Today is the 12th anniversary of my mother's death.
She was born in 1925 and died in 1995, just short of her 70th birthday.
I wish I had thought to get a picture of her scanned so you could see this wonderful, crazy woman. But I didn't. So, I'll upload some pictures of her favorite birds.
She was born to the poorest of the poor during the Big Depression outside Abilene, Texas to Clyde Lee Jackson and Nina Seaborn Jackson. She was the oldest of four siblings, George, who was two years younger than her, Clydene who died when she was three and Peggy who was 13 year younger.
When my mother was sixish, my grandfather heard the call, became a Southern Baptist minister and went off to seminary in Dallas. He pretty much left his family to fend for themselves because you see God was more important than your starving children. They existed on water biscuits, some beans and the occasional kindness of neighbors.
My mother, when she was six, worked, picking cotton wearing a dress made of a bleached flour sack. This was when cotton didn't make much cash money.
She married my father, who was stationed at Camp Barkley during WWII when she was 17, just 1/2 credit short of graduating from high school. Her mother and father were in the process of getting a divorce at this time. Grandad, the old buzzard, accused her of being pregnant. So for months she wore the tightest outfits she could find to prove him wrong. After a brief stint out west somewhere, he of course was shipped off to wait for D-Day in England.
My dad came back after the war and opened a paint shop that went belly up and then went back into the military, The Air Force to be exact. He had been an officer in WWII so they completed his undergrad and then his Masters.
My mom had the joy of moving every so many years. If the Air Force wasn't moving us, DAD moved us either off base or on base. I know she got tired of moving.
Dad died in 1972 after retiring from the Air Force in 1968, leaving mom with three kids to raise. And she did. Raise us.
Up to this time mom and I hadn't been that close but when I got married and had my son, we formed a bond. We always had a good time together and she loved me for having Simon.
Even though Mother didn't finish High School, she was an extremely bright, well-read woman. Back when Time Magazine was actually something with integrity, she always read it cover to cover along with whatever newspapers she could get her hands on. She knew what was going on in the country, the state and the world. I would often see her go to the world map to make sure she knew where a particular country was when reading a news story. She understood politics and economics better than most college educated folks I know.
Mother played bridge often and was quite accomplished at it. She had a circle of friends that she played with most nights.
Yachiyo McGinness--like a 2nd mother to me. Her husband had been stationed with my Dad in Japan where they adopted their daughter Kathy. Mac, her husband had a picture of me with Kathy in his wallet. Yachiyo died of a liver ailment.
Louise Toburen, another Air Force wife. An Air Force vehicle had crushed her leg in an accident and so she had a fake leg. She was a jewel of a woman, loud and opinionated.
Bea Blodgett, a local store owner. She was very proper.
Alice Mason who was well, just Alice. She'd been widowed young and raise a daughter. She was a little different.
Emma Barr, who lived up the street from us, also an Air Force wife. Her husband, Sam, had a stroke and was partially incapacitated.
Letha Jones, who came later into this mix. Letha is a wonderful person. She loved my kids and they loved her. She always made it a point to see them when they were in town.
For a time mother also wrote a column for her local paper, The Jacksonville (Arkansas) Daily News. The column was quite interesting actually. It was a combination of liberal politics and birding!
She shared with me, her love of birds. She started watching birds when I was in 6th grade. It became the passion of her life. When my dad was alive he would go get her a load of year old pecans so that she could feed the pine siskins.
The pine siskins were amazing. When she would come out of the house, they would swarm her, landing on her head and shoulders, waiting for her to get those pecans cracked. In my mind, I can still hear them chattering. Beautiful, lively birds.
I remember the Bewicks wrens. One year they wintered in an old hutch we had on the carport. The year after dad died, they would stay in the pump house. So every night, after they went in the pump house, mother would shut the door and every morning someone would open it. The wrens were also lovely to listen to and watch.. those flicking tails
During the time when mother was dying, I went for a walk in a wooded area of Dobbs Park in Terre Haute, Indiana. You walk about two miles on a trail and come around a boggy area. I always liked to go back there and look for egrets and other water birds. As I was walking, I suddenly became encircled by a group of lively, chattering wrens. There must have been 20 of them. They chattered and scolded and flitted their tails for what seemed to me to be hours but must have only been a couple of minutes. And though I know it sounds stupid to other people I felt my mother very close. I felt like she was patting me on the head and saying it was going to be okay. My body was just so relaxed as I took in the sights and the sounds and I felt held.
Then there were the hummingbird wars. It took Mom several years to get hummingbirds but when she did it was so beautiful. Beautiful, vain, territorial little creatures those hummingbirds! It was a treat to watch them fight over the food outside my mom's kitchen window. I could sit there for hours and watch them come and go, come and go.
Then there were the squirrels. They of course loved the pecans and sunflower seeds that my mom fed the birds, so she learned to enjoy them. The dogs enjoyed them, too. Occasionally, without malice she would let the dogs chase them off just for exercise. It got so the squirrels would just run up the tree a ways and gripe at the dogs.
Many birds came to my mother's yard--orioles, nuthatches, woodpeckers of several varieties, finches of several varieties, migrating warblers, hawks, grackles including the albino one that visited one Christmas, doves and on and on but I have to say my favorite of all of these were the quail families.
Late evening you could watch them sneak into the yard. Mom had a couple of strategically place thickets. A quail family. An adult leading the way with 5 or so babies and an adult in the rear. Sneaking to the food. It was pure joy when you were lucky enough to witness it.
One of my favorite memories with mom is going to Woolly Hollow State Park with mother, and my son when he was a toddler. The park was tearming with bluebirds, the like of which I had never seen before or since. During that trip we also found an old homestead with wild roses. We clipped a stem put it in water and brought it hope and mother rooted it and planted it. Later, the roses from that one cutting took over one whole side of her yard.
God Bless you if you've made it this far.
One last story... at her funeral. The day after her funeral, my family and my sister and her husband went out to celebrate my son's birthday and my brother-in-law had us in fits of laughter telling this story.
Mother's pall bears included, my brother-in-law, Larry, an Arkansas State Senator, and an old friend of my brothers who used to come by and see my mom from time to time and have a glass of tea.
The pall bearers are gathered in a room,waiting for the funeral to begin. My brother's friends starts talking about how much he loved my mother and how special she was. Nice, huh? Then he starts talking about how she always had tea made for him when he would come by to deliver her racing form and collect her bets. He was her BOOKIE!!!! I knew she had one but I never knew who it was. Don't get all excited here.. she bet in small quantities with money she COULD spare. So here is my mom's bookie, in the room with the STATE SENATOR, talking about my mom betting on horse races. OY VEY!
Anyway, in case you haven't already realized it, my mom was not typical. She was a wonderful person, with many flaws, but many more endearing qualities. She spoke her mind, particularly after my dad died. And she loved us children with passion.
I'll end with another of my favorite Bobbye stories.
My sister took my mom to Las Vegas a couple of times. Mom would, well, drink a little. It really didn't take mom much to get tipsy. Mom would talk to everyone and I do mean EVERYONE. So, my sister tells me, as they are getting on an elevator, Sis says to Mom---just once could we not talk to everyone on the elevator. Then my mom says to the handsome guy next to her, "Are you all hat?"One of my favorite quotes from my mother was: "If the Southern Baptists are running heaven, I believe I'll make reservations elsewhere." I have the outline done for a book with that name.
Mom, I love you and I miss you!