Sunday, May 21, 2006

Exceptional People in a One-Horse Town, Part I-A

As previously stated, "one must not necessarily live in a major metropolitan center to meet some really exceptional people. There may be a gazillion such people in such a city, but how many do you really get to know well. The people to be featured in a series of blogs are just a few of the exceptional people I have the honor of knowing in my home town".

There was no way to have two first entries. This second entry, my MOM, also deserves top billing. So let's call this Part I-A. Mom, ususally "Ma" for short, is a wonderfully exceptional genteel Southern Lady, unfortunately a dying breed. At age 89 she has slowed down a little, but not much. I have no fear that she will "rust out", she'll "wear out" some day, perhaps after me. (Sidebar: I had a good picture of Mom, but she would die of embarrassment if she thought I were publishing it on the internet.)

We have all seen those syrpy sweet, sentimental Mother's Day Cards, Birthday Cards for Mother, Christmas Cards for Mother, etc., and thought, who could these cards possibly be intended for...they are talking about the perfect mother. Right, they are talking about my Mom. She brought me into this world, after a difficult labor due to my breech presentation, but has never said, a la Bill Cosby, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out". However, she did believe in discipline. Usually a stern look or a good "talkin to" sufficed. But there were rare occassions when she made me or my brother go out back and pick our own switches and then go to our rooms and wait for her. To be honest, the waiting was the worse part. The "switchings" were mild in comparison. When urgency demanded swift retribution, an old black rubber fly-swatter (which never touched a fly) skillfully applied to the back of our legs, was the method of choice.

While educated for a clerical position, most of her adult, married life has been spent as a homemaker, par excellence. She mastered all the required skills of homemaker and motherhood. She was, and still is, and excellent cook and baker. I still have the pleasure of eating a deliciously prepared lunch at her house three days a week, unless, of course, she is on an outing with "the girls" or at a church circle meeting. Her "Big Mama's pound cake" and her pimento cheese are in demand by all who have tasted them. Nothing's better than a slice of her pound cake, toasted with butter on it and served with a cup of coffee. Toasted pimento cheese sandwiches, "Yum". Every fall we cook up a large mess (about ten or so large heads) of collards and freeze enough to get us through the year. Goes great with pork roasts or Eastern North Carolina type Bar-B-Q.

When I attended the church kindergarten program, she taught there. That enabled her to get out of the house and keep an eye on me at the same time. Smart woman, she.

For a time, while I was in upper elementary, high school, and college, besides being a homemaker, she owned and operated a gift shop. She also did some interior decorating and directed no small number of weddings. She has quite an artistic flair, which has been lost on me. Her home is well appointed, welcoming, and comfortable. Her decoupage boxes and plaques, as well as her works of needlepoint, embroidery, and Carolina cross-stich are beauties to behold. Those which she has made and presented to me are among my most valued possessions.

Mom, while a homemaker, was not, and is not a homebody. She traveled to Europe twice, visiting first my brother and then me when we were stationed in Germany with the Army. She still loves to travel, 0ften going with my bride and me to the beach, to The Outer Banks for our yearly excursions, and to Chicago, Miami, and Austin to visit our children. Our plans are to include her on future trips to Costa Rica to see our son and a hoped-for Alaskan cruise. As noted, she has slowed down some, but I bet we can convince her to go when the time comes.

Mom is, or was, a talented musician. Often, upon entering her house, you hear music of many genres (No Rap, No Heavy Metal) being played on her CD stereo system. Before the arthritis got bad in her hands she enjoyed playing the piano. For years she sang in the church choir, and was the featured soprano solosit for many of those years. That reminds me of a humorous incident that occured when my brother and I, high school students at the time, also sang in the choir. We had just gotten some new light colored choir robes. It was a Communion Sunday. If Mom warned us once, she warned us a hundred times not to spill the grape juice on the new robes, saying, "it won't come out, you know". Well, she was so intent on keeping her eyes on us that she completely missed her mouth with her small portion of grape juice, and it ran down the front of her new choir robe. And, she was right, it did not come out. We have told that story many times over the years.

She was also active in the community. She served three terms on the local city school board. When my brother and I were Cub Scouts, she was a Den Mother. She is active in our church, having served as a deacon and as an elder. She still attends services regularly. She was awarded a lifetime membership in the Women of the Church for her service to that organization.

As stated above, she is a true genteel Southern Lady. She values her God, her faith, her family, and her friends, in that order, above all else. She studies her daily Bible lessons faithfully. Nothing brightens up her day as much as a visit, a call, or mail from one of her grandchildren. She now has 5 great-grandchildren to dote upon, one of which was named for her. She enjoys reading, mostly light novels, but also has a DVD player to use with her NetFlix movies. Her TV fare is eclectic, ranging from PBS, especially re-runs of "The Lawrence Welk Show" to "Cops"..."Watcha Gonna Do?...Watcha Gonna Do?"

She thinks the Sterling silver should be used at meals, instead of being kept hidden away in a silver chest somewhere. She enjoys a good Scotch and water (single-malt preferred), an occassional beer, and rarely, a glass of wine. But the only time I have ever seen her "drunk" was when she was recently put on a medication for neuropathic pain, and it knocked her for a loop. I noticed she was staggering around the yard as she and her 83-year-old yardman were out hand-clipping some shrubbery away from the side of the house in anticipation of a painter coming to paint the house. We stopped the medicine!

She believes that acts of kindness or gifts should be acknowledged with a timely hand-written thank-you note. (Sidebar: Reminds me of the joke about why Southern Ladies don't like group sex...They don't like writing all the thank-you notes.) The ones she writes are personal, like poetry, with handwriting that still mimics caligraphy. While she enjoys a good joke (clean and otherwise), and her friends keep her supplied with an ample supply gleaned from e-mail and the internet, I have never heard profanity pass her lips.

That's my "Ma". A True Southern Lady...whose kind, regretfully, are going or have "Gone with the Wind". Another exceptional person in my little town.


Anonymous DCMASSHOLE said...

That is a funny joke about the Thank you notes, Doc. My grandfather is almost that age and he does not like to get out of his routine, so, he rarely travels outside Massachusets anymore. It is great your mom still likes to travel.

May 21, 2006  
Blogger StratoCade said...

What an amazing woman your mother is. I am honored to know her, and I think you know the high regard my friends and I hold her in. She's a beacon of gentility and sanity in today's world.

Her thank you philosphy sounds like my mother's. Mom believes all the world's problems could be kept at bay if only everyone wrote thank you notes...

May 22, 2006  
Blogger Kelicious said...

I love these posts, Doc. Of course you know I adore your Mother. I miss you all.

May 24, 2006  
Anonymous Emily M (ptwannabe) said...

Ditto. I love the woman and I hope that I will be as solid as her when I am of her age. We still laugh when we think about you two telling the pill story...loopy, with the yard man, clipping bushes, slurring. I know it could have been dangerous, but I have never seen her loopy, and to hear you both tell the story was so great.
An amazing woman, indeed....and it is the best pimento cheese and pound cake ever forget the collards...those are the best, too. And the cheese biscuits...and the casserole at Christmas with the water chesnuts. So HUNGRY!

May 25, 2006  
Blogger the doc said...

PTWANNABE: You missed the collards, and I quote from the post:

"Every fall we cook up a large mess (about ten or so large heads) of collards and freeze enough to get us through the year. Goes great with pork roasts or Eastern North Carolina type Bar-B-Q."

I did forget the cheese biscuits, how could I?

May 25, 2006  
Anonymous Emily M (ptwannabe) said...

I did miss the collards in the post. I wish I were at home now....dining with you both. I am so hungry for Southern food right now...and I doubt I will see anything in Vermont that truly reminds me of home. Oh, and Soul Food is Southern Food, you are so very right. There is one Soul Food restaurant on the south side here...and it is supposedly very good..and very authentic...fried cornbread and all. I think a trip there is necessary soon.....

May 25, 2006  
Blogger Jason M said...

OK.. Ill take your collards and up em with a "Collard Sandwich" from the Old Laurel Hill Church Yearly In-Gathering. Nothinig like collards slapped in between two pieced of fried cornbread with vinegar on top. Lets not forget 3-bean salad and tomato aspic at Lomas on holidays either.

May 25, 2006  
Blogger the doc said...

Jason M:
You forgot the fried fatback on the collard sandwiches, which I must confess are good, but I'll have to take some of my collards, fry up some cornbread and fatback and have us a contest.

May 25, 2006  
Anonymous emily M (ptwannabe) said...

And I'll top that....well, maybe not as good, but fried "taters" from Nic's Pic Kwik (classy with a K)...every day after school. So good, in fact, I did not mind waiting for them in a gas station that reeked of cigarette smoke and fried go in, buy them...and smell like a greasy spoon joint, even if you wait for 2 minutes.
What about old school KFC little bucket parfaits at the pool...or nacho noodles...created by Jason and Emily circa 88.....hahaha

May 25, 2006  

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