Time for another of Linda Bethea’s humour filled and heartfelt posts about family life. This week having a mother-in-law stay can be an adventure…. You can find Linda’s other posts Here
Illustration by Kathleen Holdaway Swain
Grandma Holdaway came from Texas to spend a couple of weeks two or three times a year.
On arrival, Grandma was always in high spirits, delighted to see her youngest daughter and grandchildren after a long absence. She arrived, laden with gifts for us all, even including a pair of socks, ashtray, or coffee cup for Daddy. It was always clear she and Daddy were trying to get along for Mother’s sake, a woman they both loved. Their efforts wore thin as the days wore on, particularly on his days off when he couldn’t escape her questions about his personal business and his extended family. None of this endeared her to Daddy, an impatient man. Had he been an animal, he’d have made a fine bear. The grouchier he got, the moodier Grandma got. It must have been wonderful for Mother, being caught between them.
To start with, Grandma was clannish. She had no real use for those outside her own family. Accustomed to running her own family’s activities, she suffered in a situation she couldn’t tightly control. So did everyone else. Any or all of Daddy’s six fertile siblings were ever present on weekends. Visits were bedlam, with kids running wild, screaming, banging doors, and knocking little ones about, should a Mother be so careless as not to keep them in a defensible distance. Daddy’s Mother, Mamaw, was usually there, too, unless she lost her nerve and needed a sanity break. For some reason, if Grandma was there, Mamaw almost always came. In theory, they were friends, though sometimes they could have passed for sparring partners.
Grandma loved to go to town. She was always the first to the car, despite having mobility problems after a stroke in her sixties. She balanced her gait by carrying a huge black purse on her affected side. She said it kept her straight. Grandma got through a hellish Sunday with family by looking forward to a trip to town on Monday. All she had to do was somehow keep her sanity.
Late, Sunday evening, Grandma got the news she wouldn’t be going to town with Mother on Monday. Mother had to take a neighbor and wouldn’t have room for her. Not only that, Grandma had already been visiting two weeks and was descending into gloom by the time she got a call from her son. She had expected him to pick her up in a day or so, but he post-poned his trip for another two weeks. It didn’t make her or my dad happy to know they had another two weeks to spend together. My dad was on strike at the time, throwing them together, even more. His family’s visit that weekend enhanced an already perfect storm. I expected them to kill each other!
I will transcribe for you.
Dear BL, Just time for word. Hope all are getting along all right. Sure hope your daddys neck is feeling better I don’t feel too good Such a crowd here last night Bonnie, Edward, their 3 kids & Geneva came Ester, Junie, and their 5 hienas. Cat Young & her bunch of Angel then 2 bunches of neighbors & their familys & it was so quiet it hurts my ears til yet. running & slamming doors. I thought they would never leave. Kack(my mother)is fixing to take Cat Young to Springhill she has to go to the bank on business & Arnold had to go help Edward finish his filling station today & use his car& he ask her to take her to the bank. I intended to go & found out Kack was going to take all her kids. I better close. O I talked to John yest he ask me if I’de mind staying here two weeks longer til schools out that he hated to come one day & go back the next.so I told him I’de wait they are beginning to make a little progress in their talks about settling the strike they are all hoping the mill will open after July the 4th Bill got to work 2 days for another construction job, he had to walk the picket line last night for an hour for two must close Kacks ready to start tell your daddy Bill is wanting to give away their big collie does he want him to go with Blue. Must stop now. Please write soon. Love to all Grandma
I had forgotten until I reread this letter that Grandma didn’t bother with punctuation, though she had been a teacher.
©Linda Bethea 2018
Linda Bethea brings humour to her stories that are usually set in what was a dire time in American history in the great depression. There is no doubt in my mind that Southerners are tough, resilient and have an amazing sense of fun.
Now that I’m done with the bothersome business of workday world, I am free to pursue my passion, capturing the stories I’ve loved all my life. The ones you’ll read on my blog are good old Southern stories, a real pleasure to relay. Here in the South, we are proud of our wacky folks. I’ve preyed shamelessly on my family, living and dead, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, often changing the names to protect the innocent and not so innocent.
My mother illustrates my blog. I come from a rollicking family of nuts, hence the name of the blog Nutsrok Enjoy.
Linda has captured the essence of her family history in her book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad
Born to a struggling farm family in the deepest of The Great Depression, Kathleen enjoys a colorful childhood, enhanced by her imagination, love of life, and the encouragement of her family.
She’s determined to build a better life for herself, getting herself into hilarious situations all along the way. Distinguishing herself in school and the community, she never takes her eyes off her goal.
Just as she’s about to get started, she meets Bill, the man who is going to help her on her way. Everything changes. And then changes again. The true story of a remarkable woman who will inspire you, make you laugh, and see life from a new perspective.
One of the many excellent reviews for the book.
………...as you fall in love with Kathleen’s family.
Bethea’s style of writing as she recounts her mother’s memories has made her one of my favorite authors, and I couldn’t put this book down once I started it.
Kathleen (Kitten) takes us through her childhood growing up during the Great Depression by sharing her memories, and we find ourselves cheering for the little girl and her family while we get to know them. Vivid descriptions about unwanted house-guest’s habits are hilarious, while stories of sacrifices made by the family for each other brings tears to the reader’s eyes. We find ourselves cherishing the favorite stories Kitten hears from her Mama and Daddy while she snuggles next to them much as she did at the time of their telling. As Kathleen recounts the difficulties she faced as a young adult, we too want to return home to her parents’ warm home, full pantry, and open arms.
Read the reviews and BUY the book: https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Smells-Just-Like-Salad-ebook/dp/B01IVUXROQ
Also by Linda Bethea
About the book
WOMEN OF STRENGTH, FORTITUDE, AND BRAVERY
In this collection of six serials, Linda Swain Bethea weaves narratives of women through several centuries. The stories span from 1643 to 1957. Beginning in England in 1643, a young couple travels to Jamestown, Virginia, to begin a new life in the American frontier. The rest of the stories travel from West Texas to North Louisiana to the Texas Panhandle to East Texas.
Disease, death, starvation, and prison are faced with stoicism and common sense, and always, with a sense of humor.
The women in each tale stand tall and possess the wisdom and tenacity to hold families together under the worst conditions. Through it all, they persevere, and Linda Swain Bethea’s storytelling is a testament to the legacy they left.
Conversational and homey, you’ll fall in love with the women of Just Women Getting By – Leaving a Legacy of Strength, which celebrates the courage of those women who had no choice but to survive.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Women-Getting-Leaving-Strength-ebook/dp/B072DZ5XTP
Connect to Linda
My thanks to Linda for sharing her story and she would love your feedback. Thanks Sally.