The Day I Was Born

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I’m not sure how old I was here but the thing I see is that my mother was so very thin. I know she was still in bad health. Look at her arms.

Yesterday was my 76th birthday and I thought of my mom several times throughout the day. She’s been gone almost four years and I miss her. So, on my birthday, I thought of her and tried to remember all I had been told about the day I was born.

I guess the first thing is that Mama and Daddy ran off and got married when she was sixteen and he was seventeen. My maternal grandmother was not pleased. Since Mama was a minor she had the marriage annulled. But the love they had for each other in their teen years endured, and after Mama had a year of college and Daddy had a job in Oklahoma City they remarried.

In 1940, when I was born, they lived in a small apartment in Oklahoma City. Daddy earned 35¢ an hour working for Hires Root Beer Bottling Company. So, funds were tight even by 1940 standards.

Mama told me she didn’t eat much during her pregnancy. She mentioned lettuce leaves with mayonnaise. Surely she ate something else. She has always worried about her weight, but I can’t help but wonder if it had more to do with what they could afford. Anyway, she didn’t show much, plus it was winter so she wore a coat, so no one in the apartment house knew she was pregnant.

Mama was in labor three days before I was born. I was two months early and very small. My birth weight was not recorded because they rushed me to the incubator in the nursery. I’m not sure how long I stayed in the incubator. Mama told me she was in a room with several other new mothers. When the babies were brought into the room every four hours, all the other mothers were very quiet. They thought Mama had lost her baby. And then one day, I’m not sure when, I was placed in Mama’s arms for the first time and the room was filled with chatter and laughter.

I don’t know how long I was kept in the incubator or how long we stayed in the hospital. I know my mother was very ill after my birth. Probably had to do with the strict diet. As far as I know, no one in the immediate family came to help. (My maternal grandmother still disapproved of the marriage and was not pleased about being a grandmother.) Fortunately, one of Daddy’s aunts lived nearby and she came to help. Mama told me about Aunt Maggie although I’m not sure I ever met her… But I know this, Mama loved her all the days of her life. Little things mean a lot… and big things even more!

Guess What We got!

Newborn Joy

Joy Lynn about one week old, first day home from the hospital.

Fifty-two years ago today, I sat on the side of the bed waiting, and amazed. After  twenty-three hours of labor, I wasn’t tired and I could sit on the side of the bed with no pain. But that wasn’t on my mind. The slow tick of the clock had my attention. I had to wait until 9 AM, when they opened the drapes on the nursery window, to see my newborn daughter for the first time.

We hadn’t told anyone when I went into labor a month early. We hoped it would stop, and as it progressed, we decided to wait to call family after the baby was born. We’d know if we had a boy or girl and could tell them everything was alright.

So, while I waited, I decided to call my mother and give her the news. “Hello, Mama, guess what we got.”

“Oh, I don’t know. A puppy?”

“No. A little girl.”

“Oh, Deanne!” I can still hear my mother’s surprise and excitement as though it was just a few minutes ago. She lived a couple of hours away and decided to come help us with two-year-old Tim and the baby when we came home from the hospital.

As the nine o’clock hour neared, Dan escorted me to the nursery. We were there with our noses pressed against the glass when they pulled the drapes. We spotted the name tag on the isolette positioned a few feet on the other side of the window. Durrett Baby Girl was absolutely beautiful. Tiny (4 pounds 12 ounces) and perfect. I still have that first view of her in my mind. Healthy pink coloring with tiny little eyebrows. I longed to hold her. But back then, parents were not allowed in the nursery or near the child in the isolette.

I had to wait a few days. I don’t remember how long… except it was a long time. When I held her the first time, I was alone. Visitors, including daddies, were not allowed in the room with the baby. So it was just Joy Lynn and me. She was so tiny! I wanted to remember how small she was. She didn’t open her eyes but her tiny hand gripped my finger. I made a mental note that her fingers were no bigger around than a matchstick.

We hadn’t really had time to get acquainted when a nurse came bustling in, pulled the blankets away from my baby’s feet and started thumping them, hard. I bristled. The nurse shot me a stern look, “Preemies don’t wake to eat. You’ll have to thump her feet to get her awake enough to nurse. She has to eat.” Thump! Thump!

By this time, my milk had come in. We learned that this was a big disadvantage for a tiny baby. Maybe it was payback for the foot thumping, anyway, nursing was very painful for both of us until she got the hang of it.

Joy Lynn couldn’t leave the hospital until she weighed five pounds. One evening, the doctor came in with the good news that we could go home the next morning. But the next morning, he changed his mind, “Someone weighed her with a wet diaper,” he said. And we had to stay another day.. a week in all.

I had a two-year-old at home I wanted to see. I called Timmy every day but he didn’t believe it was me. I’d say, “Hello Timmy, this is Mommy.” He answered the same every time, “No. Mommy went to get the baby.” But when we came home, he was waiting at the door, not to say hello to me. Instead, he said, “Gimme dat baby,” with his little arms reaching for her. My mom snapped the photo but I can’t find it.

This is the story of your birth, Joy Lynn, my beautiful daughter. Happy birthday across the miles!

 

Old Photos Stir Memories

Mag and Hiram Pearson

I’ve been fascinated with this old photo since the day I found it a couple of years ago. Taken long before my birth, it stirs memories of my great aunt. Of my grandmother’s six sisters, Aunt Mag was the one I saw most and knew best. She made dolls and her work was impeccable.

When I was little, she gave me a rag doll that was almost my height. The doll had blonde hair, like me, and was dressed in her Sunday best – her only dress. Aunt Mag sent the doll home with my grandmother. When Grandma rode the bus from Oklahoma City to Mt. Park that day, people wanted to buy the doll from her. It was a wonderful doll, created with well honed skills and hours of love.

A few years later, when I was in my teen years, Aunt Mag made me a china doll. This one had a cloth body with ceramic head, arms, and legs. She had a ring on her tiny finger and black high-button shoes.  Aunt Mag painted her face and sewed her beautiful clothes (including underwear) with the same skill and love as she had put in the rag doll. I kept my china doll on my bed for a long time. I may have taken her to college with me. But when I married, I packed her away and left her behind… to face a fate she didn’t deserve.

About two years after Dan and I married, my parents left the farm, moved to town, and our house was abandoned. A dam was being built and water would soon cover the land. In the move, some things were left behind and one of them was my china doll… she was long forgotten then but fondly remembered now. l remember her white dress with tiny red dots, the lace, and ribbon sash. She had black hair and her painted features gave her a sweet expression. She was beautiful. It’s sad that some relics of childhood are temporarily forgotten and remembered as treasures too late.

(I planned to blog about a snapshot in time and the interesting things revealed in the background of this photo… but I got caught in memories of my aunt and decided to share them… the snapshot will be another blog. It’s a twofer!)

The Best Part of Christmas 2015

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always chaotic for me with the cooking, making lists, shopping, decorating, wrapping, and other stuff. It all comes to a finale with Christmas dinner. Beginning about the middle of November, I look forward to the time when the last dish is back in the cabinet and I can start thinking about my next book.

But five-year-old Ella Deanne made this year special.

Ella Santa Hat

We hadn’t seen her for a year and a lot of changes take place between four and five.  She’s taller, but that’s not all. She has added about a zillion words to her vocabulary and is determined to put them on display. Talk, talk, talk. And write! I had no idea a kindergartener could write whole sentences and enjoy it so much. (I have to admit this fills my heart with joy… but there’s more!)

I gave her some books. When she climbed into the recliner with me I was more than ready to read her a story. I read the book of her choice and then she took the it from my hand. “Let me read it to you,” she said.

And I thought she would pretend to read, repeating the jest of the story I had just read.

Until she added, “In my own way.”

She snuggled against me and began adlibbing, spinning a story somewhat related to the pictures on the pages. She finished that one and was ready to start another. About half way through the third book, she stopped. “Oh wait,” she said. “Let’s start over.” And she closed the book, opened it, and began a new storyline.

We did a lot of this and I enjoyed every moment of it. If I hadn’t had to cook we would have done more. She has no idea what this means to me. When I gave her the stack of books, I wanted to share the joy of reading. I had no idea we were going to share the joy of writing and storytelling… She’s my namesake and a little bit like me. This is a good Christmas!

Favorite Christmas

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Dan, Diddle (our dog), Timmy, and me Christmas 1961.

I’m trying to decide which Christmas would be my favorite. It isn’t easy when one has 75 to choose from. However, the one that stands out today is 1961.

Dan had graduated college in June 1960 and hired on with Philco Corp as a techrep assigned to oversee the installation of weather equipment on airbases located between the Canadian border and the Gulf, bounded on the east and west by the Mississippi and the Rockies. We were in a location six weeks to three months… We had bought a mobile home, but Dan decided he didn’t want to pull it behind our car and having someone else move it from Altus, Oklahoma to San Antonio, Texas didn’t fit our budget.

So, in December of ’61 we were living in a motel in San Antonio and the small tree in the corner looked pretty bleak. It was my first Christmas away from my parents and I was homesick, feeling even worse that we didn’t have anyone to share our baby’s first Christmas.

When Dan’s cousin invited us to have Christmas with them, we loaded our car with baby stuff and Christmas presents and headed for Kingsville, Texas.

Like most first-time parents, we were expecting baby giggles and coos as his little hands grabbed each new toy. But, if you have first Christmas memories, you know how that turns out. Still this Christmas was special in an unexpected way.

Timmy was three weeks past 6 months and we were quite proud that he had learned to stand alone. Of course, we had to show off his new skill soon after we arrived in Kingsville. I held Timmy’s hands while we worked on balance. When I turned loose, he stood alone and teetered a bit. Then he flashed a smile and took three steps!

After that, we helped him open gifts thinking each one might cause his eyes to light up or generate a giggle. Nothing much grabbed his attention until the gifts were all opened, then he sat on a box, clutching the wrapping paper, and tasting the ribbon. We got the first steps… what more should be expected?

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Timmy standing alone showing off his Christmas outfit.

(The date on the photos is January ’62, but the first photo was taken Christmas Eve ’61, the second a few days later. Shooting photos back then included loading film, inserting flashbulbs, sending the film away for developing, and a long wait.)

Remembering my Mother’s Mother

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My mother’s mother as a young girl. She loved nature and being outdoors all her life.

Today is my mother’s mother’s birthday. I like to remember the people who were close to me on their birthdays. And so, I’m remembering Lillian Capps today. She was born in 1886 and lived 92 years.

Grandmothers come in all sorts, some are delighted when the new generation arrives… others, not so much. I had one grandmother who delighted in me as a child, smothered me with affection, and loved spending time with me.

My other one didn’t.

But, love has many facets. Some people show affection easily… others don’t. Some people like you, and others don’t. Love is caring and it is possible to love someone you don’t especially like. My mother’s mother didn’t like young children all that much. I was the first in my generation, and she wasn’t ready to be a grandmother. In fact, I think she detested being called any term related to that stage of life. (This blog is not going to be all negative or disrespectful to my mother’s mother. I promise to pull it out.)

My mother’s mother preferred to be called Booger. And so, that’s what I called her all the days of her life, and so did my siblings and cousins. She acquired this nickname when my mother was a child, Mama gave it to her. Mama told me that when she was little, people often referred to her as You Little Booger (could have been her older sisters). Anyway, she thought it was a term of endearment and started calling her mother, Booger. The name stuck… Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain why I called my mother’s mother Booger instead of the name that most women consider the crowning glory of motherhood.

I do not remember Booger ever holding me, playing with me, or showing any form of affection when I was a child. When we came to visit, I had to sit on my hands on the window-seat… and not move.

Booger didn’t not approve of my mother and father’s marriage, and I was a result of that union. Mama hoped someday Booger would feel okay towards me. And, eventually she did… after I married and moved away. When I came home for a visit, she was always glad to see me and greeted me with a hug, kiss on the cheek, and a smile that lit up her eyes. And when I began to write, she was pleased.

Over the years, she had more to offer than affection. She was an artist with a degree in art from Baylor University. And she loved to garden. She arranged flowers and made corsages. She had an extensive library in her home that was open to me. So, I watched Booger paint and learned from her. I watched her garden, and learned from her. I read her books and loved them… everything about them. She had sets of classics bound in leather. I loved to run my fingers over the spines and fondle the pages.

She introduced me to the beauty of nature and fostered my creativity. I know enough about art to enjoy drawing and painting. I know enough about gardening to enjoy plants and flowers. I can arrange bouquets and make corsages. And, I love books, touching them, reading, them, and writing them. The affection I received from my other grandmother lives on in sweet memories, but I put Booger’s legacy to use every day…

Grandmothers come in all sorts. And the gifts they give their grandchildren are uniquely individual and priceless.

 

Granny June’s Legacy

Little Brother and I ready for church one Easter morning.

Little Brother and I posing for photos one Sunday morning before Church. (The kittens weren’t going.)

I recently received a note from my nephew. He and his wife are planting a church on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. They’ve been in the field since January. They started a Bible Study they plan to grow into a church. But this is not really what I want to blog about today. In the note my nephew wrote, he said: I am so thankful for Granny June’s legacy of faith, and I do my best to honor her through ministry.”

My mom’s legacy is what I want to tell you about.

As far as I know religion wasn’t important to my maternal grandmother and grandfather. They didn’t take their three girls to Sunday school or attend church. When Mama was ten, she decided to go to church on her own. Although the Methodist church was next door, she decided to walk about three blocks to the Baptist church. And that is where she decided to follow Jesus. Maybe she made that decision before she walked those three blocks that first Sunday morning…

Mama didn’t tell me why she chose the Baptist over the Methodist. (I should tell you that in that small town, there were two major religions – Methodists and Baptist.) I would guess that her friends went to the Baptist church.

I think Mama drifted away during her teen years, maybe did a little backsliding of some sort. After she finished high school, she went away to college and returned the next summer to marry her high school sweetheart, Daddy. And a while later, I came along.

She later told me that after we moved to the farm (I was three when we moved), she and I were walking down the driveway one afternoon. It was about a quarter mile to the main road… She was holding my hand, and she said my hand felt so small in hers. She didn’t tell me all her thoughts, just that she realized she wanted to bring me up in the church. I’m glad she did. I don’t think I could have walked the six miles to town to go on my own.

Little Brother came along a couple of years later, but Little Sister didn’t arrive until I was twenty. Mama took us all to Sunday school and church and saw that we got the foundation for our faith. And, I believe she prayed for all three of us, and our families, until the day she died.

She taught primary and intermediate Sunday school when I was young and then took over the ladies class sometime after I was grown and married. She taught that class well into her 80s, as long as she could stand and teach. As Mama neared the end of her days, several ladies from her class came to her home for Sunday afternoon Bible Study.

Mama attended the same church from the time she was ten and was still a member when she passed on to Glory at the age of 93. And, my sister’s son is working to honor her legacy in Wyoming. I’m sure Mama is pleased. And I am thankful that I have a share in her legacy of faith.

What the Background Reveals…

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Nothing shown in the photo I used for the Storm Season blog exists today, except the distant hills. Well, there’s me, but I’ve changed a lot in the span of about 70 years.

By the time I graduated high school, the grassy pasture in the background was filled with young mesquite trees. The wire fence around our yard was gone, the cellar door was warped, and the rocking horse… I don’t know where it went.

The driveway from the main road to our house was the dirt road in this picture. For that matter, the main road was dirt as well. Vehicles on that road raised a cloud of dust in dry weather and left a trail of deep ruts when it rained. The muddy roads were slick and vehicles, including the school bus, sometimes slid into the ditch. Getting stuck in a bar ditch is not fun.  I remember.

In this old photo, I’m sitting on the land my great-grandfather chose for his allotment before the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache Reservation was opened to white settlement. (My great-grandfather was adopted into the Comanche Tribe as a blood brother to Quanah Parker. The Federal government recognized him as a member of the tribe with all the rights and privileges of a full-blood Comanche.) Great-grandfather chose his land between two creeks because he thought no railroad would cross his land.

And it didn’t.

But, Great-grandfather never imagined that a dam would be build in The Narrows between the mountain peaks to the south or that the land his eldest son inherited would be flooded when heavy rains came. I’m glad he didn’t know that a generation or so later, a much larger dam would be built to create Tom Steed Lake in Southwest Oklahoma.

Today, If you were to visit the spot where I am sitting in this photo, you would need a boat. You would see water to the rocky mounds in the background and to the mountain peaks beyond the edge of the photo to the right. Looking back, you’d see water to Twin Mountain, and to the left, water as far as you could see, with a line of land in the distance on a clear day.

This photo holds the landmarks of my childhood that are no more. The loss of the land is sad for me and my family, but many people enjoy the camping, boating, and fishing benefits of Tom Steed Lake and the nearby towns need the water… progress marches on.

 

 

Storm Season

 

 

Me posing by the cellar door on a clear, sunny day.

Me posing by the cellar door on a clear, sunny day.

 

We’ve had several years of drought but we are now blessed with rain, green trees and pastures, plus running streams and rivers. All is good except for one thing… Spring rains are accompanied by storm fronts that can produce tornados. So it is a time to watch the weather.

Today, this means sitting in a recliner with a Diet Dr Pepper nearby, eyes the big screen TV. The weatherman pinpoints where any “circulation” occurs and maps the projected path. When a tornado warning is issued, he lists the town in its path and the time of arrival. He warns those in danger to head for their safe place, which for many of us isn’t a cellar. Most of the time, Duncan isn’t in the path so I take another sip of Diet Dr Pepper and watch as local storm chasers drive the highways, trying to get a clear shot of a funnel cloud while staying out of the path of danger. After a while, I change the channel with the intent to check back now and then. I know things pertaining to Oklahoma weather can change… very fast.

However, my childhood memories… well, for one thing, in my younger days, we didn’t have TV, Doppler radar, or computers. The weather forecast from Farmer’s Almanac was about as accurate as forecast from the radio weatherman. So, Daddy was our storm watcher. I remember him standing on the front porch with the wind blowing his hair. A hat wouldn’t have stayed on his head and he had to hold on to his shirt.

He had learned to read the clouds from his dad. He knew the green tint and pockets dipping down from the clouds meant hail was on the way. He could tell when there was wind in the clouds (turbulence), and how far away the storm was by counting the seconds between the lightening flash and thunder. He determined if we were in the storm path by the direction the clouds were moving. I remember once he said it had passed us by and then shouted, “Get in the cellar. It’s turning back.”

One spring a tornado took the roof off our house and blew the chicken house away. I don’t think Daddy saw the funnel but he recognized the possibility. He got us in the cellar and then told us to get in the northwest corner. He took hold of the rope that was tied to the cellar door, stood in front of Mama, me, and Little Brother with all his weight and strength holding that door down. I’m sure Mama was praying… We heard the loud sound of rushing wind and our ears stopped up, but we were safe. (I now believe that tornado didn’t touch the ground near the cellar but dipped low enough to suck the roof off the house and then demolished the chicken house about a hundred yards away. If it had dipped down… well you can imagine what would have happened to the guy holding the rope.

Our cellar wasn’t the greatest place. It was damp and musky. Light from the lantern flickered on the wall but left the corners dark. When the threat wasn’t severe, Daddy entertained us by making shadows on the wall with his hands. Mama told us stories and sometimes we participated in “continuing stories.” She’d start and then someone else would continue the plot. That part was fun. The best part was coming up the stairs after the storm had passed and inhaling the rain-fresh air.

 

Viva-la-difference!

We were somewhere between Chickasha and Oklahoma City when Dan’s cell rang. He was driving so he pulled his phone out of his pocket and handed it to me.

It was our son and I’m sure he expected to get his Dad… after all, he had called Dad’s number, not mine. But he had news to share.

Son: “I’m staring at a snake and I don’t know what to do.”

Me: “Where is it?”

Son: “In my house.”

Me, frowning: “You have a snake in your house. How did it get in?”

Son: “It’s just a little one…. probably crawled in under the door or something. It’s a baby and can’t tell what kind it is. Don’t know if it’s poisonous or not. I don’t know what to do.”

All I heard was baby snake… Doesn’t matter to me what species, if it’s a baby, well mother instincts kick in. Don’t know why I reacted this way. Son is MY baby. Anyway, I wanted to find a safe way to get the baby out of the house and set him free. (And, I forgot Son had called his Dad) So… Me: “Do you have some tongs?”

Son, I could hear the puzzlement in his voice: “I suppose I do…”

He didn’t sound likely to hunt tongs, so I offered another solution. Me: Capture him under a container of some sort, then slip a paper under the container, turn it over, and carry him outside.”

Son: Silence. “I’ll think of something… Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

Me: “Okay. Be careful!”

Call ended and I turned to see the smirk on Hubby’s face. “I would have told him to stomp it with the heel of his boot.”

I gasped and then remembered the country gal I used to be would have done the same thing. The city girl I became would have screamed for help… and the soft-hearted grandmother I am, would have found a way to save the baby snake. I smiled.

Son called again a few minutes later with news to ease his mother’s mind. “It’s all taken care of,” he said, “and then changed the subject.”

This morning, I realized he hadn’t called his dad for advice. He called to tell the story of the snake in his house… man to man. I think the poor baby snake had already met his end before the call, and Son protected his mother’s gentle heart. His dad and I are not the same and Son knows the difference. 🙂