted to unpaid household help; sweeping, mopping, cooking, cleaning, evening farm chores. I didn’t care for any of those things, but of course, I was conscripted, not a volunteer.

Mother’s life was unenviable by most standards. When her normal duties on late Saturday were done, it was time for us to get shoes polished, clothes starched and ironed, and baths and pin-curling done. I would have gladly foregone the torture of having my fine, lank hair slimed up with Dippity-Do, but my opinion was irrelevant. She hated having her girls show up on Sunday with stringy hair. Mother clenched me between her knees, wound my pre-slimed hair tightly around her finger and slid in criss-crossed Bobby -Pins to hold the recalcitrant curls in place. The pins wouldn’t have goudged a groove as they slid in had I had resisted the temptation to bite the plastic tips off the pins, but alas, I was a slow learner. The pin-curled mess was wrapped snugly in a scarf overnight to keep curls from working loose, leaving one straight sprig claiming independence from it’s frazzled friends. I hated the curly do that taunted me in the mirror the next morning. I can’t imagine why anyone would go to all the trouble to look so awful.

Pretty often, Daddy threw a monkey wrench into Mother’s organization by electing to take us all to visit his family until late Saturday evening, often not getting us home until long after all the kids had slumped into deep sleep. As he approached home, he threw the car windows open to shock the us awake since he didn’t like carrying somnolent kids in. Unwashed kids with dirty feet tumbled into bed in their clothes. Beds would be stripped Monday.

I was grateful to forego hairdos when we were out late. Kids got spitbaths after a quick breakfast That left Saturday night’s shoe-polishing, a panicked job before Sunday school. Without fail, at least one shoe went missing, ensuring a wild search. It was almost unheard of for all pairs to be found resting cozily together under the edge of the bed as they should have been. The shoe might have escaped to the fartherest corner of the house, yard, or perhaps been kicked off in the car. While Sunday School lessons read, offering nickels were stuffed in Sunday School Collection Envelopes. Amidst this mayhem, Mother or one of her lacksadaicsical lackies had to draw Daddy’s bath, and put the soap,washcloth, towel, and church clothes out. He always dawdled over coffee, late to his bath. We alway left late for church with him preaching all the way to church because “Y’all made me late! You need to get organized!” the perfect start to a lovely Sunday. I

Swain Kids I am girl in dark sweater in back row

9 thoughts on “Sunday at the Swain’s

  1. OH memories! These stories of yours are always my favorites because in some ways our lives were similar. We did the pincurls later but before that we had these rag twisted curl things. Later, mother faithfully got us perms, until one day we somehow contracted ringworm and all our heads got shaved and then covered in something like axle-grease!!! Who came up with that? I think from then on it was short and perms.
    Interestingly, mother worked away from home off and on. Mother was, as dad or some would put it, materialistic and daddy was the kinda guy that did as little as he possibly could and “getting by” was good enough for him. Unfortunately, I married his twin. Sigh… How do we manage to do that?

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  2. So glad the hair style changed. I had Bobby-pinned hair for many years. Bless our Mamas, they were so dedicated to their children. Have to give our Dad’s credit. They brought in the bacon. Actually, I don’t remember eating bacon until I was grown, but I know we didn’t go hungry. Lots of pinto beans and stewed potatoes. Thanks for reminding me of days gone by. Makes me appreciate the blessings of today.

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