Monday, November 12, 2012

Sallie Mae

I can't remember her last name!  I'll let my brain work on that one while I write and maybe by the end of this installment it will come to me.  Sallie was our colored maid when I was a kid growing up in the 1960s.  She spelled her name S-A-L-L-I-E, with an I-E, not a Y.  Sallie spelled with a Y was too much like S-I-L-L-Y, she said.  Sallie was married to Mr. Will and lived with him in a little house on a dirt road.  It was a littlle white house with yellow awnings over the windows.  (I found out many years later that Sallie and Mr. Will were never married!)

My earliest memory of Sallie was when I was very little, the day my brother, Mark, came home from the hospital.  I'm not sure I really remember that or if I am just making it up, because I was only 2 years old.  But I swear I remember being at the house on Finley Drive with her waiting for Mama and Daddy to show up with Mark.  And that's all.  That's all I remember about that day.  Being there in the house with Sallie, waiting. 

I think she worked for us some off and on after that for a while until my Daddy had his first heart attack.  Then she would come on Fridays and do the house cleaning and washing and ironing.  After Daddy's first heart attack, he was completely disabled.  He could no longer work.  He watched Mark and I while Mama went back to work to support the family.  He tried to do things around the house, clean up the kitchen, a little laundry, but it made him too tired and his chest hurt for him to do much more.  So Sallie filled in the gap. 

She was a little round brown woman.  She always wore dresses and scarf tied around her head.  I don't ever recall seeing her hair.  I remember seeing her standing at the ironing board, her brown face glistening with a sheen of sweat as she sprinkled clothes with water and ironed them dry.  I smile remembering.  Not too long ago I found the "clothes sprinkler" at my mother's.  It was a little metal thing with sprinkle holes on one side and a cork on the other side.  You put water in an empty Coca-Cola bottle, then stoppered it with the "clothes sprinkler," and sprinkled the clothes.  In the hot summertime, you would sprinkle the clothes and put them in the refrigerator so they wouldn't sour before you ironed them.   

We love Miss Sallie dearly.  And she loved us.  She called us her "little white chil-ren."  My daughter asked me after she read The Help, if we treated Sallie like they treated their maids in the book.  I can honestly say we treated Sallie with the utmost respect and love.  We knew she was colored, but we were pretty color blind.  She treated us well and took care of us like we were her family, and we treated her the same way.  When I think back now, she was always a little standoffish, at arm's length, because we didn't know any better than to treat her just like we treated anyone else.  But that was at a time when colored people still had to know their place.  I see now, looking back, that the 60s were a time when blacks were in the midst of the civil rights movement.  They had just done away with colored water fountains and colored restrooms.  Salllie was old school, growing up and living in a time in the South when she had better know her place or be struck down.  So even as the times changed around her, she still was careful to keep in her place and not be too familiar. 

After Daddy died, Mama hired her to come every day and take care of us and keep house.  She was Mama's right-hand woman.  Mama had a job at the Atlanta Army Depot, and she would get up every morning and drive to Ellenwood to pick Sallie up and bring her back to the house.  Sallie never had a car and never learned to drive.  Then Mama was off to work.  Sallie would feed us breakfast and get us on our way to school, or in summertime, out the door to the yard.  You didn't play in the house back then.  She kept the house spotless and the clothes washed and ironed.  Occasionally she would cook a pot of beans or something for our dinner.  At 4:00, The Match Game would come on TV.  She would bring us in and wash us up and let us watch The Match Game.  She would sit down with us and take a little dip of snuff.  She dipped Dental Sweet Snuff.  Just a touch when she took a break.  Mama got off work at 4:30 and would come and take Sallie home for the day.  I really don't know how my mother would have managed during that time without Sallie. 

Times changed, though, and Mama remarried.  It wasn't too long after that she was able to quit her job and stay home with us again.  So Sallie moved along to stay with someone else's children and keep their house.  She would still come back occasionally and do a thorough cleaning with Mama, but she never came back and stayed with us again. 

Sallie died when I was in my early 20s.  My mother and a couple of my aunts went to her funeral.  I was at a stupid time in my life and I didn't go.  I've always regretted it.  She was special lady and a good helper to my mother. 

And no, I cannot remember her last name.  It's something simple like Turner, or Smith, or Jones, but it won't come to me.  I should have written it down before it was gone. 

I hope I haven't bored you with this long blog entry, but I want to get it all down so I won't forget any more.  I've enjoyed writing this, a pleasant walk down memory lane with a sweet and humble person I loved. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Uncle Roy's Memorial

I'm evidently not a very good blogger.  I think of things I want to write about, but most of it doesn't mean much to anyone but me.  In this case, I just want to vent a little.  When my Uncle Roy passed away earlier this year, his family was by his side.  He was a good man.  When asked about a memorial service, his distraught daughter said she thought they would wait until spring.  It would make it easier for his brothers and sisters to attend when the weather is better.  It is now October.  If a memorial service was held, it was not open to very many people and nobody mentioned it to me.  I've always felt a funeral or memorial service is important to those left behind, just as a final farewell, giving closure.  Maybe I'm being snarky, but I think it would have been a good thing for a memorial service to be held for a man who touched so many lives and helped so many people.  At least give people an opportunity to mourn his passing and to say goodbye.  So this will be my memorial to Uncle Roy.

Goodbye Uncle Roy!  I hope you have found your loved ones who have gone before you.  Tell my Mama I love her and miss her!  She'll be so glad to see you.  I also want to tell you how much I appreciate all you did for your family.  When my Daddy needed a job to support his family, you were there.  You worked my brother every summer in high school, teaching him the value of a hard day's work.  You raised two children who weren't yours, and two more who were, one of whom has been challenged her whole life.  You made sure she always had everything she wanted and needed.  I know she is missing you.  I'm really glad I went to the hospital that day and was able to talk to you, even if only for a few minutes.  Little did I know you would cross that bridge within minutes.  I hope it was easy for you.  I'm going to say goodbye now and close this little chapter.  I have said my piece.  You were a good man and I miss you.  Love, Beth. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Uncle Roy

Well, I guess today I will write about my Uncle Roy.  He passed away today, leaving his beautiful daughters heartbroken.  He was my mother's younger brother, #4 of 6 children.  She loved him unconditionally.  She said when he was little, he slept with her and always wet the bed. 

He grew up to be one of the best men I've known.  He was always self-employed as a framing contractor and at one time was the primary general contractor for Post Properties, a company that developed high end apartment complexes in Atlanta.  At one time or another, I would venture to guess that he has employed most every male on my mother's side of the family.  If you lost your job and needed a job to tide you over until you could find another, Roy would put you to work on the job site.  All the nephews worked for him in the summers.  My daddy was working for him when he had his first heart attack. 

We grew up with his kids, and very often would vacation with them in Florida.  I remember going to Panama City or Daytona Beach with a whole group of aunts and uncles and cousins.  As I got older, I got to be the babysitter while the adults went to the dog track.  That babysitter thing earned me a few trips, allowing me to go play on the beach during the day and then babysit in the evening to earn my trip.  Pretty sweet deal! 

He hung out with us and Uncle Lawrence a lot.  I remember them teasing me because I was chubby.  They lovingly called me "Whalene."  I noticed today when I saw him lying in intensive care how much he actually looked like Uncle Lawrence.  I had never really noticed that before. 

Uncle Roy always had the biggest heart.  He would loan you money and never once ask for it back.  When he and his first wife divorced, he was heartbroken.  I remember my mother comforting him as he cried over that loss.  His second wife died a few years ago, and broke his heart again.  I don't think he ever got over losing her.  He seemed to steadily go downhill after her death.  The last couple of times I saw him he was looking more frail.  I had heard that he was very depressed. 

I know there will be some folks on the other side who will be glad to see him.  His mother and daddy are there waiting for him along with his beloved sister Betty and his good buddy and brother Donal and his lovely wife Jean.  He's now at rest.  Goodbye Uncle Roy.  Rest in peace forever.  I love you. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Christmas Memories

Silver aluminum trees with the revolving color wheel light that shined on them to change the colors.

Riding around after dark just to see the Christmas lights.  The link below goes to the big light show in the town where I grew up.   We always had to ride by that one several times during the season.  Of course, there was always a small traffic jam to see them. 

                    Forest Park Christmas Lights

Opening that one gift on Christmas Eve - - - the pajamas!  (You had to look good Christmas morning for those pictures!)

Always had an apple, an orange and pecans in the bottom of my stocking.  (Depression era leftover from my Mom.  She said their Christmas gifts had to fit in their sock that they hung up, and they always got an apple, and orange and nuts.  Can you imagine trying to fit a child's Christmas gifts in their stocking these days?)

Those fat lights on the Christmas tree. They had little clips on the back so you could clip them to the tree. 

Silver icicles on the tree.

Bubble lights. 

Candy canes on the tree.  (What do you do with those things after Christmas anyway?)

Home made fruit cake soaked in Mogen David wine in a tin for a couple of weeks.  (It was pretty gross but my Mom liked it.  Wonder why?)


Strawberry congealed salad.  (Good stuff!)

Christmas cards taped across the mantle.

The same Christmas stocking hung every year.  Red with the white cuff and my name written in glitter. 

Family and friends coming together in fellowship and love.  May you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday with your family and friends this year.  Remember the reason for the season.  Love one another always.  Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Gift

I was reading an article in the little EMC magazine we get every month.  The writer was talking about how things are probably going to be tight for some folks this year.  He had a teacher who told him one time to think about his favorite Christmas gift when he was down and needed a lift.  I had a sobering thought at that moment.  I sat there and thought about that for a few minutes.  And do you know what?  I can hardly remember any Christmas gift I ever got, much less my favorite one.  That's pretty sad.  I've gotten a lot of nice gifts through the years:  Books, perfume, clothes, electronics, jewelry.  But what was my favorite?  Can't think of a one.  We all run around at Christmas time worrying over buying gifts and spending money, but how long does the recipient remember the gift? 

I'll tell what I do remember, though.  I remember getting to open one gift on Christmas Eve every year:  A new pair of pajamas so we could look nice for the Christmas morning pictures. 

I remember going to Granny and Grandaddy's house on Christmas Eve for dinner.  How we all packed into that little house I'll never know.  Granny and Grandaddy had 6 children, they all had wives and husbands, and each had 3 kids with a few step kids thrown in for good measure.  So that's a minimum of 32 people in a 2 bedroom house.  The uncles would place bets on whose kid would spill something first.  Uncle Roy always won because he had Cindy who had cerebral palsy.  On the way home we would tune in to WSB on the radio where they were tracking Santa Clause.  Everyone drew names in the weeks before Christmas to exchange gifts.  Back then, the aunts and uncles went to Granny and Grandaddy's house at least a once a week or so.  Granny would make little slips of paper with the names on them and put them in an envelope on the mantle.  Then when we visited we would get to draw a name from the envelope.   I don't remember one gift I received. 

I remember after I had Jessica my family coming to my house Christmas morning for brunch.  It was a nice tradition.  When Mama was single, she and Sherry would come and spend the night on Christmas Eve so they could be there Christmas morning.  I always cooked goodies in the week before Christmas, so we would have Sausage Pinwheels, pound cake, cookies, fudge, cinnamon rolls, etc.  More junk that I care to discuss.  I don't remember any of the gifts.

Gifts are nice things, but the thing I remember most about the holidays is being with my family.  A lot of them are no longer with us:  Mama, Daddy, Grandaddy, Granny, Grandmama, Aunt Ruby, Uncle Donal, Aunt Doris.  Granny is cooking roast beef in the pressure cooker.  Aunt Doris is cooking a banana cake.  Mama is cooking a peppermint candy cake.  Aunt Ruby is making strawberry candy.   I'm sad they aren't with us any more, but I know they are happy and enjoying each others' company in heaven. 

So don't worry so much about the gifts.  They might be enjoyed for a short while, but it's more about family and friends and being together at Christmas.  That's what your kids and grandchildren are going to remember - the time spend with you. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Leave It To Beaver Life

I call the first part of my life my "Leave It To Beaver Life."  This was up until about age 5 when my Daddy had his first heart attack.  The years before this were idyllic, of course as far as I can remember being younger than the age 5.  But even from hearing Mama tell stories about our life then, it was just so perfectly normal and placid.  Daddy went to work every day, and Mama stayed home with the 2 children and kept house.  She got up every morning and had the children fed, the house cleaned and the laundry on the line by 10:00.  During the summer, children were not allowed to play in the house unless it was raining.  Mama would send us outside and latch the screen door.  No running in and out!  Daddy would come home in the evening and Mama would have supper on the table.  Good home cooked food and vegetables!  Then we would play outside a while longer after supper before we had to get a bath and get ready for bed at 8:00.  It seems like every day was like this.  Just calm and smooth, no big glitches.  Not like today when we hurry to work, hurry home, hurry and cook dinner, hurry and clean up, put on a load of laundry, fall into bed, then start over and do it again the next day.  And that's if you don't need to do shopping or go to kid's ball games or work late.  I have spent most of my adult life searching for that "Leave It To Beaver Life" again, but I don't think it exists any longer.  We're all caught up in being "busy" and running around all the time.  I'm hoping that when I retire I can relax a little and actually take a breath. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Started

I read an article today that said something to the effect of "once I'm gone, my memories are gone too."  It struck me that all I know in my little pea brain will disappear once I pass from this world.  That would not be a good thing I don't think.  I worked hard to learn all the stuff I know and it would be a shame to waste it and not share.  So I'm going to do this blogging thing and just write stuff as it comes to mind. 

Today, I will write about my very first memories.  The furtherest back I can remember is the day that my parents brought my brother, Mark, home from the hospital.  I remember being in our old house on Finley Drive, and Sallie, our negro maid was there with me while Daddy went to get Mama and Mark from the hospital.  (Back then in 1960 negro was not a bad word.)  I can remember standing in the kitchen and Mama and Daddy coming through the back door with Mark.  I don't remember much more than that, but I understand that after they were home and Mama had put Mark in the crib, I went in and got him!  She said they were sitting at the kitchen table and turned around and looked and I was coming through the door with Mark in my arms.  Now mind you, I was 2 years and 3 months old. Mama said they just froze for fear if they jumped and yelled that I would drop him.  Evidently, they were able to take him from me with no harm done as he is still all in one piece with no severe head injuries.

It's strange how you can remember just glimpses of early life.  I know it's hard to believe that I can remember something from when I was 2 years old, but I swear that little glimpse is there.  I'm glad I have have that little memory of when my brother came into my life.  He's like my Mama:  I don't remember a time in life without either of them. 

Well, that's my first little blog about my life memories.  I'll try to come up with some of the old pictures to put on here if I can find them.  They will add a lot.