Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Pitty Pat hosted our literary club meeting yesterday.  She combined it with a Halloween party.  We had a delicious meal, a productive meeting, and a rollicking good time. 
Pitty Cat greets a cute little gypsy woman (who also happens to be our Mother).

Mary Ellen, as a sexy Dolly Parton, and Tom, a very scary Jason.  (He was wielding a hatchet and a knife!)

Gina, a very pretty railroad lady, and our guest (Pitty's grandson, Sawyer).  He didn't dress up, but he spent a great deal of time laughing at us all.

Aunt Mona changed out of her costume early.  She had a senior citizens dance to attend later that afternoon.

Eva, flapping around as a great Daisy Gatsby.  (She left feathers behind when she departed.)

Daisy and Dolly serenade us on the piano as the railroad lady looks on.

All the while, Sawyer and his great-great aunt cutting a rug.  (That's Maddy in the background, running for cover.)

As the party broke up, Sawyer snapped this photo.  That's me in the middle, dressed as a policeman who has just been roughed up by thugs.
Happy Halloween, dear friends! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Favorite Season

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
as I have seen in one autumnal face.
~ John Donne ~

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meeting Miss Barbara

It is a cold Saturday afternoon and my grandmother and I are entering Bardwell Deposit Bank.   

I stare at my new patent leather shoes, the ambiance of this strange and foreign place enveloping me: the clinking of coins, the soft murmurings of very tall people--top halves of their bodies a blur--the marble floor, high ceilings.  I smell mothballs, old paper, dust.  And other scents I am unable to identify in my not-yet-three-year-old mind.
As Maw Maw leads me to the teller cage, a huge woman's face appears behind the bars.

"Hello, Miss Muriel," she says, peering down at me over tiny spectacles, "This your little granddaughter?"

Maw Maw smiles.  "Yes, this is Brenda" she says, "Tommy and Evelyn's oldest girl."

"What a fine little girl you are!" she says, spectacles sliding down her nose a bit.

I hide my face behind Maw Maw's coat and observe her shoes.  They are black, lace-up, with strange chunky heels.  

She gently nudges me forward.  "Say hello to Miss Barbara."

I keep gazing at Maw Maw's shoes.  And her stockings.  They are the color of Mother's nightgown, and very thick.

"She looks just like Tommy," Miss Barbara says, slapping a stack of bills on the counter, "Can she talk?"

"Oh, yes!" Maw Maw says, "She's just bashful." 

"What's the matter?" Miss Barbara says, pushing her spectacles up where they belong and chuckling, "The cat got your tongue?"

I look away.   

Maw Maw puts her money in her purse and takes my hand, "Now, say bye bye to Miss Barbara."

"Bye bye, Brenda," Miss Barbara says, smiling, "Come back and see us!"

I am anxious to leave.  I am tired of Miss Barbara.

As we head to the door, Maw Maw kneels to button my coat.  "Wanna go down to the dime store and get a candy bar?

"Yes, Maw Maw!  I wanna go get a Payday!"

She takes my hand and we walk out of the bank, my new patent leather shoes making satisfying little clicks on the marble floor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Still Woman Enough

I love biographies. And autobiographies, if the writer tells all. So I was thrilled when I discovered Loretta Lynn's 2002 book, Still Woman Enough. I knew if anyone told all, it would be her.

Loretta (with Patsi Bale Cox) writes about things she couldn't put in her first book, Coal Miner's Daughter. Why? Because her husband was still alive.  And he ruled the roost in the Lynn home. In the book and movie, he was portrayed as a happy-go-lucky drinker and philanderer; harmless, even funny at times.

But there was a darker side to Doolittle Lynn.

As in her first book, Loretta writes about their marriage in 1948 when she was thirteen, his dumping her for another woman when she was pregnant with their first child, their reconciliation and move to Washington state where Doo found work as a farm hand.

And thus began the most miserable twelve years of Loretta's life.

While cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, working her garden, canning, taking care of her children and sewing all of their clothes, she cleaned Doo's employer's house and cooked meals for thirty-six field hands each day. Her pay was a rent-free house for the family.

Doo was paid in cash, so he considered all of the money his. He took off on drinking binges for weeks at a time, leaving the family penniless. Loretta picked gallons of strawberries for money to buy groceries; when that ran out, she was forced to rely on Doo's employer for food. When there was no food left, she shot squirrels and rabbits to feed her children.

"I put up with it because of the kids," Loretta said.

But she's the first to admit it was Doo who bought her a seventeen-dollar guitar and forced her to sing in public.

"I could never have done it on my own," she said, "Whatever else our marriage was back in them days, without Doo and his drive to get a better life, there would have been no Loretta Lynn, country singer.

Loretta quickly rose to stardom, recording sixteen number one hits, Doo's shenanigans providing grist for songs such as Don't Come Home A'Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind) and Fist City.

"Every song that I wrote, you can bet that half of it was about him," she said.

Loretta said the happiest time in their marriage was when they toured the country together in 1960 to promote her first record, I'm a Honky Tonk Girl. They had a common goal and were working together.

But Doo was brutal and controlling. He beat Loretta, often calling her an "ignorant hillbilly,” and took charge of all of her earnings. While she was on the road (over 300 days a year), he was spending money faster than she could make it: swigging whiskey like it was going out of style, starting businesses that went belly-up, and sleeping with other women.

It was a lonely life for the singer, and when she was home she found it hard to fit into her family. "I felt like a money tree that had been shook," she said. "I never felt like I was needed, wanted, or anything. They all had their own lives."

Doo seldom accompanied her on the road, but every now and then he showed up unexpectedly. "He was checking on me," she said, "He thought I was two-timing him." 

There is much more in her book: the loss of her son, Jack Benny (the darkest time in her life), the deaths of her parents, brothers, Conway Twitty, and Doo's illness and death. She cared for Doo night and day. And shortly before he died, in 1996, he apologized for all the misery he had caused her.

"I miss Doo," she said, "I miss him a lot."

Now, Loretta lives in the shadow of her own myth, running a dude ranch and tourism complex about an hour west of Nashville. She lives in a house behind the larger one that she shared with Doo. She never felt comfortable there, she says, because Doo's girlfriends were in the house when she was on the road.

Last year, she went home to Butcher Holler to decorate her parents' graves. "I looked around and I thought, `How did I get out of this place?' If it hadn't been for Doo, I'd still be back there."

After reading the book, I think she might have been better off.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

None Too Happy

Bill and Dudley usually go to bed before I do, and Dudley always sleeps under the covers near the foot of our bed.  Imagine my surprise when I found him snoozing on my side of the bed tonight.  He knew he would soon be moved back to his regular place, so he was none too happy when I snapped this picture.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley