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.


The Great Doll Funeral

Vintage baby doll

The same Christmas I got Rocky the Rocking Horse, the best Christmas present of my young life, and Monkey, my sidekick(until I left him outside for the dogs to chew up),  I got a big hard, plastic baby-doll with molded hair.  It came with a bottle, was dressed in pajamas and had exactly one diaper. That diaper was history once Mother demonstrated its amazing ability to pee its diaper. It made me mad when I saw the baby doll, anyhow, since I’d told Mother, “I don’t want a doll.  I hate dolls.”  The wet diaper was the last straw.  I pitched it into the bowels of the toy box to keep company with Tinker Toys, broken crayons, and last year’s despised doll.

Before Christmas this year when Mother asked what I wanted, my list included a live pony, cowboy boots, pistols and holsters and a real monkey in a cowboy suit.  My list did not include a doll.  Insanely, she had insisted, “But, every little girl has to get a doll.  Now what kind do you want?”

Remembering last year’s floppy baby doll, I tried to come up with something I could stomach.  I heard girls at school say they wanted a Bride Doll.  In my complete disinterest, I forgot exactly what kind of doll to ask for. “Uh, I GUESS a wedding doll would do.”  I didn’t want one,  but at least it wasn’t a stupid baby doll. When another baby doll showed up under the tree, I was disgusted, thinking I had confused Mother into thinking I wanted a “wetting doll, not a “wedding doll.”    Daddy handed me my final gigantic gift from under the tree.  Since I’d already gotten Rocky the Rocking Horse as a pony substitute and a stuffed monkey instead of real-live monkey in a cowboy suit, this was my last shot at pistols and a holster set.  I ripped into the package, and horror of horrors, discovered a tin tea-set with a Dutch Boy and Girl on a background of blue and yellow tulips.  Mother went into raptures over it.

“Oh, I always wanted a tea-set like this when I was a little girl.”  Well, if she’d had that tea-set and I had a feather up my butt, we’d have both been tickled to death.  Fortunately, I’d learned long ago to keep my mouth shut when I didn’t like presents.  Rocky and Monkey and I went on our way, making the best of that Christmas.  That tea-set, still in the box, went under my bed.

Months later, one of the neighbors died.  I didn’t get to go to the funeral, of course, but my cousin did.  It sounded pretty entertaining to me.  We decided to stage our own.  I scavenged through the toy box and found my Christmas doll and dug the tea-set out from under my bed.  Dumping the dishes, I lined the box with one of Mother’s better towels and we prepared the body for burial.  My cousin Sue and I conducted the services, complete with plenty of hymns and wailing.  My brother Billy and Cousin Troy attended, but only because we promised to provide penny candy afterward.  It was a lovely service, the burial site mounded up with gorgeous roses we’d rounded up from the bushes belonging to Mrs. Dick, the seventh-grade teacher who lived next to us.  Mother made us return the roses to Mrs. Dick and apologize, though I can’t imagine they’d have been much use to her since we’d snapped them all off right below the head.  There would have been enough of them to fill a tub for a romantic rose bath, though I seriously doubt the lady was in the mood judging from the expression on her face when we apologized.