It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 5

Which looks better?
Mother was locked on the grounds of Windsor Castle, but in all honesty, it was’t her fault.  She was part of a tour group that got locked in.  They were just enjoying themselves and, as on the other museum visit, the group found themselves alone, the exits locked.  She hastily pointed out, this time it wasn’t her fault.  It was the group leader’s responsibility to keep up with the time.

Concerned about arrest for trespassing, they searched fruitlessly for a helpful guard.  None were found.  Eventually, they went up and beat on the castle doors, to no avail.  Mother was quite offended, sure the queen was inside and just refusing to answer because she was a snob.  Though she saw on the news later that night the queen was supposedly in Scotland, Mother was still miffed, preferring to believe she’d been snubbed.  Eventually, the group found an unlocked gate in the gardener’s area and made their departure.  Having to go out the back way did not improve Mother’ s prejudice toward Her Majesty.

Though Mother is a royal watcher, she never misses an opportunity to take a swipe at the queen.  “The queen wears ugly hats.”  “ The queen seems overbearing.” “It’s awful the way the queen bosses her family around.”  “I’ll bet she’s an awful mother/grandmother-in-law.”  “The queen is no better than anyone else.”  “The queen has gained weight.”  I don’t know why she got such a bee in her bonnet about the queen.  I know the queen would be devastated if she knew all the nasty things Mother says about her.

Mother positively gloated upon learning of a story published in The Guardian that DNA  studies on Richard III, one of Queen Elizabeth’s forebears was illegitimate.  Possibly, the queen herself has no better claim to the throne than Mother does.  I will leave it to the the two of them to sort that out.  I don’t have a dog in that fight.

Questions raised over Queen’s

ancestry after DNA test on

Richard III ‘s cousins.

 

 

It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 4

Mother had guests visiting from out of town.  They’d been out to lunch and she’d be showing them the sites all afternoon.  Her guests were geriatric; not quite the spry youthful specimen she was.  A gracious hostess, she made sure all their stops weren’t too rigorous or demanding, since some of them faced physical challenges.  She decided a visit to the State Exhibit Museum was in order late in the afternoon, the visit made more enticing since there was no admission.  They strolled the gardens for an hour or more.  The roses, clematis, and lilies were a vision  with their gentle scent perfuming the summer air.  It could have gone on forever but they still wanted to tour the museum before it closed for the day!  Upon climbing the steps and rattling the door, they found it locked up tight.  Mother was offended.   “But the sign says 8:00 to 4:00 seven days a week, except for holidays! It’s not a holiday!  I’m going to call and talk to SOMEBODY tomorrow!”

It occurred to one of the party to check their watch.  “It’s 4:45!  No wonder they’re closed!  We’d better get out of here before we get locked in!”

Rushing to the gate as fast as four septugenarians could, they found themselves locked inside the museum grounds for the night.

This was before cell phones.  The four of them stood at the locked gate waving and gesturing until they finally caught the attention of a passerby who alerted the fire department of their dilemma, once he got control of his laughter.  Eventually, the firemen put a ladder over the fence, rescuing the four.  Even though Mother has always been afraid of heights, she was the first to scurry over the fence, fearful a news crew might happen by.  The firemen saved the day and had a fine time in the bargain.  The foursome all learned some useful new skills, and a fine time was had by all!

It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 3

Mother is sensitive about her height.  For some reason, people feel free asking her how tall she is.  She dodges the issue by returning with a question,  either, “How much do you weigh?”  or “How much money do you have?”  By the way, she is not tall.  Most of her grandchildren pass her up by the time they are ten or eleven.  I was with her on a recent visit to her doctor when the nurse asked her height.

Mother feloniously claimed five foot two inches.  Realizing she was getting nowhere, the nurse took her to measure.  She was busted.

Compounding the issue of her slight build, is her squeaky voice.  She sounds just like Minnie Mouse.  The minute a caller hears her voice, they say, “Oh, hello Mrs. Swain.”  She’d never be able to make crank calls.

Mother was at loose ends one Sunday in June after church so decided to visit The American Rose Center.  As it was already hot that day, she donned her comfortable clothes:  cut off blue jean shorts, (neatly hemmed, starched, and ironed since “her mama raised her right!”) pink gingham shirt, tennis shoes and pink socks that perfectly matched her shirt.  She topped her ensemble off with a big straw sun hat.  She knew she looked cute!

She strolled around for an hour or so, admiring the lovely roses, when she noticed a gathering at a small rustic building.  Thinking there was a “program” of some sort, she decided to check it and cool off for a bit.  Based on the attendance, the program promised to be a good one.  The music was beautiful.  She had to go all the way to the front row to get a seat.  It was a hot day, but she was surprised to see so many hats.  Somehow, she failed to notice the wedding party standing before the altar.

Just about the time she got settled, the organist started playing the “Wedding March.”  It dawned on her that she had crashed a wedding as the usher escorted the groom’s mother to her seat.   Panicked to realize she occupied the seat intended for the bride’s mother, she fled back down the aisle to the giggling of the wedding guests where she was forced to make her way around the mother of the bride on the arm of the usher.  I can only imagine the confusion of the bride as Mother excused herself on the way out.

That was the most unfriendly family she’d ever met.

 

Kathleen Holdaway and Bill Swain June 29, 1946 on the day of their marriage.

 

It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 2

Daddy should have been a polygamist the way he laid out work for Mother.  His list 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)  Mother wouldn’t have known a magneto from a mosquito.  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 the day.  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.

It Couldn’t Be Helped

L

The picture above captures a frequent expression of Mother’s, usually after she has just opened her mouth and put her foot in it.

I am doing a post on crazy things my mother has said and done.  Mother was always a delightful ditz.  With a demanding husband and five wild kids it’s a wonder any thing ever went right.  After a fiasco, she’d often say, “It couldn’t be helped.”  She’s just turned ninety and is a real dynamo.  She goes to the gym twice a week, has a yard full of flowers, still drives, and is very active in her church, community, and the matriarch of a large family.  We all love telling the stories of her crazy escapades.

1.  She left her lights on, ran her car battery down, and asked a nice young police officer to “jack her off.”  She wasn’t arrested.

2.She doesn’t like it when someone asks how tall she is, so replies either, “How much do you weigh?  or How much money do you have?”  By the way, she is not tall.

3.  She once crashed  a wedding in cut off blue jeans, sitting in the first row on the bride’s side.  The family was not friendly.

4.  She was once locked in a museum and had to be rescued by the fire department, climbing over the fence on their ladder.

5.  She was locked in Windsor Castle. More on that later.

6.  She rolled up a car window up on a camel’s lip.  These things happen.

7.  She made change in the offering plate at church and came out twenty dollars ahead.

8.  She lost her bra at church one Sunday.  She never could explain that!

9,  When two intruders broke in her house, she made one of them help her into her robe before she would talk to them.  She gave them eleven dollars, telling them, “That’s enough!” They thanked her when they left, telling her to “have a nice day.”  She told the police officers later, “They were polite and had been raised right.”  Go figure.

10.  She threatened a rapist in her own living room.

11. She won’t say “Bull.”  That sounds crude.  She substitutes “male cow.”

I still don’t have the nerve to say “damn” in front of her.  God knows she tried to raise me right.

I decided to flesh these delightful stories after first clarifying.  Mother’s mind is not going.  Lots of these stories go back many years.  She’s a delight to be around and keeps family and friends in stitches, most often without meaning to.

#1.  “Officer can you jack me off?”

Mother is prissy to the point of being prudish, exchewing vulgar terms such as “butt” and “pee.”Dern” is as bad as it gets, except for one time I heard her say “Damn”  when she raised up under and open cabinet door. Life presents challenges for a kid growing up with such a restrictive vocabulary.  I have to admit, however, she may have had a closed-head injury when she said it.

Any way, Mother made her way to the local mall for lunch and an afternoon of shopping with her frinnds.  Much later she returned to her car and found a dead battery, courtesy of the lights she’d left on.  I suspect she may have said “Dern!”

Donning her best poor stranded woman look, she flagged down a Police Officer, asking if he could jack her off using her best Minnie Mouse squeak.  Maybe he ihad a grandma, but she didn’t get arrested.  (To be continued)  Note link to youtube channel below to see her.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0HAKC-qt-tJu7qWJLNgSYg

Old Wives Tales and Periods

imageI knew there was some kind of big, stupid mystery even before my “sometimes” friend Margaret Green broke the news to me in the fourth grade.  My grandma had started badgering me not to go barefoot and had taken to sneaking peeks at my underwear when she was sorting laundry.

This is some interesting information and dire warnings I was given regarding health care of young ladies after the onset of puberty. My maternal grandmother hissed these warnings at me, though she was hazy on rationale  Girls should never go barefoot or get their feet wet after they go into puberty. (She made no mention of how I was to wash my feet or bathe.). I must never bathe or get my head wet or ride a horse during my period.  She offered as proof the fact that when my grandpa’s sister was only sixteen, she was riding a horse just before she got ready to take a job as a teacher in her first school.  She got caught in a rainstorm while she was having her period and was soaked to the skin.  She got galloping pneumonia and died before daybreak.  I was never sure if all these variables had to be included for the situation to be deadly.  Perhaps if she had been fifteen, walking to her job as a clerk in a store while she was having her period and broke out in chicken pox, she might have escaped with only a few scars on her face.

Also, Grandma warned me young girls shouldn’t ever go swimming.  “Never?”  I was appalled.

For some reason, going barefoot was deadly, especially if there was dew on the ground.  There was something called “dew poisoning.”  Dew poisoning “stopped” periods.  How could that be a bad thing?  I didn’t want periods anyway.  Not only that, dew poisoning caused rampant infections should it enter a tiny wound on the foot, but I don’t remember her ever harassing my brother about going barefoot.  Maybe she wasn’t looking out for him.

Then she told me of a stubborn cousin of hers who went swimming all the time.  “Even when she was expecting!  Everyone of her kids had epileptic fits!”  That didn’t concern me at all since I had no intention of doing anything to cause children, in view of my recent sex education.

Mother had her own ridiculous rules about hygiene.  Hair could only be washed once a week, and never during you period.  That was a disaster for us with our oily hair.  I’d try to slip around and wash it more often, but she watched us.  She insisted on giving us hideous home perms.  They were awful!  I was so glad when Mother had to much on her mind to to to keep up with trying to enforce all her mindless rules.

Plant Thieves

Pots of flowersOne day last summer, Mother and I ran by the garden center while we were running errands, as any right-thinking person would.  As I was strolling about, measuring the beauty of the flowers against the high cost of divorce, should I purchase any more this month, a miracle occurred.  One of the vendors walked up to me and asked if I liked flowers.  She cut me off before I really got started.  She lived at ——Jones Street.  She’d collected so many flowers she couldn’t take care of them.  They were all in her yard and on her porch.  Go by and get all I wanted.

“Is this a joke?  What if your neighbors see me loading flowers and call the police?”

“Oh, that’s no problem.  Just take a picture of me and show it to them if they say anything, or tell them to call me.  It will be fine.”  That sounded reasonable.  I snapped her picture making the peace sign and sped to _______Jones Street.  The neighbors were on their doorstep watching us, probably wondering why they hadn’t been offered anything.  I showed them the lady’s picture, telling them she said we could have her plants.  They looked suspicious, but didn’t yell at us.  The plants were gorgeous.  She’d even started a couple of nice pineapples.  I was thrilled to get them when I noticed we were on ______Patterson Street.  We put all the plants back, explained to the neighbors, and took off.

We never did find ________Jones Street, but at least we haven’t been arrested, yet.  I’ll bet that woman in the garden center is still laughing.

I am a slow learner. A few days ago Mother and I made a stop by another plant outlet set up in a parking lot. They had nice plants at great prices, but I forced myself not to buy much, since my beds weren’t ready yet. It as a bit of a challenge loading them since we were in Mother’s car instead of my truck, like usual. We unloaded at my house and Mother headed home with her plants. I didn’t count mine, just put them on the patio till I could get them out.

The next day, she called and told me she’d gotten an extra plant in her bunch and had to go back to pay for it. I’m glad I didn’t have to hear her explanation to the clerk, but she paid for the one she thought was extra and picked up several more while she was there.

When I counted my plants, I realized Mother had kept one of mine, accounting for her “extra.” She’s going back up to see the poor plant lady today to straighten it out. I’d be willing to bet the lady gives her extras in desperation I am glad I don’t have to go.

Happy Ninetieth Birthday

I had the pleasure of hosting Mother’s ninetieth birthday party Saturday May, 5th.  My mother’s only first cousin brought her an unusual gift, their grandmother’s hat.  Above, you can see Mother wearing it.  I looks kind of like a cow patty.  It must have been intended to be perched on a bun, since it is so small.  Mother said one of her earliest memories is of her grandmother in that small hat.

Here Mother is pictured with her five children.  Below my grandchildren make the acquaintance   of a lizard.  Don’t worry.  The lizard was unharmed.

 

 

Below, My granddaughter is investigating some yard art in my backyard.  I wish these cousins could play together every day, but they live across the country from each other.

Just love these images of little guys having fun.

 

Kathleen Swain in her new birthday hat, complete with tags

 

 

Mother?

We never stop wanting our mothers. That is probably our first and last longing. When I cared for patients in times of pain and need, they often called out for their mother’s comfort. We want out mothers when we are giving birth, traumatized by pain or events, and at the moment of death. Many times I have held the hand of elderly patients whose mothers had to have been long dead and had the patient call me “Mother.” I never corrected them. Who am I to say it wasn’t their mother they saw as they moved on.