Friday, November 05, 2010


Today would be my Mamaw's 90th birthday.  She was such a phenominal woman, Ocie Lee Parker Childers (11-5-1920).  She married her sweetheart when she was 18 years old against her parents wishes, my grandfather was an older man in his 20's.  Her parents said it wouldn't last.  She told me about how her brother use to have to go on dates with them as a chaperone and how when my grandfather, James Wesley Childers asked for her hand in marriage her father said no.  They did it anyway.  They married December 26, 1938.  Out of all of Mamaw's brothers and sisters (I think there were 6) she and my grandfather were the only ones that never divorced.

They had 3 children.  One died when he was 2 from Polio.  He's burried in Laurel, MS and I plan to visit one day.  He was named after my grandfather if I'm not mistaken.  My dad was born in Laurel and he had an older sister Janet.  She went by Jan. 

My grandfather passed away in 1986 after 48 years of marriage, I was six years old.  I remember him taking me to McDonalds in his brown el camino half car half truck and I'd sit behind the seat on the floor board.  I remember picking pecans with him from the biggest pecan tree I've ever seen in my life, even to date.  The pecan tree was located behind the house that my grandfather had built attached to 5 acres and a row of oak trees along the road that my dad planted when he was younger, they are now gigantic.  Even after Papaw passed away Mamaw still kept up her acre sized garden, every year.  She kept her garden on into her early 80's.  I'd love to help shell peas, snap beans, make pickles and jelly. 

I think that Mamaw's way of life is the reason she waited to get her first grey hair until she was 72.  I remember it!  She was always beautiful, tall and thin.  She took excellent care of her skin, no wrinkles until probably the same year she got her grey hair.

Mamaw and I were close.  So close, always.  She was a sassy independent spitfire and I'm 100% sure that's where I get it from. She helped raise me.  I'd always look forward to Tuesday nights with Mamaw.  She taught me how to sew and we'd watch Knots Landing and Wheel of Fortune.  She'd always have fresh veggies for dinner with some banana pudding for dessert.  Everything sweet was usually made with sweet n low artificial sweetner because she was diabetic.  You never could tell any different.  She'd let me eat vanilla ice cream before bed and would pour a few drops of creme de mente over it.  Pepperminty ice cream, yum!  I'd sneek in the cabinet and pour a little more on there when she wasn't looking.  Now that I'm older, I realize that creme de mente is alcohol.  Never did I get enough to have an effect, but it cracks me up thinking about it.

Mamaw and I have so many memories.  Looking back we were like two little girls together, yet she was my mentor. It was completely obvious I was the favorite grandchild.   To date everyone still knows this. She would tell me almost every time we were together how I was not a grand daughter to her, more like a daughter.  She was like a mama hen and if anyone were to cross her she'd just write you off (I guess that's where I get that from too.) She didn't want you to tell anyone she was your grandmother, because that made her sound old.  Ok, Mamaw. 

One time Mamaw told on me.  I was driving her home from Dallas after a nice visit with my aunt and uncle, I was 16.  The weather was awful, rainy, cold and on the freeway between a cement wall and an 18 wheeler.  I started to hydro plane, got nervous and accidentally said a bad word.  Through all of this Mamaw looked over at me and said, "Rachel Lynn! I did not know you knew such words!  That's the worst one in the dictionary!"  I was mortified, all I could do was glimpse over into the empty back seat and ask..."who said that?" as if someone, anyone would take the blame.  I don't remember the rest of the trip but as soon as we got home, she let my dad know that I had said the worst word in the book.  My dad just laughed and asked, "Mother, was it the 'F' word?"  But he didn't say "F" he said the real word.  She might as well have just keeled over then. 

Later Mamaw remarried a very kind man, Leonard Steele in probably 1991.  Leonard had a very pure heart and would do anything for anyone.  After maybe10 years of marriage Leonard got alzheimers had to go into a nuring home, that broke her heart again.  He soon passed away not long after.

As if losing one child, the love of your life, and then your second love wasn't hard enough; when I was in highschool my Aunt Jan was diagnosed with cancer. She died 2 weeks later.

The strength that this woman had to pick herself up and carry on living life.  She was 88 when she passed away in February 2009.  I knew it was coming.  In July 2008 I went to visit her at the assisted living facility.  She moved there a couple years before for socialization and because she would try to do things like water the yard and trip over the water hose and break her back, only to heal back up and mow the yard to break something else.  Seriously. 

Anyway, when I went to visit her summer before last she gave me a bunch of her belongings.  Things she wanted me to have.  I got the wedding ring that Leonard gave her.  She said he loved me so and would want me to have it.  She also gave me the original wedding band my grandfather gave her in 1938.  It was not a full circle anymore she had worn it thin.  It is my most prized posession.  When he got enough money later in life he bought her a nicer ring.  My cousin Leslie got that.  She gave me her Eastern Star pin.  She was one of the founding members of her chapter, which I later found out at her funeral - she never would have boasted about that. She gave me a few other important pieces of jewelry that each had their own story.  We both got teary eyed as if we knew, but at the same time didn't know that this would be the last time we spent together.

That Christmas when we talked she reminded me that her and my Papaw would have been married 70 years.  I have one of their wedding presents and still use it to date.  Their cast iron skillet.

Her funeral was on my husbands birthday, February 5th.  It was sad, she was ready though.  I am selfish.  Later that month after nearly 3 years of marriage and always feeling that we didn't want to have children something changed for Chip and I. Maybe it's coincidence, but something about going to Texas to her funeral triggered something in both of us.  We never really sat and talked about having kids, but Chip brought it up out of the blue.  I had been thinking about it too.  Neither one of us can explain it, but I can't help but think she had a hand in it.

My heart hurts for Hill not getting to know Mamaw.  I know she's with everyone she loves and has missed for so long now, for that I am happy. I have millions of Mamaw stories and I plan to share them with Hill.

Happy 90th Birthday Mamaw!

Love you,

1 comment:

Mel Francis said...

Rachel, this was such a touching blog. Thank you for sharing.