The Jitterbugging, Jeep-Driving, Hostess with the Mostess

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I nearly scared my mom to death the day I was born. Mainly because I didn’t make a sound. That wasn’t my choice; I had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my neck which prevented me from doing much of anything.  I was her third and Mama, a nurse, knew full well I should be hollering my little bald head off. Dr. Phillip, the physician for whom she worked, was working feverishly to rectify the situation.

And soon enough, I was letting out a wail. There are times when I wonder if just a little brain damage didn’t set in from the lack of oxygen; oh well, it’s a good excuse anyway, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother the past couple of weeks, seeing the ads for Mother’s Day (this weekend here in the US) in the paper and on TV, and seeing posts on Facebook with photos of moms and daughters. It’s been more than four years now since we lost her, but I can’t say I don’t still miss her every day. I don’t know that those feelings will ever change. Some losses just stay with you.

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Ova in her nursing uniform, c. 1945. She and Daddy met when he was a military policeman at a German POW camp near Crossville Tenn.

She wasn’t perfect. She worried too way much. She could be over-protective of her three girls. She had a temper and patience was not her long suit. Mama was one of those people who could “do,” but couldn’t “teach”. So I never learned how to sew or cook, both of which would have come in handy.  (Thank goodness my husband said that if he’d wanted a cook, he would have married Julia Child.)

Mama was fiercely loyal to those she loved, a hugger, a woman who cried over those sentimental cards we sent for birthdays and Mother’s Day. As a kid, she’d preferred hanging out with her brothers to following her eldest sister’s homemaker lead. Mama played basketball in high school, ice-skated over frozen Tennessee ponds as a girl and jitter-bugged–rather daring for the daughter of a “hardshell” Baptist preacher. Even as an adult, she preferred the outdoors to domesticity. Somewhere, there’s a wonderful picture of her on horseback, dark hair streaming over her back, a contented smile on her face. Did I mention she was gorgeous?

In a time when many women left the driving up to their husbands, Mama got behind the wheel of not only a car, but the old Army Jeep, Daddy’s cantankerous pickup trucks and the little “putt-putt” John Deere, as Daddy called it.

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This photo was taken by a photographer for “Progressive Farmer” Magazine c. 1951-52. It was our favorite of the batch of photos he took while visiting the farm. Mama always worried because her slip was showing, but I think she looks gorgeous here–the wind tumbling her hair, that smile. And my oldest sister looks pretty delighted with the goat, too!

She tended to thousands of chickens, fed cattle, weeded countless rows of vegetables and put up umpteen jars of preserves and jellies. Mama had a gift for making visitors feel welcome in our simple country home. She fed you well and frequently and served it all with that trademark smile.

She worried things weren’t fancy enough for some guests, but I don’t think anyone ever went away feeling neglected and they certainly didn’t go away hungry.  She was just as welcoming at our church. Who knows how many platters of her famous chicken salad sandwiches and bowls of creamy citrus punch were served at wedding and bridal showers and anniversary celebrations?

She and Daddy worked hard on the farm to give us not only that roof over our head,  food on the table and clothes on our backs; they worked to give us books and music and art, and the educational opportunities denied to them.  They really did give us both roots and wings.

Mama, thank you. I love you and I miss you. And I really do wish I could have seen you jitterbug.  Your hair flying loose from its pins, dark-lashed blue eyes flashing, that smile on your face . . .  that would have surely been a sight to behold.

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About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

18 responses »

  1. and isn’t she beautiful, now I know where you get your sunny disposition and your warmth that seems to shine through the ‘net and sprinkle its glow on all of us. I love the pictures.

  2. Aww..your Mum look so young on this picture,like a teenager. Yes 🙂 youthful look and sunny disposition are common in your family :*

  3. What lovely memories! I can really see the resemblance between you two lovely ladies! Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Lovely tribute to Mama, Sis. I know we’ll love and miss her until we’re reunited with her when our time on earth is done. I DID get to see her Jitterbug, before our family was blessed with your birth. She and Daddy had a party for Arthur Lloyd and his friends, and she and Rock joyously “cut the rug”. She had as much fun or more as any of the younger set did that evening. P.S. Deb has the pic of Mama on the horse at her house.

    • Oh,I am so glad you did get to see her jitterbugging with Cousin Rock! He must have been delighted to get to dance with his favorite “movie star” aunt! That makes me smile. When I see Rock again, I am going to have to ask him if he remembers jitterbugging with Aunt Ova. I thought maybe Debbie had the photo, but since your sister currently suffers from CRS (Can’t Remember Sh*t) Syndrome, I didn’t want to say for certain. 😉

      • lol, I’m all too familiar with CRS these days. Yes, I’d be interested to know if Rock remembers that party. I must have been about four or maybe barely five, and I was all agog re the festivities. Amazing how certain long-ago events can remain emblazoned in our memories while we struggle to recall much more recent history. Oh, well, such is life…

  5. Great post, Angie. Very touching to read. My own mother has been gone for 21 years, yet not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, talk about her, quote her, use expressions that she used, act like she did or act expressly like she didn’t, remember her life as a point of reference for my own, and thank God I was born to a caring, unselfish person who truly loved me. However different I may be from her now, her love for me has been the source of my strength. The older I get, the more I appreciate her good qualities. Her failings, which could drive me into a tizzy as a younger person, have all faded away. I wish I could talk to her again, and had given back more. Now I can only give back her love to others, especially to her grandchildren.

    Thanks for this post, Angie. I needed it.
    PS: we had a very special time yesterday at the National Gallery, even though the day went by much too fast. Definitely the same kind of crazy! It’s The Armitage Effect!

    • Thanks, Lynne, I am glad to hear you had such a good time, too, with Stephanie on your excursion. Time does fly when you are having fun with your RA pals. As for my mom, yes, she could drive me nuts at times, as only mothers and daughters can do to one another, but all her good qualities far outweighed any negatives. When my mother passed away, only three months after his dad, I remember saying to Benny, “This whole orphan thing sucks–I don’t care how old you are when it happens.” I also recognize not everyone gets to spend that much time with their mothers–or, sadly, have mothers who really don’t have the capacity to love and care for their children as they deserve to be cared for–and so I am grateful for the years I did have and the quality of our relationship. 😀

  6. Wow! The family resemblance is amazing. It’s clear that beauty is deeply rooted in the gene pool inside and out!

  7. Oh my goodness! Glad you made it out alright! The man upstairs was certainly looking out for you, and you’re a blessing. The same thing happened to me, had it wrapped around my neck twice. You know, to this day if I get really mad, there’s a line across the top of my forehead. Your mother sounds very special and she was very beautiful! You look a lot like her, except for your blond hair. Those are memories anyone would cherish. Beautiful post for Mother’s Day!

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