Hard Time Marrying Part 7

spring-beauty-splashHe checked on the woman and children several times always finding them asleep.  The children’s breathing was regular and less shallow.  The pink of their cheeks faded as the fever dropped.  Twice more he fed and diapered them and assisted the woman to the pot.  The next two days were much the same, more feeding, more dosing with Dr. Marvel, more changing, and always, more washing.  The little boy rallied first, trailing Joe.  From time to time, he called for Mama, but overall seemed contented.  Joe looked forward to the woman regaining her strength and assuming her responsibilities.  She was attentive to the baby girl who still lay abed with her.  Thankfully, the baby finally got hungry enough to accept the bottle after a few tries.  It made it easier to get the Dr. Marvel’s in her, anyway.  The woman could barely stay awake long enough to feed the baby but kept it at her side.  On the fourth day, the woman began to eat regular food, though she mashed it first.  One day, she coughed and spit a cracked molar into her palm, increasing Joe’s guilt about burying her alive, though he still didn’t remember hitting her with the shovel.  Joe had hopes when she’d learn some English soon, since he didn’t understand a word she said when she did speak to the baby or cry out in pain upon moving.  She had picked up on coffee, milk, baby, hurt, boy, pot, and a few other words, but there was no conversation yet.  She never called him “Joe.”

Though there was no real talking between, Joe sensed a change.  The woman was able to leave the bed for longer and longer periods, and kept the baby on her hip as she padded around the cabin. Her bruises were fading and she was able to hold the baby with her left arm and feed it with her right. She was turning out to be a beauty, but looked so young to be a mother.  It warmed him to see the tiny girl laugh at her mother, though the boy clearly preferred Joe.  Joe had expected him to show more interest in his mother once she was out of bed, but he didn’t.  Maybe boys just liked men. Joe rigged a rough rope bed in the corner near the fireplace for the boy, thinking he could make a trundle when the girl was older. He was starting to think of her as “Anna” instead of “the woman.”  Anna only referred to the girl as “Baby” and the boy as “Boy.”  One day, he brought her the first Spring Beauty and she called him “Joe.”  Joe was glad of her and the children, glad of the life opening up to him.

That night the coyotes woke him.

Southern Fried Crazy


We love our crazy folks down South.  Oh, we may not want them right up in the house with us, not that it doesn’t happen from time to time, but certainly we need them to brighten up our holidays and remind us of how dull life would be without them.

My perennially pregnant Cousin Carol waddled into the family reunion this year with her nine kids and current live-in. He’d look like Willie Nelson if she cleaned him up a little.  Willie Albert Swain as toddlerExcepting her penchant for living in sin, Cousin Carol is fanatically religious, devoting herself to the food kitchens, fellowship nights serving evening meals, and community closets of all the local churches, though not their morning services.  “It’s hard to git nine young’uns dressed that early.” Some nosey relative asked her how many more kids she was going to have and she answered, “As many as God gives me.” I think the boyfriends had more to do giving her those babies than God did!  You can bet your sweet fanny she won’t have any more if she had to pay for them. At the conclusion of the reunion, she loaded up as much food as she could load in her decrepit station wagon, reasoning if she didn’t, y R would go to waste.”

For those of you who haven’t been to a family gathering in the South, this is every cook’s turn to shine.  They bring their most celestial dishes.  If Aunt Sue chases you down with her fresh coconut cake, you’re going to try it or else!  Don’t bother pleading allergies.  Aunt Bonnie makes the best fried chicken.  You have to have some of Uncle Joe’s barbecue, but watch out for Cousin Mattie Mae’s Three-Bean-Salad with the wigglies. You don’t have to take any of that. She has Alzheimer’s and won’t know the difference.  It may very well be the same batch she brought last year.

R G Holdaway Family with Johnny Bell early 1930'sUncle Chester couldn’t make it this year.  He got sent back up for counterfeiting, but he did set the boys up in bootlegging before he got caught.  They’re doing real good.  Aunt Jennie was really bragging on them.  Her girl Joyce is teaching at the high school and just married the Baptist preacher.  Aunt Jennie is so proud all her kids are making a good living and doing well.

I never get tired of bragging about my tightwad Cousin Kat who set up her tombstone in her bedroom because she “didn’t want to spend all that money and then not get any enjoyment out of it.”  There was my cousin Evil Larry, who ran around with his pants unzipped so he “all the better to pee on us” when he could catch us.  I never did learn to like him, though.  I adored my cousin Sue, but she was a compulsive liar from the time she could talk; delightful, non-malicious creations that kept me guessing.  She was great fun, but would have climbed on top of the house to tell a tale when she could have stood on the ground and told the truth.

1st row Kathleen Holdaway, Ellie  Blizzard,Johnny Bell2nd John a0002I don’t think I could pick a favorite.  I love them all, even the ones I hid from.  They gave me wonderful stories, ensuring that my rich, life never has a boring moment.  All I have to do is think back and recall.

(Oh and the Cat’s name was Old Greenie  She was 26 years old and had just given birth to her last litter of kittens.  Not long after this picture was made Old Greenie ate the kittens, starting at the feet.  My Grandpa was horrified and knocked her in the head.  See, my family even had crazy animals.)

Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 3

Three littI admired the way Miz Laura Mae’s daughter Glomie got her name, though I only learned later it wasn’t spelled the way it was pronounced.
“Betty Lou was the purtiest baby I had, even if I do say so myself. With her fat little legs, blue eyes, and curly hair, I thought for shore somebody would try to steal ‘er. She was my first an’ I held her all day. I didn’ know no better then. It’s a wonder she ever learned to walk. When she was about a year and a half old, Myrtle came along, red-headed and kind of puny. She had colic and squalled non-stop for seven months till my milk dried up. That’s when I found out for shore nursin’ wouldn’t keep me from gittin thataway. I had to put her on the bottle and table food and she took off. Purty soon, she was going ever’where. She wasn’t but about sixteen months old when Glomie come along.

Glomie was born long after midnight. Floyd had been drinkin’ and was purty well-lit by the time me and the baby was cleaned up an’ I was ready to get some rest. My two sisters, Oly was settling us in when Dr. Garnet asked Floyd if we’d picked a name for the baby.

“I done decided to call this one, Glomie, no matter if it was a boy or girl.” He asserted.

“Glomie. I ain’t never heard that name,” said Dr. Garnet. “How do you spell it?” He was filling out the birth certificate.
“Glomie. It’s got the first letter of ever’ state I ever been in,” Floyd answered morosely. “G for Georgia. L for Louisiana. O for Oklahoma. M for Mississippi. A for Arkansas. I don’t reckon with all these youngun’s I’ll ever git to go nowhere else.’

“If you’re sure,” said Dr. Garnet. “I hate to hang that on a kid, but I guess I’ve heard worse.”

By the time I found out the next mornin’, the namin’ was all over an’ that pore baby was stuck with Glomie. I never did let Floyd name another’n.”




AAsk Auntie Linda, August 24, 2015

Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda, My husband and I are just barely squeaking by.  We have three children under four.  I would love to be a stay-at-home mother, but it’s out of the question.  We need every penny to put food on the table.  My parents are retired and babysit for us, but I have to pay them fifty dollars a week, fifty dollars we desperately need.  Since they are both home anyway, it looks like they could do it for free, knowing how we are struggling just to keep food on the table and pay the rent.  I have had to pay them late a time or two and Mom asked me about the money.  Doesn’t this seem kind of cold?  Broke and worried

Dear Broke,  It is amazing that you pay fifty dollars a week for your parents to babysit three children under four.  Maybe you should look around for a better deal, then come back and kiss the ground your parents walk on.  That fifty dollars a week probably doesn’t cover what the children eat or the ibuprofen or aspirin your folks take at the end of the day.  Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda,  I hate my mother’s mean little dog.  She won’t come to visit without bringing that darn beast.  It snaps and snarls at the children.  We’ve never had a dog in the house.  It rankles me that she favors it over the children.  It drags its bottom on the carpet and I have to clean the carpet before I can let the baby down.  This angers and disgusts both me and my husband.  It is a real issue.  What in the world do I do? Love Mama, Not the Dog

Dear Love Mama,  Surely Mama has noticed that her little dog is less than welcome.  Perhaps she can confine it to her room. That bottom dragging indicates the dog likely has impacted anal glands, an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for Fido and the carpet owner, not to mention, dragging even a healthy bottom on the carpet where a baby will be crawling is disgusting.  Unless Mama is demented, she ought to be able to understand the dog doesn’t need the run of your house or the freedom to terrorize children. What if the children hurt the dog?  She needs to protect it.  However, dementia is always a possibility.  Auntie Linda

Babies and More Babies

I Connie and Marilyn's Toddler Pictures

I was I was eight years old when my whole world changed.  Mother had a baby.  Never having been much interested in babies, this one seemed like a waste of time.  Life was far better before the baby.  Mother was nicer; not constantly carping about being tired.  She’d also gotten incredibly lazy, now expecting me to fold towels, dust, and clear my own dishes from the table.  I hadn’t minded the first time or two, especially when she thanked me so effusively, but when it became obvious she expected it to be a regular thing, I was disgusted.

Not only that, Mother went on and on about how much things cost now.  It made no sense that before the baby, there had always been plenty of money for cowboy boots, the ice cream man, and trips to Grandma’s.  Now we were poor.  She got her stupid baby and now I got nothing.

Eventually, Connie started playing and I loved her  Before too long, Mother got the pathetic mopes again.  She got lazier than ever, sat around with her feet up or took to her bed for hours at a time, sometimes even crying a little.  In desperation, Daddy even hired a lady to help out.  I loved Miss Annie, but she seemed a lot more interested in Connie than me.  Mother did nothing but lie around and play with Connie, till she she started sewing.  She bragged to her friend one day that she’d hand-made and embroidered eight baby dresses.  My jealousy alarm went off.


“Mother, make something for me.”  I had no use for dainty embroidered dresses, but surely she could come up with something!

“You’re too bigI can’t handmake anything for you.”

I made a point to be crushed, devastated by her selfishness, going out to pout as long as I could manage it.  Fortunately, I had a short attention span and soon got lost in play. The next day, Mother had Marilyn.  By this time, I knew babies quickly got cute, so I loved her from the start.


You Poor Baby (Part 2)

vintage baby

part 1      https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/you-poor-baby/

Furious at finding her washing machine packed to the rim with freshly laundered diapers mixed with freshly- laundered gobs of poop, Mother roused Carol from where she snored on the sofa, oblivious to her miserable, bawling baby. “Carol, come here. Let me show you how to use this washer! You can’t just throw filthy diapers in it without rinsing this stuff out.” Mother got a tub, made Carol scoop the poopy diapers out and clean the washer, then sent Carol out to rinse the dirty diapers under the faucet before bringing them back to the washer. “Be sure you dump that dirty water from the tub behind the chicken house, not in the back yard. You may as well get the rest of this mess soaking.” She pointed to the pile of poopy diapers that had not yet had a ride in her abused washer. Carol looked furiously at Phyllis and me as she stormed off to do this demeaning task, clearly much better delegated to underlings like us.

We did have to tend her poor, miserable baby while she slaved over the diaper rinsing, but that was better than rinsing out poopy diapers ranging from rock-hard lumps to runny diarrhea, depending on the vintage. The stench was horrendous, as evidenced by Carol’s retching. I have no doubt Carol was sick when she came back in. She took to her bed(our sofa) to recover. Clearly accustomed to help with her baby, she was reluctant to leave her repose to wash bottles and prepare formula, preferring to call out for one of of kids to “bring me a bottle!” when he cried. The first time, Mother let the hungry little guy have a bottle, despite the fact it was an expensive, hypoallergenic formula prescribed for her own tiny baby. She quickly pointed the case of milk she’d bought for Carol’s baby, the kind Carol requested. “Oh this will be fine,” Carol said. “He likes it!”

“Carol, you need to fix your own bottles! I bought you what you asked for. This stuff is forty cents a can!” Mother explained.

Carol was clearly offended. She dawdled a bit after he finished his bottle, put him down, and shut herself in the bathroom for a good crying session. Eventually, she came out and made a collect call to her mother, insisting she come, NOW! Mama couldn’t come, NOW! More crying on the phone. We were stuck together till the weekend. Carol had no problems leaving his bottles lying about to sour after baby was satisfied. Should he cry out when a sour bottle sat handy, she had no qualms about trying to get him to take it.

The next three days lasted an eternity. At my parent’s insistence, Carol did end up giving her baby good care while they waited for Mama, but she turned him over to Mama as soon as she arrived. His bottom had healed, he’d plumped up, and even played a bit with good care. Poor little guy didn’t get much of a pass. He was soon back home to be joined by a brother and sister in rapid succession.

Alas, Carol’s marriage fell apart, but before long she found another man and launched into her addiction to having babies she had no interest or ability to care for, eventually delivering eleven sad children. At a family reunion once, I heard someone ask how long she was going to keep having babies. She replied, “As long as God wants me to.” It was heartbreaking to see her children suffer from her neglect and ignorance.

You Poor Baby

vintage babyI had no idea Cousin Carol was four years older than my sister Phyllis till one day when Phyllis was about twelve, Cousin Carol announced she was getting married. It sounded like a joke. Less than two weeks ago she’d spent the night with Phyllis. Sixteen was ridiculously young to get married, but back as late as the nineteen Continue reading

Where Babies Come From

imageI have two younger sisters born seventeen months apart.  I was about eight when Connie came along.  Mother had told us she was expecting, but since I wasn’t interested in babies, I quickly put it out of my mind, not think thinking much more about it.  I even socked one of my cousins for saying my mother was pregnant.  I thought it was an insult like “trashy” or “low class.”  I was shamed to no end when my aunt confirmed that my mother was indeed “pregnant” and the word meant “expecting.”  Not only was Mother “pregnant!” She’d put me in a position to humiliate myself.

Connie and Marilyn's Toddler PicturesI found Connie very cute and entertaining once she got old enough to play.  Always happy to play with her, I’d forsake her as soon as she cried or needed a diaper.  Phyllis was a “little mother” and could care for Connie as well as Mother.  When Connie was a year old, Mother and Daddy announced a second baby was en route.  By now, I’d picked up a little misinformation and knew baby production involved the two of them.  They’d “done it” though what “it” involved was very foggy.  They’d alway said if I had any questions, come to them, so one day when Mother had her friends over for coffee,  I asked if they’d had to do “it” more than five times to get five children.  This clearly wasn’t the type question she meant.  I guess questions about Sunday School were more to her taste.  She invited me to mind my own business and not ask any more questions.




People Ought Not to Have to Live That Way

imageAfter his father died , Daddy told of his family moving in a battered old shack sitting in a open field occupied by a bull and herd of cows.  It was really not much better than a barn, just unpainted planks with unfinished walls inside, tin roof visible above the open rafters. The  cows offered little threat, but the Jersey bull raged when the cows were in heat.  Mettie and the kids had to always had to keep a look out for him when they stepped outdoors to do laundry or fetch water from the well.  Mettie kept the little girls close by in case they had to make a run for the house.  She and the older boys made sure he was nowhere around before starting across the open field to the road. Continue reading