Holidays

Several things are on my mind to write about in 2017. One subject is grief, which I hope to treat extensively. It is a topic many find difficult, but few people escape life without experiencing it, usually more than once. Since this is true it seems it would be helpful to give some time to exploring what it is like, what we can do to help others through it and how we can prepare for it personally.

As readers of Crooked Creek, I’d like to ask you to consider participation as we go forward into new year. I would love to have your thoughts on my posts. I’m not asking for a “like” as on Facebook or a compliment on the writing (although I admit I do enjoy that). On any subject, I really would appreciate your sharing your thoughts, personal experiences or disagreement. I want this blog to be not a pulpit, but rather a forum.

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We can start now by sharing our childhood experiences for this time of year. While I’m sure there are many holiday similarities, I have no doubt there are also great differences. For one thing, we don’t all celebrate the same holidays. Some are made of legend, some are cultural or ethnic, others a mixture of fantasy and religion while still others are High Holy Days. My tradition is celebrating Christmas. I’ll go first and look forward to hearing from you about some of your early holiday memories (in the Comment space).


 

Christmas Memories

From my preschool years I have few memories. I have heard very intelligent people have memories from a young age, so I suppose that lets me out of the Mensa crowd. My memories before going to first grade are fragmentary and I am sometime unsure whether they are true memories, tales told to me over the years or perhaps just what I think I remember, because of old photographs. I will share two Christmas memories I have from this early childhood period.

🌟   The Star

When it was time to put up a Christmas tree my Dad and older brother would take an ax and go out to find a suitable cedar. While they were scouting the tree and nailing cross boards on the bottom to make it stand, Mom and I would drag out an old cardboard box filled with decorations. The only object I can remember lifting from the box was a star my brother had, some previous year, cut out and covered with tinfoil. I thought it was so beautiful and couldn’t wait for it to be in place on top signifying the tree was complete and ready for Santa Claus.

jingle-bells-clipart-clipart-best-j8isoi-clipart The Bells

The one other memory from that time was a regular Christmas celebration at our small country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist. It was usually at night and sometimes there was a play with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. At other times a rather suspicious Santa would show up confusing kids who didn’t quite grasp where he fit in with the shepherds and Wise Men. Regardless of whether he made it, there would always be a paper bag filled with hard candy for each child. I liked the candy, because we didn’t often have it around our house, especially with the war going on and sugar being scarce. The year I clearly remember coming home from the church program it happened to be Christmas Eve. Maybe because I was full of sugar, or more likely as Mammy said, I had “spunk,” I wasn’t interested in getting into bed as I was instructed. I ran around our little house in my coat, hat and mittens trying my mother’s patience until suddenly I heard bells ringing out in the yard! I ran screaming to my bed and covered up, coat and all, waiting to see if the ringing would stop or if the sleigh would go away, on down Crooked Creek Road without stopping.

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It was many years before I was told about Mom sending Daddy outside to ring those bells.

Theme photo and graphics by Pixabay

Gee, KY

This is my grandfather’s store which was mentioned before. https://crookedcreek.live/2016/12/10/minnie-ii/

I remember it as a hub of the community of Gee, but when I look at these old photos I wonder if it was my imagination that it was a place filled with activity. It looks a bit desolate in the older pictures.

I remember it painted as the later picture with people on the front porch. I call still recall how “Pappy” would rush to that gas pump as soon as he heard a car drive up.  Yes, and my grandmother was “Mammy.” Older cousins started those names for our grandparents and I wonder if they were pleased being called Mammy and Pappy. I know that I would not have been. 

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E.M. Sea in from of his store in 1937
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E.M. Sea, Post Master of Gee, KY in the 1940s

Minnie II

 Before Women’s Suffrage

My Mother, Minnie Alice Sea, was born on June 19, 1917. She was named after “Miss Minnie Murphy” a school teacher who was admired by my Grandmother, Lillie Alice Thompson Sea. When my mother was born, women were not yet allowed to vote. That came about while she was a toddler and even then, many women were denied that right, because they had no way to get to the polls unless their husbands, or some other male, allowed them to ride along to the voting place. According to stories from that time, men were concerned a wife, for instance, might vote differently from them and thereby “cancel out” the man’s vote. So, unless a man could be certain the woman he was transporting would vote the same as he, that woman was not likely to have the opportunity to vote at all.

My Mom, as most women of that era, lived in a patriarchal society. She revered her father who was Postmaster, a deacon in the Baptist church and a small business owner. He ran the Gee General Store where the US Post Office for Gee, KY was located and he sold gas as well as groceries, farming supplies and even medicinals like paregoric, camphor and Carter’s Liver Pills. In that store located on a gravel, rural road my grandfather, E. M. Sea, was sought after by people of the community who respected his opinion on such topics as religion, politics, war and the economy. It is no wonder Minnie and his other seven children never questioned his authority nor his wisdom.

Marriage

As was the custom in those days, my Mom finished school after the eight grade. She worked with her father in the store and post office and, surprisingly, she learned to drive before many women were allowed that privilege. She married Richard Baugh, my Dad, when she was sixteen and he was twenty-five. She gave birth to their first of four children a few years later. The baby boy was born at home with the help of a doctor who my Dad fetched from Lawrenceburg, KY in his old Model T Ford in the middle of the night. He loved telling about how the doctor’s medical bag was in the window behind his head and while my Dad was driving way too fast, downhill, to their house in the “holler” the bag bounced out and hit the Doc in the back of his head. He thought it was a funny story judging by how many times I heard it retold.

For a woman who began life under circumstances that might have made her dependent and timid, Minnie surprised many, including herself, I’m sure. Beside her roles as wife and mother she learned many others in her eighty-one years, leaving her mark on this world in small, but lasting ways.

Work History

For several years she raised turkeys and chickens and grew a summer garden and canned its yield to cook for the family throughout the winter. After moving from the farm, she worked in a large factory on an assembly line for several years. Having experience in the family store while growing up made jobs at a small grocery and a dry cleaning store easy for her. She was good with people, always smiling and usually laughing.

The highlight of her long work history came when she was hired by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the Revenue Department where she remained until she was sixty-seven years old. I will always remember a day when I visited her at the Capital Annex in Frankfort, KY. She beamed as she introduced her friends around the big office. Then she proudly showed off her desk complete with an adding machine and file drawers and even pointed out her very own stapler! My Mom, from Gee, KY had arrived in her dream job. And, to make the situation nearly perfect, the Governor of KY was a woman named Martha Layne Collins.

My Mom (Minnie)

Minnie I

Minnie at Church

Deciding to rush from work to join Minnie tonight and not wanting to make her late, I had actually arrived early. I knew how much it meant to her to attend the meetings just as she had attended church regularly for her eighty-plus years of life. Too late I learn she is disappointed, because when I am not here the Preacher stops by and brings her to the service. She feels special, I supposed, arriving with the Preacher. As I look around for familiar faces arriving in all manner of garb, I made a mental note to be late next time so she could be escorted the way she preferred.

Attendees 

There is Dr. Lee, as reticent as ever. It is my opinion she is not stuck up, but rather, she has difficulty in social situations. Her athletic shoes look strangely out of place, not for the venue, but for her. Charles enters looking troubled and carrying the dogeared spiral notebook in which he writes throughout each service. I used to think he was a serious Bible scholar critiquing the message, but today I overheard him saying something about bills as he flipped madly through the pages. Strangely, he seemed concerned about NOT receiving bills as he queried others about the status of their bills. Mr. and Mrs. Harvey arrive together and she looks more frail than in the past. Minnie had told me “Mrs. Harvey is on the verge of dialysis, but she is resisting.” I didn’t know dialysis was an optional treatment.

There’s Lena walking straight to a seat which will accommodate her should she care to lie down during the service.  Some people are extremely bothered by her habit of reclining at any time and in any setting, but others hardly seem to notice. There’s a lady coming this way who I do not know. Carefully groomed, she has small delicate hands with perfectly polished nails. She doesn’t look left or right as she gets settled in the seat next to Minnie who pointedly doesn’t look at her either.  Instead, she is looking enviously at the woman being escorted into the service by the Preacher.

The room is almost full now. Some faces are less familiar, but just as interesting. The piano player is getting out song books for the worshipers to share.  Finally, when all are quiet and poised for the singing to begin, my favorite makes her entrance. Esther truly is an aristocratic sight as she makes her way first to greet the musician. She is wearing a navy blue blazer, oxford shirt, neatly creased trousers and low heeled pumps.  Her navy purse is perfectly balanced hanging from one stately squared shoulder. She stops by each person, graciously offering her hand as she bends down ever so slightly, so she can look them directly in the eyes. As she comes closer I can hear each greeting, “So glad you came,” “Thank you for coming,” “It is so good to see you!”  As she completes the circle, addressing the last person, she regally exits the room to be seen no more this evening.

Singing

Hymn books are passed, the song leader takes her place and the piano begins a cadence not unlike a funeral dirge. The hymns are old and familiar Protestant fare, including Rock of Ages, On Jordan’s Stormy Banks and The Old Rugged Cross. Charles scribbles in his book, Lena starts to ease toward a recumbent position, Dr. Lee’s face is immobile as she holds her head and song book erect. Minnie and the two Harveys are each on a different note and none are the same as the one the song leader is singing. The Preacher grins goofily at his congregation while singing loudly in the note the leader was determined to maintain.

Praying

Prayer request and praise time is next in the order of service and the Preacher begins this portion by sharing how thankful he is that he is “healthy and able to do the Lord’s work,” while looking around the room at blank faces and ailing bodies. Next, he invites the congregation to share prayer needs and praises. A small black lady in the front row said she would like prayer that she could “walk good again.”  The Preacher responds, “Yes, Mrs. Long.”  Another woman tearfully asks prayer for her great nephew who was paralyzed in a recent football accident.  The Preacher was visibly moved and replied, “We will certainly pray for him.  How hard it must be on the whole family. You know, it is so tragic for this to happen to a young man. Girls can just take this sort of thing better, but a boy knows he needs to get out into the world and work, provide for a family.” The worshippers nod in agreement. The prayer requests continue ranging from paltry to profound amid sounds of hymnals hitting the floor and people coughing and muttering. Finally, the Preacher closes prayer time with a long prayer imploring God to hear, to have mercy and “If it was in His will” to grant the requests just made.  He didn’t mention the gentleman who had just shared that his “ass hurt.”

Preaching

The Preacher resumed his goofy grin and began the meat of the service. He started by telling some personal anecdotes, his eyes sweeping the room for reaction. The lady with the nephew didn’t disappoint. She kept her smiling eyes glued to his face and her hearing aid tuned to his every word. Charles kept reviewing his notebook. Lena was quietly supine. Dr. Lee stared straight ahead. Just as the Preacher began to read from his text for his main event, Minnie turned to the woman beside her with the nice manicure and suddenly shook her roughly by the shoulder shouting, “Wake up! Don’t you know you are not supposed to sleep in church!” The pretty woman’s head bobbed back and forth with the shaking making me wonder whether she was asleep or deceased. Either way, I was embarrassed. The Preacher didn’t miss a beat. Dr. Lee’s expression didn’t change. Charles didn’t take his eyes off the notebook. Mr. Harvey smiled broadly. As the Preacher’s words piled higher and deeper, I let my mind wonder like many in the room had done from the beginning.

Finally the service was over and I took Minnie by the hand, leading my Mother back to her room as the attendants, one by one, escorted the other nursing home residents to their rooms.

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Written 7/1/98      Revised December 2016