The End

If the world was to end tomorrow, what would you do and how would you spend your last twenty-four hours?

Hopefully, I would spend it with my wonderful family members  . . . all of them together.

During the last half-hour of those twenty-four I would eat fried shrimp!

Other things I’d enjoy doing, given the opportunity, would be to hold a baby, pet a kitten, pick a flower, watch a bird, see a summer sky and feel the sun on my face.

What would you like to do in your last twenty-four hours on this earth?

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“If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button.” Sam Levenson

 

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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)

Words Matter – II

If a child is told often, from a very young age, that he or she is limited (slow or weak) in some way, do you think the child will become an adult who believes he or she can accomplish anything of which it dreams? Or, will the child become an adult who is restricted and unsure of their capabilities? I believe what a child hears over and over has a significant impact on what the child sees as its potential.

When I was a nursing student I remember hearing that nurses and other caregivers talked to male and female newborns differently.  I didn’t have enough time as a student to fully appreciate this truth. Later though, when I began to teach OB (obstetrics) to nursing students, I rotated classes into and out of labor and delivery, newborn nursery and postpartum care. During three years of observation I indeed saw that what I had heard was true. It began as soon as the child slipped from their mother’s body and into the cold, bright and noisy delivery room.

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From Day One

When a boy was delivered there was congratulatory talk, often booming loudly and as the boy infant began to cry everyone talked about his strong lusty voice. As he was wrapped in a blue blanket there were predictions of his first touchdown, layup or hole-in-one, whatever might please the proud father. When genitalia appeared without the external apparatus it was likely to result in hushed “ahhhhhs” as a pink blanket was held out to swaddle a baby girl. The remark most often heard was regarding her appearance using words like beautiful, dainty, maybe even predictions of her being a little “heartbreaker.” The love and gratefulness for a healthy newborn was not unequal, one not valued more than the other, but the words used were different.

Without a doubt the newborn would be referred to as “big” or “little” not according to the actual measurement of weight and length, but according to gender. There were exceptions, to be sure, if the child was a great deal smaller or larger than average, but nearly always a boy was referred to as “big bouncing” baby. A girl, even when over eight or nine pounds, was a “sweet little” girl.

This trend continued in the nursery while the newborn was bathed and examined and then transported back and forth to the mother’s room for feeding and bonding over the next hours of hospitalization. If you doubt this, I challenge you to listen carefully as your friends and family members discuss the babies in their lives. Observe the words that are used when the infant is spoken to and sung to and handled. It may seem insignificant at the time since the baby does not yet understand words, but the truth we need to remember is that this is just the beginning of a persistent message. Day after day a child is reminded that she is the “weaker sex,” to use an outdated term, and unable to do or be anything in the world to which she aspires. This is not intentional, not sinister, not done out of unequal love, but these facts do not dilute the message. Words matter, especially when repeated through years of developing a sense of who we are and what we are capable of achieving in life.

Theme photo by Pixabay
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Art by Pat Brooks

Phillip

Like a Little Blue Bird

He ran from room to room, a blur of blue, little legs bouncing in small jerky steps, sliding on the linoleum and sucking butter from his finger tips that had so swiftly dipped into the bowl. He kept looking back over his shoulder, his pale blue eyes both joyful and afraid. As young as I was I knew this was a triumph for him, something much more significant than it appeared. Was it Mother’s look of fear that told me? Yes, it must be that, or was she more sad than afraid? Finally her hand roughly caught hold of his blue jumpsuit and his forward momentum was halted like a tiny bird flying into a window. My heart pounded as I waited for her to spank him for running away from her and for stealing the forbidden butter. I wanted to cry out, “He’s just a baby, he just wanted to taste it.” As I held my breath, remembering the sting of her hand, I was amazed to see her start to cry holding him close while he wiggled to free the buttered hand and get it to his mouth.

Christmas is Coming!

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Not wanting to see any more, I returned to looking at the toys in the Montgomery Ward Catalog. As a first grader I had little understanding of calendars like the one hanging on the wall in front of me. But, I did know that it was December and December meant Christmas which reminded me that I had a letter to write to Santa. Mother said my baby brother, Phillip, wanted a teddy bear and I should tell Santa, since Phillip was too little to write. I guess she hadn’t noticed that I couldn’t really write either.  It seemed a better plan for our big brother to do the letter for both Phillip and me, but maybe at twelve he was too big, because he sure didn’t seem interested in Santa Claus. So, I guessed it was up to me. The days passed and when we were almost half-way through December according to my teacher, I could think of nothing but Christmas. It didn’t look like Christmas or even feel like it at our house, but I knew it would come, because nothing can stop Christmas.  It was there near the bottom of the calendar and each day brought us closer to that magical morning. On the day that the calendar said thirteen (13), for the first time, that I could remember, my Mother sent me to bed without tucking me in. It was okay, because I knew Phillip had been crying a lot and I believed that his stomach hurt. He needed Mother more and anyway, I was a big girl.

Dad

The next thing that I remember was a big rough hand shaking my arm. “Wake up, wake up, now,” my Daddy said. I must be dreaming, my father never woke me up and besides I could see through the slits of my eyes that it was still dark. The covers were warm and I sank farther into the featherbed hoping the bad dream would stop. There it was again, “Wake up, now,” and then the covers were drawn back and I was assaulted by blinding light, cold air and the acrid smell of burning wood. Even sleepy and confused, I understood, suddenly, that this was no dream. My father’s face was not familiar. His eyes, usually smiling for me, were solid black and his mouth, under his large humped nose, was drawn down tightly. I was afraid when he started to push my arms into my coat. What was he doing? Where was Mama?

Before I could figure out any answers he did the strangest thing.  He wrapped the bed covers around me and even partly over my head and he began carrying me through the house. It was then that I saw where my mother was. She was holding Phillip and washing his little naked body. Surely he was cold, even in front of the glowing wood stove. Why was she bathing him when it was still dark outside? He didn’t seem to mind. He was just lying across her lap, not kicking or even looking around as she stroked him with tfullsizeoutput_819he wet washcloth. Before I could say a word my daddy walked right out the back door, still carrying me. The covers fell from my head and I felt ice cold wind hit my face and my bare feet, which by now were dangling out of the bottom of the mound of quilts. My daddy pulled me tighter and I was comforted by the smell of stale tobacco and fresh soap which I knew so well. As he carried me through the yard, the grass crunched under his feet and he was holding me too tightly. With one eye and my nose buried in his neck, the other eye could see the stars. Smoke was curling from the chimney in the center of our little house and the smell of the burning wood, from out here, was more pleasant. I felt him bend forward and heard the car door open and then felt my quilt-wrapped body touch the car seat. I wanted to ask where we were going and why we were alone, but I could not make words hook onto the questions and even if I could have, my mouth would not have spoken them. I was shaking hard and the smell of gasoline from our old car made my throat burn. Then I glimpsed huge snowflakes swirling in the two white trails of light coming from the front of the car. Snow! Could it be Christmas?

Grandparents

Finally, Daddy told me, “I’m taking you to Miz Sea’s” and I felt a little bit warm. The car sped over the gravel. I bounced on the seat because I could not move my arms pinned deep inside the covers. We didn’t have far to go and soon we were turning from the gravel of Crooked Creek Rd. onto the gravel of my grandparents’ road. Before we reached the top of that short winding road, the porch light came on and showed against the brown siding of the tiny house.  As my Dad set me inside the front door, he said to Mammy, my grandmother, “His fever won’t come down. We’re leaving for St. Joseph’s.” Without a word she put me in bed beside my grandfather, who didn’t say anything, although I knew that he was awake. Mammy tucked me in and I watched her kneel beside the couch where she slept, close enough that I could reach out and touch her. She began to pray. As I went to sleep she was saying, “Not our will, but yours’ be done.”

School

At Marlow School later that day, the snow stopped for a while and we children were allowed to go out for recess. I stayed on the porch and watched the kids who had boots playing in the schoolyard. A girl who was just getting there was walking straight toward me.  This was unusual, because the kids from the big room, grades five through eight, never paid attention to first graders. She stopped, looked at me for a moment and said the two words that punched me in the stomach and sent me falling. I fell back and back with my arms held wide as though I was trying to fly in reverse. All the time I floated my feet somehow stayed in contact with the concrete floor. As my back touched the clapboard of the building I melted and ran down the cold boards, my warmth causing steam to sizzle and then rise when it encountered the icy floor.  The cold seeped into my body then, freezing it solid so that her words could no longer penetrate.  Now, the only thing that could pierce me for the rest of the school day was the stares from dozens of eyes.  The eyes belonged to the students who had witnessed the words that knocked me down, her words that caused me to freeze into a block of ice.

An icicle was stuck in my throat, causing my brain to hurt like it did when eating homemade ice cream that my mother made in the summer. I thought about Mother and wondered if she knew that girl would say those words to me. I wondered if my big brother had heard them, too. Then, I remembered that he had not been on the bus that morning. Where was he? I had always felt safe knowing that he was in the schoolroom right next to mine, the one with the other big kids. They had a man teacher with an arm that didn’t move and I was glad that I was not old enough to be in that room.  Both my teacher’s arms could move and once today she used them both to hug me. Mrs. Morgan was pretty and she was kind, but why had she let that big girl say those hateful words? Why didn’t she make her take them back?

The bus ride home was much quieter than usual and I missed my big brother being there with me. Even though kids were all around me, I was alone and still frozen solid. Most of the children were staring but not in a mean way. I think that a girl offered me gum, but I am not sure. I sat, cold and hard, and watched the scenes passing the frosty window of the bus. The farms along Crooked Creek Road, where we lived, had turned to a thick blanket of white since I rode the bus from my Grandparents’ home that morning. The hills, trees and barns looked as though they had been covered with vanilla ice cream. I felt my heart begin to soften and to thaw a little, as the snow reminded me that nothing could stop Christmas.

Home

When the bus stopped in front of our house I saw that the snow in our yard was not smooth, but messy with footprints going off in all directions and there were cars that I did not recognize parked next to the road. Strangest though were the tire tracks that went right up to the front porch. That didn’t make any sense. Neither did the little white coffin that stood in our living room when my Mother met me at the door.

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